This article is part of our Future of Addressability series. Contributors are industry leaders invited to share their perspectives on how marketers can successfully navigate changes brought on by the deprecation of third-party cookies.
The media landscape has shifted fast. In the space of a few weeks we saw many brands completely change their ad strategies in some capacity—either pausing or canceling campaigns entirely or moving to upper-funnel, cause-based messaging. At the same time, many news publishers are achieving the record scale and engagement from consumers that the same marketers would, in other circumstances, desire to reach. It’s a testament to the trust people put in news publishers when, during a time of crisis, people turned to them to stay informed.
In a moment of unprecedented industry disruption, it is easy (and understandable) to focus on the near term. But the time is ripe for substantive changes moving forward.
In the recent ISBA study with PwC titled Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency, people rightly focused on the reported average of 15% of digital advertising spend that falls into an unknown delta, a potentially massive amount of lost money. But the fact that it took two years of work by smart people with support from all sides of the marketplace to piece together the fate of 31m impressions is a staggering indictment of the broken ecosystem that has persisted for too long. This is powerful proof of a common and persistent industry handicap that we have to start changing.
Despite the urgent demands of the current environment, thoughtful and lasting change is necessary for sustained progress. The issues at play are not new—such as abrupt shifts in spending patterns and keyword blocking—but our response requires a 40,000-foot view in order to amend industry-scale issues so that we can build a solid foundation for sustained post-pandemic recovery and success. Though this can be a logistical challenge, even within an organization that has a multi-title, multi-market footprint like News Corp, we can’t let the shortcomings of the current digital experience fade from our collective memory as we forge ahead with first-party data innovation.
So how should publishers, collectively and individually, reform the status quo? While focusing on the demise of the third-party cookie, our efforts need to be reframed within the many changes in the industry. Publishers can address the changing environment by adopting a few key measures.
1. Adopt a Holistic Approach
As publishers look closely at how they deal with first-party data, it’s critical to assess the full life cycle of data to ensure the value of segments at scale. From initial user interaction and building consumer profiles in a privacy-first environment to informing content recommendations and achieving meaningful results, each step in the process should be carefully considered so the data can be activated from a full-cycle perspective.
By setting up meticulous and rigorous processes now that tend to the entirety of the data journey, publishers can insulate themselves from some of the aftershocks once third-party resources are eliminated down the road. They are also creating an asset that can be used beyond advertising to improve the customer experience and subscription marketing.
2. Take Collective Action
Data, when siloed, is inherently limited in its usefulness. Likewise, publishers, when left to rely solely on isolated and independent efforts, won’t be able to achieve the comprehensive transformation that is necessary to establish wide-reaching first-party data success. Not only are users increasingly searching for more authentic interactions with brands, publishers across industries are now sprinting to develop in-house solutions that deliver meaningful results to users and cost-effective strategies to buyers.
By cultivating cross-publisher and cross-industry synergies, we create an opportunity for shared victories as we work together to revise the status quo and improve the experience for both users and advertisers.
3. Lead the Charge
As the pandemic era continues to propel accelerated change across the programmatic landscape, publishers’ voices are critical to steering progress in a positive direction. Publishers develop and maintain the most critical component in digital advertising: the relationship with the user. From quality content to engaging new products, the user is most interested in connecting directly to the source. This critical relationship is sometimes forgotten (or ignored). When we elevate the publisher, we also elevate consumers, which fundamentally improves the quality of the exchange on both sides.
Though merely anticipating the loss of the third-party cookie was already causing major disruptions across the industry, COVID-19 has expedited an already-dramatic crescendo in innovation and reinvention throughout the digital advertising ecosystem. As we work together to reimagine our future as publishers with a focus on the post-cookie programmatic future, we must seize the opportunity to establish a new reality where publishers and users alike can thrive.