How to Strengthen Your First-Party Data Strategy: Q&A with Brendan Farrell of Permutive

Mounting privacy regulations. Sea changes in ad tech. The need for privacy-first solutions for monetizing your inventory is only growing.

Penske Media Corporation gets that. That’s why they worked with Permutive to develop ATLAS Data Studio, a first-party data platform that identifies datasets to help the publisher differentiate its inventory in the marketplace. Now they can activate buyers’ target audiences with precision.

Leading up to our webinar, How PMC Drives Value For Advertisers with First-Party Data on January 25, 2023 at 1:00 PM EST, I caught up with Brendan Farrell, Manager, Customer Success, North America, Permutive, to discuss how user-choice is driving privacy-first solutions, how pubs can solve for “reject all,” how PMC’s ATLAS Data Studio helped the publisher move from a vertical to a portfolio strategy, and how Permutive can help pubs with a GTM strategy for a first-party data platform.

Lynne d Johnson: Many publishers are still in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to getting their first-party data strategy fortified. They’re waiting to see what Google will do, and they’re waiting to follow advertisers’ lead. Why is delaying your first-party data strategy a bad idea for publishers, especially when Safari and Firefox have long ago turned off cookie tracking?

Brendan Farrell: There’s something bigger than third-parties cookies at play – user choice. What we’re seeing is that in addition to cookie-blocking browsers, regulators and tech platforms are giving users the tools, awareness and choice to protect their data, and when given that choice, they are opting out of data sharing. It’s resulted in just 30% of the open web being addressable today. It’s not just on the web either, the effect of user choice is rippling through the entire ecosystem, whether it’s emails, cookies or other IDs. 

While this decimates advertisers’ audience addressability, publishers hold the key to solving it via direct relationships with their users. Therefore, publishers should focus on building a first-party data strategy with technology that enables them to reach 100% of users while respecting their data choices. 

LDJ: We’re hearing about the impact of “reject all” and users opting out of sharing their data on publisher revenues. How can publishers solve for this challenge?

BF: It’s about being responsible with data and building trust. We recently ran a user consent session where the data protection regulator, the ICO, stated that consumers hitting “reject all” cookies in Chrome “doesn’t mean you can’t serve advertising,” but “means you haven’t convinced those customers that the way you’re handling their data is something that they want to have happen.” 

Publishers are perfectly positioned to lead the charge to restore consumer trust. Publishers have a 121 relationship with their users and can communicate clearly how they handle data and what value it provides. It results in publishers having consented, privacy-compliant, first-party data acquired through trusted relationships. Advertising can continue to be relevant to audiences and build on a foundation of user consent and choice – something that third-party data strategies lack. 

LDJ: You guys worked with PMC to build out a first-party data project called ATLAS Data Studio, what has that enabled PMC to do, and why was that important for the publisher?

BF: Investing in an Audience Platform built on first-party data encouraged PMC to reimagine what content and audiences make it unique to advertisers. Publishers like PMC can fill a growing data gap in the market and have unique and scalable data, data that advertisers may not know about their audience. 

Via Permutive, PMC now has access to more of their own audience data to help them sell across the portfolio and can deliver pre- and post-campaign insights. PMC also moved from a vertical to a portfolio strategy to better compete on scale. 

LDJ: Getting buy-in for a massive first-party data project like PMC’s ATLAS Data Studio requires buy-in from the C Suite, as well as dev and product’s prioritizing such a project. Are you guys often consulting an ad ops or rev ops team on how to get that buy-in and what is the process like? As well, what about internal education for sales’ teams?

BF: We support our publishers, from their go-to-market to making the most of the platform features. For example, Permutive can support a publisher’s go-to-market efforts via sales training on everything from what first-party data is available to why it drives value for advertisers. 

We find that publishers’ needs change further into the first-party data strategy they are. Initially, it may be that we support with buy-in internally and help various teams understand the platform, but then it turns into a strategic partnership where industry trends prompt the need for alternative use cases and features.