In conversation with The Independent: First-party data, cohorts, and cleanrooms

December 15, 2021 5 min read

  • Julie Vuibert

    Senior Customer Success Manager at Permutive

  • Publishers have a wealth of first-party data and unrivalled insights into their audiences. As advertisers shift their focus in the wake of deprecating third-party cookies, publishers need to be ready with a strategy that offers a unique, sustainable and privacy-safe alternative.    

    In a fireside chat at the Digiday Publishing Strategies event, Jo Holdaway, Chief Data & Marketing Officer at Independent Digital News and Media, gave an inside look at the successes and challenges of building a first-party data strategy — including the launch of Independent Intelligence, testing clean rooms and creating bespoke audiences for advertisers. 

    Here are highlights from that Q&A with Holdaway, who was interviewed by Julie Vuibert, Senior Customer Success Manager at Permutive. 

    Could you give us an overview of where you are at with your first-party data strategy today?

    We’ve rebuilt all of our audience segments to be first-party only and re-established our offering to the agency world as ‘Independent Advertising’ — the data and the strategy within that is ‘Independent Intelligence.’ And because the market is so complex and convoluted at the moment, it’s really important to make it easy to trade. We have insight banks, instant surveys for brand measurement, uplift and awareness, and we have real-time tools so advertisers can take advantage of trending articles.

    On the audience side, we have changed to three areas. We have nine cohorts that reflect the key pillars of our brand that you can pick off the shelf, bespoke audiences for clients, and then we have an audience match proposition, which I’m most excited about at the moment. That is looking at cleanroom technology; that’s where most of our efforts are at the moment because it is a new technology. 

    And how is that going? Can you share any wins so far?

    We’re one of the first publishers to engage in the beta trials that Permutive has been running… on one global brand the CTR was over 120% better than the agency benchmark but what interests me is that most of that engagement was on Safari and not Chrome. We have an audience of 50%+ Safari, so it’s vital to engage that part of the audience profile. We’re really pleased with the results so far, but it is early days, so we want as many people to trial it as possible. 

    How are your cleanroom tests landing with advertisers?

    I’ve been getting a lot more traction with advertisers now, through the agencies, and there’s a real interest in new technology. We re-launched Independent Advertising recently, and it coincided with our 35th birthday, and we put an offer out there for five clients that could take an end-to-end journey with us on the data cleanroom technology for free. We’ve had a really good reception from agencies and clients because it gives them a risk-free foray into this tech.     

    Have you seen more demand from the buy-side as privacy impacts digital marketing?

    We have seen more demand from the buy-side. What’s apparent from talking to my peers is that publishers are now becoming very vociferous in their views in terms of ‘we are premium environments.’

    From a privacy perspective, it’s really positive. And we’re getting good traction with the agencies… because once the third-party cookie gets deprecated, there’s going to be limited ways of trading. If you’re going to tell me contextual is going to save the day, I’m afraid I don’t believe it. We’ve got 100 million unique users on the site every month, and even we will run out of inventory if everyone wants to book travel, and it’s one of the most popular areas for us. Looking at contextual and [first-party] data is going to be the way forward; it’s not going to be one or the other.  

    There seems to be some mistrust around modelling; what are your thoughts?

    Modelling has got a bad reputation, but if we look at publishers who might not have the scale of the global publishers out there, I think modelling is going to be really important to take on board. Over the last 18-24 months, modelling has really improved in terms of its robustness. And if you’re looking at cleanroom technology and getting your data matched and improving that data match from a scale perspective, you are going to have to consider modelling. I think it’s moved forward enough for us to be able to do that with confidence. 

    Do you think publishers are aware of the opportunities ahead of them?

    We’ve got a really valuable source of first-party data as a group of publishers; we’re a trusted environment, and readers are quite willing to give us their data. They trust us to look at that data and use it responsibly. So I think we’re very aware of the opportunity. Galvanising ourselves into action might be a little bit different. Hopefully, it won’t be the same as GDPR where people say five minutes to midnight on the deadline day, ‘right, we need to implement something.’ 

    What advice do you have for publishers?

    When it comes to strategy, privacy, [and] data, you can be a lonely voice in an organisation. So my advice would be to get as many people on board as you can with your vision. Have a clear idea of what the objectives and business outcomes are, what you’re trying to forge ahead in your organisation, and then get as many people to follow you as you can. I think you need that clarity of vision to get your message across; try not to let the noise affect you too much. 

    For more information on building a first-party data strategy and testing Permutive Vaults (cleanroom), book a demo