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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The race is on for publishers and brands to leverage first-party data

April 12, 2021 | By Aphrodite Brinsmead, Senior Product Marketing Manager – Permutive @Permutive

Privacy regulations and browser updates are restricting the use of personal identifiers and customer data gathered via third-party cookies. Needless to say, this is causing no little disruption to the way the digital advertising industry works today. 

To prepare for this privacy-focused future, publishers will need consent-based audience data. Brands will have to adapt the way they target and measure campaigns, and identity solutions. And technology providers will need to solve these challenges as updates continue to roll in. 

As data deprecation continues — and the deadline for the removal of third-party cookies in Chrome draws near — we partnered with Forrester to research how brands and publishers are preparing. The project surveyed 100 advertisers and 100 publishers in the US and UK. We asked about their current data strategies, with Forrester providing analysis on the future of customer data in advertising and how the industry can realign itself successfully. It shows that within the oncoming threats, there are opportunities for publishers and brands who have access to first-party data.    

Privacy regulations are a concern, but solutions are underway  

Data deprecation is an ongoing issue. New regulations and frequent browser changes, including the recent announcement from Google banning alternative identifiers in the bidstream, are creating a certain amount of chaos. These changes will dramatically change the way people are targeted on the web. And brands are feeling the impact. 

The Forrester research shows that 73% of brand respondents are very concerned about increasing privacy regulations. And 69% are concerned or very concerned with the restriction of third-party cookies in major browsers. However, despite this high level of concern 41% of brands are still relying “mostly or exclusively on third-party data” to target their audiences. 

Brands know they need to take privacy seriously. But time is running out to reduce their use of third-party data and test first-party data strategies. Some work has begun, 36% of brands say they are starting to explore accessing publishers’ first-party data. They are also starting to move away from relying on third-party data. Yet, more advertisers need to look at alternative ways of targeting. They should work closely with publishers to incorporate their first-party data.

There’s an opportunity for publishers to partner with advertisers 

Publishers are working hard to build-out their data monetization capabilities. They’re keen to supplement their subscription and ad revenue through advertiser partnerships. The research shows that 95% of publishers surveyed have started building their first-party data monetization strategies. However, only 28% are ready now with an established, implemented strategy. 

Identity and tracking individual across the internet — knowing their every move —  isn’t the only route to understanding consumers. Publishers understand their audiences and are building cohorts — a group of users that share some common attributes or behaviors — from their first-party data insights. This will give publishers an opportunity to build direct relationships with buyers, as publisher cohorts are privacy-safe. They allow advertisers to continue to target and reach audiences post-cookie, across platforms. 

Publishers are primed to take action. Half of those surveyed believe increasing privacy restrictions will allow them to work more closely with advertisers. Access to consented, granular data on their audiences will strengthen their advertiser relationships, especially as first-party data becomes even more valuable to brands. 

But convincing brands to test, trial and book campaigns with this cohort-based audience data is vital for this closer partnership model to succeed.

Publishers must proactively showcase the power of their first-party data 

In order for brands to wean themselves off third-party data, they need scalable, relevant audiences. They also need partners that can help them reach those audiences across all buying platforms. 

Brands should look to publisher cohorts to test first-party data campaigns. They need to be open minded about how they can reach new audiences as the industry rebuilds itself for the future. While publishers have gained significant ground in establishing their strategies, brands will need to find trusted partners. Publishers that are proactive about collecting their first-party data and sharing their work with brands are the ones that will benefit most. 

Instead of replicating the old ways, publishers and brands should see this as a chance to build deeper relationships and prepare for buying via cohorts that don’t identify and track people as individuals. It’s time to embrace a future based on first-party data.

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