Take It to the People: LiveIntent’s Jason Kelly on Identity-Based Marketing

Publishers Are Sitting on a Data Goldmine

The identity- or people-based marketing train is one that all publishers should be jumping aboard as they can. According to research from Signal.co, 25% of marketer and advertisers are spending half their budgets via people-based channels, and 65% see double the performance versus non-people-based. Something like 60-80% of marketers will be increasing their use of people-based marketing in the coming year.

But identity-based marketing is a major mindset and process shift from the world of segments and cookies that most pubs have long submerged in. We chatted with LiveIntent President Jason Kelly about the evolution of people-based marketing through programmatic and other stages; the great value of emails as identifiers; the mechanics and opportunities of second-party data; and whether the cookie is about to bow out of digital marketing.

LiveIntent is a smarter way to market and advertise in email.

ROB BEELER: We came into programmatic thinking an impression with data is worth more—that inherently makes sense. But I think we all know now that the quality of the data that’s out there hasn’t really been uniform, which is why retargeting seems to have done a lot better than other targeting methods. However, identity-based marketing seems to be a remarkable evolution.

JASON KELLY: People-based or identity-driven marketing/advertising is a macro trend that’s been underway for a number of years. It has implications as much for publishers as it does for media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, as well as marketers and advertisers who are looking to more effectively communicate and interact with consumers – on a one-to-one level. While some of it’s at an early stage, it’s absolutely moving quickly.

Everything that’s been done up until this point has established a workable foundation. Programmatic and real-time bidding infrastructure and workflow, which is very quickly coming up on 10 years, created a foundation to enable the reach of cookies. Look at retargeting in its most basic form of applying intent or serving as a proxy for people in a real-time environment – this worked very well and served our industry as an evolution, but it’s been a precursor to the precipice where we stand today.

Twenty years later within digital, mostly through the advent of mobile devices where we’re spending the majority of our time, we have the ability to get to the real people. The confluence of all these things – cookies, real-time marketing through RTB and programmatic, and the incorporation of mobile devices – now enable what all advertisers, marketers and frankly publishers have long wanted to facilitate: people-based marketing.

It sounds simple: Why wouldn’t you market to an actual person? That was always the goal – absolutely. But it’s now here at scale, which has long been the issue.

RB: Well, that sounds exactly what Google and Facebook are offering advertisers; how are other publishers getting in this game?

JK: Marketers and advertisers desire to have more diversity of spend, but Google and Facebook are in the best position to reach their people-based initiatives. That’s why they account for 80% of every new dollar in digital ad spend.

Lo and behold, you do spend a lot of time outside of Facebook and Google during your day. I was on the phone with an analyst from Forrester today, and she commented, “You know who benefits from this and what I’m really excited about? The publisher.” The publisher has always been sitting on first-party data from their audience. They’ve been buying and making available third-party and behavioral data, and also working with second-party data. But it was too expensive to facilitate a more informed media buy relative to the cheap reach against cookies or retargeting 1.0.

Our ambition at LiveIntent is to build out our platform of reach and scale against a universally identifiable entity, which is this anonymized email address. It’s become universally identifiable for who you are and what you use to log into pretty much any service or platform, and therefore represents your online identity.

It’s become much more price-effective that the pendulum is swinging back to publishers that are investing in logged-in media opportunities. That could be their websites or their email channel, which are a people-based environment. A majority of our traditional publishers are investing heavily to double their impressions and access to audience in email.

Publishers are also becoming buyers of second- and third-party data to connect and inform their own audience, whether that be household, name and address, offline or device ID. Publishers have always been sitting on a highly valuable first-party relationship with their audiences, but the number of intermediaries and interruptions has taken the focus and the value proposition away from publishers for some time. I believe that the tide is turning back in favor of the publishers.

RB: So are publishers going to be forced to collect more email addresses?

JK: It’s what marketers and advertisers are absolutely expecting of their digital media investment, and, frankly, it’s what consumers are expecting of their level of engagement with marketers and advertisers—not simply different products that chase you online. You’ve heard from many consumers and maybe even said it yourself: “This pair of boots will not leave me alone!”

Retargeting is effective. It helps increase the level of conversion, overall click-throughs and revenue for advertisers. As evidenced by ad blocking, the implication from consumers is that we’ve over-extended on top of what I’ll call 1.0 or 2.0 capabilities—the cookie being part of that, versus something more person-based or ID-based.

As a platform, we’re working with publishers to unlock the full value of the email address as the universal identifier for advertising and marketing to people. The value is a bit locked up in the email address—we’re trying to unlock and connect that to the right kind of demand.

RB: If the publisher knows someone’s email address, it sounds like the consumer is giving more information than what’s gained in setting a cookie. But handled properly—i.e., hashed—it allows for a control for frequency across devices.

JK: The difference between people-based and cookie-based is that the consumer is much more in control. In every New York Times Newsletter with LiveIntent ads, there’s an unsubscribe button at the bottom that I can click at any point in time.

I’m in control of my relationship with the New York Times—I vouch for that, I’ve opened it, I’ve read it. I’ve declared three different levels of intent to consume that content and the corresponding advertising and marketing that goes with it. I willingly shared my identity with the New York Times so they can continue to invest in great content that I want to consume. That investment, though, requires a value exchange on behalf of marketers and advertisers.

RB: I think there’s still a lot of confusion around second-party data and how it fits into people-based marketing.

JK: Second-party data is defined as first-party data owners coming together where there’s mutual and beneficial value exchange. When the New York Times was putting up its paywall, it partnered with LinkedIn in a perfect example of a second-party transaction.

LinkedIn had an audience of 250,000 people that they had called out as being senior, of a certain segment, high value, high net worth, of a certain title, a certain aptitude, etc. So as The New York Times was rolling out their paywall, they shared a list of 250,000 emails and came up with an overlap between the Times and LinkedIn users that met a certain type of segment minimum. LinkedIn has its understanding of that 250,000, New York Times has its own understanding. They market to those 250,000 on LinkedIn, on New York Times, maybe other third-party inventory, to provide six months free to New York Times to induce consumption of the new product. I think the adoption or conversion rate was 60%, which is unheard of. And this is a use case from years ago.

RB: Is LiveIntent essentially now a DMP?

JK: No, we’re not a DMP. We’re a platform—think more of connectivity. We’re not in the business of storing and creating a taxonomy of first-party data for a marketer or publisher. We’re connected to DMPs, including one of the largest, Salesforce.

LiveNation has 200 million files of people that have either gone to concerts or signed up through LiveNation with interest in going to concerts in the US. They can take and create segments within Salesforce and then push those segments anonymously over LiveIntent media as represented by New York Times and Conde for the purposes of marketing to people against that media. So we are not a DMP, but more the connective tissue.

RB: Is identity-based marketing ringing the death knell of the cookie?

JK: I think the death of the cookie, the death of email, the death of anything is more salacious than inevitable. I believe the nature of the use case changes dramatically. I think the load we put on a simple text file—i.e., an http cookie—isn’t what it was originally architected for, and the industry and the need has moved far beyond what the cookie was created for and represents.

We have a $35 billion industry of digital media transacted on top of this notion of the cookie. If you look at the funnel and all those dollars coming down to that simple piece, it needs to get widened out. It needs to be more durable, more persistent, more representative of an actual person, and it just doesn’t innately have that. The cookie is not going to go away—not overnight—but what we’re attempting to do with cookies will be transformed into something much more people- or identity-oriented.