How Data Curation Cures Publishers’ MFA Sickness: Q&A with Eli Heath, Head of Identity at Lotame

The MFA debacle plagued the minds of publishers and advertisers alike last year, and many made pledges to do their best to eradicate their existence on their sites. Yet, MFA sites are still going steady. 

According to Eli Heath, Head of Identity at Lotame, this underscores advertisers’ need to explore alternative strategies to ensure brand safety and ad quality through data curation.

Heath asserts that solutions like Lotame Collaborate via Spherical can help marketers shift towards more precise, curated marketplaces (PMPs) by aligning their data with publisher datasets for targeted advertising. Furthermore, we spoke with Heath about how Lotame’s Spherical Platform tackles the MFA problem by actively managing inventory quality, fostering collaborations with brands and SSPs, and more.

Andrew Byrd: Despite the prominent MFA scourge that happened last year, the Adalytics report revealed that MFA sites are still prevalent in the industry. Why is that the case?

Eli Heath: Two reasons we cannot eradicate MFAs: Buyer time and resources and buyer KPIs. 

Buyers, particularly at agencies, are extremely stretched. Many buyers establish allow lists at the campaign launch, but active site list management often falls by the wayside following the launch. It requires significant effort to pull domain reports, cross reference to known MFAs (which are source-specific and always changing), validate, and make updates to include lists.

Campaign performance informs media spend. MFA sites deliver on superficial campaign goals, ingeniously engineered to “game” buyer KPIs. DSP campaign goals set too high viewability? DSP will bid on sites with intrusively positioned ads that refresh every 15-30 seconds. High completion rates? DSP will bid on sites stuffed with muted auto-play outstream video. High CTR and low CPC? DSP will bid on cheap, high-click volume inventory. The bottom line is that MFA sites are highly performant based on upper and lower-funnel KPIs, and platform algorithms will prioritize ads that exceed campaign objectives.

As a result, this may disincentivize buyers to monitor and remove MFA inventory from programmatic ad buys.

AB: Lotame’s approach to curated marketplaces (PMPs) involves aligning 1st party or 3rd party audience data with publisher datasets. Could you elaborate on how this alignment is achieved and its impact on targeted advertising?

EH: Lotame Curate includes both custom-built behavioral and demographic audiences and machine-learning-driven, predictive, contextual audiences paired with select inventory from leading premium supply sources, which interoperate with Lotame’s cookieless Panorama ID to achieve higher match rates and unlock incremental reach, compared with open marketplace buys. Our curated PMPs are optimized using supply-side signals to deliver improved campaign performance. 

AB: How does Lotame’s Spherical Platform solve the MFA problem that brands are facing? 

EH: We select inventory from leading premium supply sources, including MFA detection and filtration, and actively manage block and allow lists to ensure quality inventory controls. We also give preference to publishers with Lotame Panorama ID-enabled via PreBid or ad server to ensure maximum scale of addressability.

Lotame hand-selects inventory across multiple premium exchanges and integrates first- and third-party data from trusted providers into its curated packages. Why is data curation important especially in the current state of the industry?

EH: Curation unlocks data targeting upstream from the DSP, which adds privacy safeguards to programmatic buying and removes the need to map or send user IDs up and down the ad supply chain, including the open bid stream. Instead, audiences are matched to traffic using publisher first-party signals and sent to the DSP on Deal IDs, removing the audience and traffic matching burden off DSPs relying heavily on cookies and legacy identifiers. 

AB: How does Lotame collaborate with brands and SSPs to enable data and deal curation within its curated solutions?

EH: Lotame typically works with brands and agencies to understand campaign goals and business objectives and builds customized addressability programs that include audience data and curated inventory across scaled supply partners. Once the campaign is live, Lotame strategically and continuously optimizes buyers’ desired outcomes using SSP reporting and metrics.

AB: Can you provide examples of successful collaborations between Lotame and brands and SSPs that have resulted in effective data and deal curation?

EH: One example is our collaboration with advertiser Banana Boat (Xaxis = buyer) and Pubmatic to unlock incremental reach in cookieless browsers (Safari) and achieve above-benchmark performance on viewability and video completion rates.

AB: Looking ahead, what trends do you foresee in the evolution of curated marketplaces, and how is Lotame positioning itself to stay at the forefront of these developments?

EH: Direct SSP and publishers’ relationships with buyers will likely expand as the drive towards transparency and sustainability increases, and Lotame hopes to serve as a central hub to facilitate connections and bridge gaps in solving for addressability at scale.