Maximizing the Value of First-Party Data

The deprecation of the third-party tracking cookie, purpose-driven marketing, and marketers’ need for flexibility and agility are all leading to a host of opportunities for publishers.

It’s time for publishers to focus on scalable and effective first-party data strategies that both meet marketer’s needs and respect users’ privacy.

It’s one thing to collect first-party data, but it’s an entirely different challenge when we talk about activating that data and selling against it.

In preparation for our upcoming webinar with Permutive: Vox Media’s Approach to a Changing Media Landscape, Tuesday, April 27, 1 PM ET, (Register now!), I spoke with Michael Ogunjobi, Customer Success Lead, Permutive, about how publishers can fully maximize the value of their first-party data and demonstrate that value to advertisers, why Publisher Cohorts are becoming increasingly important and how the idea of right message, right person, right time needs to evolve.

Lynne d Johnson: Many publishers are building up their first-party data monetization strategies as a privacy-safe path forward for the cookieless future. We know that’s a crucial step, but there’s still the challenge of activating that first-party data and selling against it. How can publishers fully maximize the value of their first-party data and demonstrate that value to advertisers?

Michael Ogunjobi: The deprecation of the data available to advertisers is driving an appetite for publisher first-party data, and encouraging advertisers to collect their own first-party data. We recently ran a study on this with Forrester, surveying over 100 publishers and 100 advertisers on their challenges and priorities around data deprecation. The research shows that work is underway, 95% of publishing decision-makers have started building their first-party data monetization strategies and 59% of advertisers have adopted publishers’ first-party data to fuel their marketing strategies. 

While it’s great to see that gathering first-party data is a priority, brands will also need a privacy-safe way to connect that data to publishers, both to understand their audiences better, but also to buy media for retargeting and prospecting. To do this at scale they will need direct relationships with trusted publishers. For publishers to capitalize on this opportunity it is essential to be able to firstly onboard advertiser data without compromising on privacy, secondly, run actionable insights, and build models to scale out matched audiences with a controllable level of certainty, and lastly send data back into the ecosystem as a cohort, without any data leakage. 

There’s been a lot of talk recently about publishers becoming the new data businesses. I believe that there’s an opportunity for them to go much further than replicating the data marketplace model — publishers should be the new end-to-end data consultancies. In the same way, a retail bank might bring in McKinsey or BCG to lead a digital transformation project, buyers will insist on leveraging the knowledge and technology of those who are most invested in a successful outcome. 

LdJ: At a recent AdExchanger event, we heard you guys talk about your belief that identity will be replaced with Publisher Cohorts. Can you explain exactly what Publisher Cohorts are, how publishers can use them to help buyers reach their audiences, and can you also highlight some of the challenges with publishers using IDs in the bidstream that you see making Publisher Cohorts even more important? 

MO: We believe the data used to plan and buy media will shift to Publisher Cohorts, these are audiences that are built directly at the source and not by third parties. We also believe that in order to protect user privacy publishers and advertisers will increasingly rely on Edge Computing for advertising — computing that takes place at or near the source of the data, instead of relying on the cloud. For context, every Google and Apple announcement hints towards data on-device becoming the default.

Publisher Cohorts are built using publisher first-party data. It’s important to mention that this differs from Google’s FLoCs, as their approach replicates the cross-domain tracking that happens today and decouples publisher data from inventory, whereas publisher cohorts don’t aggregate data across domains. 

Publisher Cohorts ensure data and inventory are coupled, so data doesn’t leak, and, unlike FLoCs, can place users in more than one cohort. This is because publishers have a deep understanding and 1-2-1 relationship with their audience so they can provide a more nuanced description of the user, without identifying them. 

Many solutions are looking to maintain the flawed status quo by passing alternative IDs into the bid stream; this not only continues to devalue the 1-2-1 relationships that publishers have with their audience but also leaves the door firmly open for the same data leakage we’ve seen in the past. Publisher Cohorts allows the data owner, the most well-informed party, to work with buyers directly, in the most transparent way possible.

LdJ: As first-party data monetization strategies evolve, philosophies around scale and measurement will also have to evolve. How will this idea of better understanding audience mindsets alter how we currently understand right user, right messaging at the right time and also help to make ad campaigns more effective?

MO: Privacy is the foundation of digital advertising so strategies and solutions that allow users to be tracked across the web will not be sustainable, and therefore won’t survive. Being hyper-targeted doesn’t always improve user experience and you don’t need to know everywhere a consumer has been to serve them the right message, at the right time. Effectiveness lies in data owners, publishers and advertisers, working together to create relevant campaigns that protect user privacy and are grounded in first-party data and insight.

Don’t forget to sign up for our webinar with Permutive, Vox Media’s Approach to a Changing Media Landscape, on Tuesday, April 27 @ 1 PM EST (Register now!) We’ll be speaking with Vox Media’s AJ Frucci, VP Programmatic & Concert Marketplace, about how the Vox team is navigating a period of seismic change in the industry — with a focus on first-party data and the pursuit of a healthier open web ecosystem for users, publishers, and brands.