In business, sometimes incremental improvements are the right course of action. Small steps allow companies to maintain stability and balance while testing out new protocols and procedures. The advertising industry, however, can no longer take such an incremental approach. It’s time for a complete reimagining. After many years of gradual change, advertising is at a critical inflection point. It must enact a completely new and transformational strategy to restore the ecosystem and drive better business outcomes.
What will be the key to a successful reimagining? A clear vision that offers a view — not just of what could be — but of what should be. We must reframe past and pending changes from browsers, device manufacturers and regulators. They offer a massive opportunity to build a modern system that prioritizes consumer trust and transparency, gives publishers control, and delivers high performance for advertisers.
Remember: Consumers love transparent brands they can trust
First, we should recognize that a system that prioritizes people is one that reevaluates the whole experience, not just the moments when data and consent are collected. A study conducted by Microsoft Advertising, tells us 87% of consumers believe data privacy is a human right, not a privilege. Microsoft Advertising also conducted a series of research studies on the importance of trust to brand love and loyalty. The research showed that 85% of consumers will only consider a brand if they trust it. As trust in a brand increases, so does people’s expression of love for that brand, and their loyalty.
When consumers trust the intentions of advertisers and publishers, they are more willing to authenticate themselves. They will actively share their identity and provide other information, which can be used to deliver more value.
Building that trust requires a commitment to developing great customer experiences. This includes guiding language that clearly explains the value exchange. People must be allowed to signal both what they want and what they don’t want from a publisher or a brand. In the digital and mobile worlds, a strong CX capability that enables dynamic personalization serves as a more effective test for finding different ways to engage consumers and uncovering best practices for how and when to request authentication.
Avoid unsavory shortcuts when building new customer relationships
Consumers clearly want a say in how their data is collected and used. True innovators view consumer privacy as the foundation for building the future we all want. Publishers must embrace consumer control of their data and focus on delivering a trusted value exchange that delivers a great user experience. This way, we enable consumers to share their data and identity in exchange for valued content.
It’s time to debunk solutions that bypass direct consent. They are unlikely to stand the test of time. The practice of fingerprinting, for example, creates a synthetic ID in place of a cookie by aggregating signals not meant for creating identifiers. Yet again, such off-label data collection is not transparent to the consumer. Therefore, it can quickly erode consumer trust, resulting in serious reputational risk.
Take control of data to maximize revenue
Results don’t lie. Publishers that lean into the consumer value exchange authenticate more users. People who trust a publisher enough to provide an email or mobile number tend to be more engaged. The impact can be disproportionately valuable to publishers even with authentication rates as low as five, 10 or 30%.
Authenticated users consume more content on average. Therefore, they can deliver more page views. As just one example, the initial results of Microsoft Advertising and LiveRamp enabling brands to buy authenticated inventory show that Microsoft Advertising CPMs alone increased by over 40%.
This is not an either/or scenario. Even before cookies are officially deprecated, publishers can begin to attract more demand. They can also create multiple paths to stable revenue while still running traditional campaigns. This allows them to learn which strategies work best before they are forced to decide on one path or another. Publishers should layer in authentication capabilities now. This lets them use the next few months leading into this year’s holiday season to experiment with multiple, secure solutions that put them control. These experiments should be addressable, contextual, and cohort based. This will allow them to understand the value each approach can generate for their business.
Underscoring the importance of coalescing addressability and authentications, our collective goal should be to increase trust and accountability. We must first focus on authenticated experiences that deliver real value for consumers and marketers alike via permissioned data sets.
Publishers of all sizes need to be single-minded about maximizing their margins. The global ecosystem benefits when we have a diverse landscape of publishers who can cater to the broad and unique interests of individuals. They must also have flexibility and control over their revenue streams, without fear of pricing changes or other potential taxes.
With clarity of vision, our industry can ensure a win-win-win situation
Publishers must not become reliant on single solutions that come with additional expenses based on volume. They risk giving away yield they can’t invest back into their content or their user experience. The only way for advertising to thrive is when publishers have the power to alternate between effective monetization solutions. They must reduce dependence on any one, especially those with the power to squeeze those margins unpredictably. This is exemplified by the recent changes with IDFA. This seismic shift in inhibiting mobile in-app advertising will have far reaching implications, when 80% of app users may suddenly become unrecognizable to mobile publishers.
It is important to recognize the long-term, commercial impact of creating a more sustainable, healthy, and competitive web that works better for everyone. Prioritizing consumer trust and transparency is ethically the right thing to do. However, it turns out it helps the bottom line too —for publishers, advertisers, and their partners. And it’s impossible to overlook the tangible business impact and the halo effect this imparts on enhancing the holistic consumer experience. The fundamental shift toward a more trusted ecosystem is not an incremental approach, it’s a visionary one.
About the authors
Travis Clinger is the senior vice president of addressability and ecosystem at LiveRamp and serves as a IAB Tech Lab board member.
As senior director of global audience ads at Microsoft, Jeff Nienaber supports the native programmatic marketplace and video advertising business as well as data and identity assets.