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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

As identity solutions evolve, smart publishers see an opportunity

July 28, 2020 | By Chris Hartley, Chief Revenue Officer – Britepool

As Chief Revenue Officer of BritePool, I am on the front lines every day talking with publishers, agencies, SSPs, DSPs, and advertisers about our identity resolution service. As you can imagine, Chrome’s announcement that it will end support for third-party cookies comes up in every one of those conversations.

My non-scientific sample of these conversations finds publishers fall into three distinct groups. The first group talks about “Chromageddon,” and the “identity crisis.” The second group is preoccupied with managing the current business during this pandemic and tells me “we will deal with the issue in 2021.” The final group sees this shift as the “identity opportunity.”

As a salesperson, it’s my nature to be optimistic. It’s also my nature to make things happen, with determination. My goal is to shape the future, by identifying problems and offering the best possible solutions. Of course, my position also makes me inherently biased. Nonetheless, I believe the future belongs to those who accept the dimensions of the new cookieless world and shape their business to grasp this opportunity. Where some see lemons, they see lemonade.

Those who see an “identity opportunity” seem to share five beliefs or approaches:

1. They have a strategy and they are not complacent.

At this moment, there are many reasons digital publishers are putting off addressing the identity issue. The most common reasons I hear for “call me next year,” are: (1) The IAB will develop an industry response, (2) The Google Sandbox will solve our problems, (3) Google won’t really do it, or (4) My plate is full as I try to remotely manage a business that should be run in-person.

On the other hand, publishers who see opportunity recognize that all solutions will require a long-term effort, which must start now. I have met with publishers who tell me, “no matter what happens with the IAB or Google Sandbox we have an internal goal of increasing self-identified visitors,” often “by 5X or 10X in the next 18 months.” The phrase that most sticks in my mind was from the publishing executive who said, “If we know our visitors, everything else will fall into place.”

As part of their strategy, this group also has a clear sense of how identity targeting with their properties fits into the marketing needs of clients, and the distinct benefits these publisher offer as compared to CTV services, mobile apps, social media, and a myriad other digital alternatives. This guiding purpose informs the questions executives at these publishers ask me, and ultimately their choices for solution providers.

2. They plan to grab share from Google and Facebook.

In an earlier article for DCN, BritePool’s CEO, David J. Moore, argued that Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising for a simple reason: They know the identities of their users, who log-in to use their services. In contrast, most web publishers know the identities of a fraction of their visitors.

Inaccurate and inefficient third-party cookies created the illusion of effective identity targeting. Now, publishers have realized that accurate, 1:1 identity verification leads to far higher CPM’s, a better experience for consumers (through true ad frequency caps) and the opportunity to compete effectively with the walled gardens. They also believe that advertisers want to reduce their dependence on Google and Facebook.

These digital publishers are actively looking for providers of identity resolution services that will help to fulfill this promise.

Many advertisers believe the walled Gardens are far too opaque in their reporting. Thus, in addition to precise 1:1 ad delivery, digital publishers are looking to solve the problem of attribution,

3. They are strategically skeptical.

The many issues associated with brand safety, transparency in the supply chain, inaccurate delivery of cookie-based campaigns, and bidding issues in programmatic buys have justifiably led publishers to ask that vendors demonstrate they can deliver on their promises.

Moreover, I have yet to meet a publisher who plans to rely on a single identity resolution vendor. As a strategy, digital publishers who plan to win will ensure they have multiple options for ad delivery in a cookieless world.

4. They want simplicity.

The potential complexity involved in identity targeting is high. PII (personally identifiable information) may need to be securely and safely exchanged. Data sharing agreements may need to be negotiated. And, the list goes on.

Web publishers seek solutions that make their lives easy, simple, secure, and safe, as they approach and realize the cookieless future.

5. They look for indications of credibility.

Recently, Adweek noted that “Identity is one of the fastest-changing and most competitive spaces in digital advertising.” For this essential but highly competitive space, publishing executives know that many solutions will be marketed, but few will survive. Moreover, these executives recognize that their time is a precious resource and allocate it thoughtfully.

As a result, as I work to schedule initial meetings, many publishing executives effectively ask: “Why is meeting with you a good use of my time?” This is a critical component and we need to have good answers. (I have several, but most compelling is the fact that two of the nation’s largest advertisers are testing BritePool’s service.)

Conclusion

I have always believed that in business, and in life, we create our own opportunities. Luck is a factor. But luck will not decide whether the demise of the third-party cookies leads to success or failure among digital publishers. In this case, I’d say luck favors the strategic optimists: those who recognize that success will require a long-term effort, one that cannot wait.

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