Solving the Long-tail’s Addressability Issue

On large, popular websites with millions of visitors, addressability is easily attainable. But it becomes much more challenging on smaller, less popular sites, commonly called long-tail sites. 

These websites are often niche, focusing on specific topics or interests and catering to particular audiences. While they may have smaller audiences, their visitors are more engaged and passionate about the content they consume.

The lack of addressability on long-tail sites presents a significant challenge for advertisers seeking to reach specific audiences without access to the data they need to target them effectively. 

Publishers on long-tail sites face several challenges related to addressability, including the difficulty of attracting advertisers to their sites due to the lack of addressable data, lower advertising rates, and data privacy regulation challenges. For them, collecting and using data for targeting purposes becomes more complex and potentially risky. 

Overall, the addressability challenges associated with long-tail sites can significantly impact publishers, making it difficult for them to monetize their content effectively and attract advertisers. We reached out to the AdMonsters community to learn what publishers want to know about these challenges. Then we chatted with Rowena Lam, Sr Director of Product, Privacy and Data at IAB Tech lab, about their solutions and technologies that address what is happening. 

Yakira Young: The farther out the long-tail, the more the skill-set biases content creation over technology. How does web infrastructure affect balancing long-lail while being privacy compliant?

Rowena Lam: An effective web infrastructure can allow for easier integration of privacy tools like consent management platforms or CMPs, which help manage user consent and help comply with privacy regulations.

When secure databases, encryption, and access controls are used, the infrastructure can help long-tail sites manage their data securely. Efficient web infrastructure helps optimize website performance so implemented privacy features don’t negatively impact their user experience.

YY: When it comes to single sign-on, many consumers hesitate to share consent with long-tail sites they aren’t familiar with. How can publishers address this hesitation and better gain consumer trust?

RL: I think the first thing that publishers can do is clearly explain what the benefits are for the consumer when they’re providing consent. That’s the baseline, and then they need to maintain consumer trust by making sure that they are complying with applicable privacy regulations.

And that means that they need to be, or should be, providing consent on how the data is being used, giving consumers control over it, and respecting their preferences after making their choices.

YY: What are your thoughts on consent banners?

RL: They’re usually managed by consent management platforms. CMPs surface consent banners, and there are various ways that we see them utilized. 

I think the one that is most widely known and understood are those cookie banners that we see everywhere. But we do have CMPs that display and some websites that choose to display something much more robust, allowing for many different choices rather than just accepting or rejecting all cookies.

YY: How could a publisher go about finding the right CMP? Some CMPs give the option to accept all cookies or reject cookies that consumers may not want to consent to. However, many CMPs are unclear about what’s really being rejected. How can a publisher go about utilizing a transparent cookie banner?

RL: Publishers should talk to as many privacy vendors as their time allows to see what sort of controls and flexibility the actual providers give them as the publisher or the person who owns the website. I think that’s the key because many of these privacy vendors who are CMPs or consent management platforms do have a lot of options and flexibility for publishers to toggle with. It’s about exploring the different options and finding the one that makes the most sense for their particular use case.

YY: How does IAB Tech Lab plan to balance the need for addressability with consumer privacy, particularly in the long-tail, and what portfolio of privacy-safe addressability solutions are you creating?

RL: The Tech Lab plans to balance this need for addressability with consumer privacy by creating a portfolio of different privacy safe addressability solutions. It includes developing technical standards for Data Clean Rooms, which allows for the sharing of data while preserving consumer privacy.

On February 16th, we announced the launch of the first in the Data Clean Room standards portfolio. We launched the Open Private Join and Activation or OPJA for short specification to support and define interoperable clean room interactions for digital advertising. On that same day, we also announced the launch of the Data Clean Room Guidance and Recommended Practices. Both of these are open for public comment until April 17th.

In addition to those Data Clean Room standards, we plan to expand on the Global Privacy Platform or GPP. This consent signaling protocol already supports consent signaling requirements for multiple jurisdictions, which we plan to expand to additional jurisdictions. 

We are also working on an Accountability Platform, which is a technical audit framework designed to help participating companies demonstrate that they are respecting consumers’ preferences and restrictions.

YY: I read an AdExchanger article about what it takes for cookieless solutions to work, and it stated that it’s important for brands to cast a wide net across consent IDs, including the Trade Desk’s UID 2.0, LiveRamps IDL, Merkel’s Mercury ID and many more. Do you agree with this?

RL: These days, the reality lies in that many ID solutions are available in the market today, and they’re not all entirely the same. What’s really important is that brands evaluate each of those IDs, like the ones you’ve mentioned, and others that are available based on the use cases that are important to them and understanding the components that make up the ID to understand ID viability and durability

Many of these IDs can handle ad targeting. That’s one of the most common use cases folks are considering, but brands should also consider other use cases like measurement and attribution.

YY: Can you tell us more about the Privacy-Enhancing Technologies working group (PETs), its goals, and how IAB Tech Lab plans to facilitate post-cookie and privacy-first addressability for audience activation and measurement?

RL: The Privacy Enhancing Technologies or PETs working group within Tech Lab is focused on educating and driving awareness of PETs in the digital advertising ecosystem. The PETs working group also develops standards and stewards open-source technical solutions.

We’ll need a portfolio of privacy-safe addressability solutions, and advancing the efforts around PETs specifically is one piece of that. Updating industry taxonomies and publishing standards for Data Clean Rooms, which we discussed just launched last month. At this time, the group is inviting the digital advertising community to participate in developing these PET standards and solutions to facilitate the cookiepocalypse and privacy-first addressability for audience activation and measurement.

YY: What feedback are you receiving from those participating in the working group?

RL: Well, the two pieces that were launched last month were born from the PETs working group. The feedback from the working group was that we need to set a real baseline, which is why the Data Clean Rooms: Guidance and Recommended Best Practices document came first. We have to establish a baseline understanding of something like a data clean room for us to be able to further these types of conversations.

YY: What other plans does IAB Tech Lab have in store beyond 2023? How will the digital advertising sector evolve over the next few years?

RL: Tech Lab is committed to developing the foundational technology and standards that enable growth and trust in the digital media ecosystem. In 2023 specifically, some key focus areas for us are consumer privacy, addressability, and PETs.

We are expanding the Global Privacy Platform or GPP to provide a comprehensive and secure consent signaling framework across multiple jurisdictions. We are also establishing a data subject rights signaling framework, providing the industry with a more consistent way to communicate across the digital advertising supply chain when consumers are exercising their other rights like their right to access, delete and modify their data.

We are also working on an Accountability Platform, a technical audit framework, to ensure adherence to the preferences set by the users at the digital properties they visit. 

Beyond 2023, Tech Lab will continue to focus on solutions for brand safety and ad fraud, identity, data, consumer privacy, ad experiences, measurement, and programmatic effectiveness.

We expect that the digital advertising sector will continue to evolve over the next couple of years. Tech lab is going to remain at the forefront of developing the technical standards to ensure that the industry moves forward in a sustainable but also a privacy safe manner.