First-Party Data at Your Fingertips: Q&A With Alex Theriault About Lotame’s Spherical 

First-party data is one of ad tech’s most valuable and sought-after resources. The data set is consumer-focused, privacy-centric, and a gold mine for publisher revenue. 

With the overconsumption of data across various channels, first-party data sets are easier to unify and activate with the right tools. Without them, publishers are disconnected from their audience base and lost to fend for themselves in a wilderness of unclassified data. 

That’s where Lotame’s Spherical comes in. Lotame announced the launch of its new data platform at IAB ALM. In collaboration with various customer data platforms (CDPs), the tech enables interoperability and data portability across brand and media owner tech stacks. 

We spoke with Alex Theriault, General Manager, Spherical at Lotame. We discussed Spherical, the difficulty accessing consumer data, balancing data ethics and monetization, and more. 

Unifying Data Across Silos

Andrew Byrd: According to your research, Nine in 10 CMOs (91%) cite access to customer data as a competitive advantage, but a nearly equal amount (89%) say it isn’t readily available to them. Why do you believe it has been hard for them to access that data?

Alex Theriault: The CMO Council conducted this research (The High Velocity Data Marketer). The report cites “time, as in, there’s not enough of it” as the roadblock to real-time insights and predictive analytics availability. We’d go one step further and include technology and human resources to extract those insights, analyze the right signals and connect them to actionable outcomes. Collecting data for digitally native brands isn’t the challenge anymore.

It’s making valuable use of that data, from unifying it across silos and systems to modeling and enrichment for data-informed audience creation and activating that customer data in faster, smarter, and easier ways across trusted publishers in a privacy-safe way. No small hill to climb, for sure! But with interoperable technology like the Spherical Platform, marketers become data empowered. 

AB: Spherical is Lotame’s first-party data offering. Why did your company need a technology that helps publishers and advertisers gain access to first-party data? How does it differ from other first-party data offerings? 

AT: Media owners and marketers are grappling with unprecedented challenges to the tried and trusted ways they engage customers and acquire prospects. An increasingly fragmented universe of data, evolving privacy regulations, and varying levels of actionable first-party data are the tip of the iceberg. Macroeconomic conditions and the threat of recession are forcing functions for digital companies to find data solutions that actively propel growth today and are future-ready for the cookieless ecosystem and beyond. 

Lotame has always empowered clients to collect, enrich, analyze, and activate valuable first-party data from unknown users. With Spherical, media owners can marry their subscription and advertising initiatives within one platform for true data empowerment. Historically, these two have been siloed and handled by separate teams within different record systems. Whether first-party data is sourced directly by Lotame or ingested from emerging CDP integrations like Salesforce, Tealium, and mParticle, we’re bridging the gap between known and unknown first-party data to solve some genuine and persistent industry pains. 

Third-party cookie deprecation negatively impacted data enrichment and modeling support advertising targeting and customer acquisition. In addition, Spherical is cookieless-ready now with a proven identity framework and award-winning probabilistic ID (Lotame Panorama ID™) for activation across platforms, browsers, and devices. And finally, we remain committed to supporting publisher revenue growth and the future of the open web through fair competition. Access to customer data is a competitive advantage, and we believe everyone should be able to drive growth and derive value from it — whether you have it or need it. 

Spherical: A Step By Step Rundown

AB: Can you elaborate on how Spherical works? 

AT: Spherical offers three key, unique components to help publishers and marketers be data empowered: 

  • Proven, proprietary technology to unify, manage and activate first-party data
  • One of the largest, global, consented data marketplaces to fuel modeling, enrichment, and analytics
  • An identity spine to connect, extend and preserve data portability in a privacy-safe way without the need for third-party cookies

With Spherical, media owners and marketers can unify, model, enrich, and activate known and unknown first-party customer data for actionable customer intelligence, data-informed audiences, and identity-powered activation.

For example:

Actionable Customer Intelligence: Build complex audiences and run instant reach estimates to confirm the availability of highly sought-after segments. Enhance campaign reporting with demographic, interest, and intent attributes provided to advertisers for upsells.

Data Informed Audiences: Increase yield by monetizing your most valuable first-party audiences across all domains and screens. Use machine learning-powered lookalike audiences to extend your most valuable, sought-after, and niche first-party data.

Identity-Powered Activation: 

  1. Address 100% of site traffic and future-proof targeting in a cookieless world. 
  2. With data-empowered inventory across all screens, achieve maximum revenue in direct and programmatic channels.
  3. Unlock new revenue streams with flexible data-selling capabilities.

AB: While creating Spherical, you partnered with several CDPs, such as Salesforce, BlueConic, and Rudderstack. Why was it vital for you to partner with these CDPs, and what value do they add to the product? 

AT: Media owners and marketers need to drive growth and revenue from known and unknown consumer touchpoints, so a marriage between CDP technologies and Spherical is a critical competitive advantage. CDPs were deployed for subscription and marketing purposes (email, SMS, etc.), such as building customer and subscriber profiles to personalize communication with existing customers.

By contrast, Spherical addresses the advertising use case (display, video, social, etc.) with activation into the ad tech ecosystem as a critical driver for customer acquisition. What publisher or marketer isn’t looking to unify acquisition and retention? 

Future-Proofing: Balancing Monetization and Data Ethics

AB: With privacy regulations and third-party cookie deprecation around the corner, the industry knows the importance of first-party data. Although, some publishers and advertisers are worried that their revenue will suffer without the third-party cookie. What advice would you give to help them balance data ethics and monetization? 

AT: Third-party cookie deprecation created an increased urgency around finding an identity solution that addresses and fills the gap. I’d go so far as to say that urgency is a bit late, but every day counts to get ahead of testing and implementing a portfolio of solutions to preserve and grow revenue. My advice for both the buy-side and sell-side is to understand which universal IDs offer the optimum blend of scale, precision, and the ability to honor consumer consent.

Our Panorama ID™ solution is tested and proven to deliver the results advertisers and publishers need. And all of our solutions are built with privacy by design principles and according to the strictest standards (GDPR, CPRA, etc).

AB: With any new product, there are learning curves. How do you plan to develop Spherical to future-proof the product? 

AT: In 2023, Lotame will focus on five key themes affecting our customers and the industry: customer data management, data connections, identity, analytics, and CTV.

Lotame is enhancing our platform to empower clients to manage data on known and unknown users by bringing it together to support all advertising activities. 

Data connections have always been a unique differentiator of Lotame’s business. With hundreds of connections to bring data in and out of our platform, we are focused on expanding our list of participating CDPs and data warehouses enabled for first-party data ingestion into the Spherical platform, which solves the increasing fragmentation of data into various silos. Further, we are enhancing and expanding our connections on social platforms. 

Identity is core to Lotame’s platform. We continue to evolve the Lotame Panorama graph by adding deterministic links for improved ID resolution. We offer a hybrid solution with the ideal blend of precision, deterministic links, and pseudonymous traffic’s maximum scale and addressability. It is central to enabling data connectivity within our platform and with partners throughout the ecosystem. 

Analytics remains a core focus for Lotame. Clients increasingly leverage our platform and vast data assets to garner valuable insights about their audiences – visitors to their digital properties, customer segments, or consumers exposed to a campaign. We will introduce iterations to existing and new dashboards, including side-by-side and trend analysis. 

Lotame will continue to focus on addressing data targeting in CTV – which our recent Beyond the Cookie 3 research identified as one of the most significant gaps for marketers in the CTV space. Our CTV division is sourcing more data from CTV devices and increasing the availability of our data marketplace within platforms enabled for CTV activation.