The Rise of Publisher Data and Its Potential for Tighter Collaboration Between Brands, Agencies, and Publishers

With third-party cookie deprecation quickly becoming a reality, publishers are examining the data they have within their walls and realizing that they have unique and valuable assets to bring to the table.

Their data will give rise to new opportunities for brands, agencies, and publishers to collaborate earlier on in the campaign planning process. Some publishers even argue that they should be included as a brand develops its go-to-market plan for new products.

Is there a case to be made for including them that early?

DoubleVerify is a leading software platform for digital media measurement and analytics.

Publishers Have Unique Data for Campaign Planning and Assessment

When we think of publisher data, we tend to focus on the information they collect at registration. It’s valuable data, as many inquire about household information that would be actionable for brands. For instance, Monique Watford, VP of Operations at Spiceworks Ziff Davis, says her company can supply information related to specific types of software and hardware a company uses, when their licenses will expire and if their hardware is aging.

But even publishers that don’t require registration bring a lot to the table. One such publisher, Love To Know Media, has a trove of contextual data that can offer very interesting options for advertisers.

“Our visitors come to us for an answer to specific questions, which allows us to understand a lot about them. If they land on an article about dog ailments, we know they’re a dog owner, and they are concerned about their dog,” explained Marc Boswell, Love To Know Media’s CRO. “We can understand our readers from multiple angles based on the content and the contextual flags on each one of the pages.”

There’s another often overlooked pool of data: third-party data on engagement such as hover on ad rate and scroll impressions. This type of data goes way beyond CTR or video completion rates. It can help advertisers, and their agencies better understand how well their creatives perform so they can improve their creative strategy. It also sheds insight into which creatives work better on specific publications and why.

Earning That Seat at the Table

While publisher data is undeniably strategic to companies, publishers need to recognize the advertiser’s concerns, beginning with neutrality.

Advertisers, burnt by years of buying pre-packaged audience segments that woefully missed the mark, want assurances of fraud-free, high-quality inventory that a trusted third-party measurement company verifies. They’re wary of publishers grading their own homework. Impartiality, therefore, is key.

That impartiality will benefit the entire ecosystem, enabling buyers and their media agencies to trust a larger portion of the inventory publishers have to offer. And that, in turn, means publisher-defined audiences will be more actionable and will go a long way in easing general fears that digital advertising will lack sufficient data due to privacy regulations. It will also create a scenario where publishers work directly with agencies more efficiently.

A World in Which Publisher Data Is Scalable

What role can publishers (and their data) play in the post-cookie digital advertising world? As Ziff Davis’ Watford points out, publishers have always had a keen interest in seeing their advertisers succeed, as their success leads to repeat business. “The ideal time to engage a publisher is early on when a product is still in development.”

Boswell agrees. “We would love to be involved as early as possible [and to talk] to the agencies to help them understand how all of our data can help them drive value.”

Publishers also see a role for them in helping brands, and their agencies assess campaign performance. As mentioned above, publishers with access to impartial engagement data would like to see it incorporated into the agency’s wrap decks. Scaling will be an issue, of course. The industry will need standards that enable the agency to report on them unified across all publishers.

But let’s assume for a minute that these standards are developed and adopted. That media agencies have the tools they need to compare a deeper level of audience, quality, and engagement metrics across channels. Will agencies welcome the publisher’s earlier involvement in the planning process?

Agencies want the campaigns they launch for their clients to succeed just as much as the brands and publishers do. They have every incentive to incorporate quality and verified data as possible as the third-party cookie deprecates.

Agencies have leaned on cookies rather than engage in these more fruitful relationships with publishers. Brands will likely see sharper alignment between themselves, their agencies, and publishers as we advance.