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Why Data-Driven Marketing Will Evolve Into Publisher-Driven Targeting

It’s a chaotic time for the digital advertising industry. Every browser announcement and tightening of regulation adds to data depreciation and is felt, in varying degrees, by every part of the ecosystem — from brands to publishers, and the supply path in between. But within this chaos is a consistent message: digital advertising doesn’t have to come at the cost of people’s privacy.

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It’s not the time to hail the death of programmatic, instead, it’s a chance to reframe the way we think and do data-driven advertising. In this world, advertisers will need something that publishers have in order to reach consumers, and that is privacy-safe, consented, first-party data.

Data deprecation doesn’t just refer to the removal of third-party cookies from Chrome or the imminent IDFA updates in the app ecosystem. It also encompasses privacy regulations, the use of ad blockers and the walled gardens of Facebook and Google, where both publishers and advertisers relinquish control of their data. It’s defined by Forrester as the reduction of available data that marketers and advertisers use to build relevant data-driven marketing strategies.

As data deprecates, it upends the strategies that marketers use to target consumers at scale. The walled gardens that once offered brands a place to spend their budget are now problematic when it comes to reaching consumers. In fact, IDFA updates in the app ecosystem will have such an impact that Facebook and Snap have warned about the potential impact on their ad-supported businesses. Google’s announcement, banning identifiers in the bidstream, also threw up concerns over fragmentation, reach and scale.

While brands work out their options and try to cut through this noise, publishers have been preparing for a world without the third-party cookie.

Brands are worried about the impact of data deprecation 

Advertisers are dealing with a customer data paradox — they must deepen their customer insights while navigating an increasingly fraught data ethics landscape, this includes savvy consumers who want to know how their data is being used. Identifying and tracking these consumers across domains is no longer possible or ethical.

To find out brands’ and publishers’ concerns around identity and data deprecation we commissioned Forrester Consulting to explore their priorities and efforts in first-party data and privacy-safe strategies, surveying more than 100 brands and 100 publishers in the UK and US. The majority of brands surveyed are worried about the impact of data deprecation, 73% are concerned about increasing privacy regulations and more than two-thirds (70%) are concerned that consumers will decline consent to use their data for marketing.

Publishers see the rise of customer privacy as both a challenge and an opportunity. The research shows that 50% of publishers say it creates opportunities for them to work more closely with advertisers, 49% recognize the need for additional technology investment to ensure data is collected compliantly and is used appropriately to derive and leverage audience insights.

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To combat this, 95% of publishers have started building their first-party data monetization strategies. And even though just 39% of brand respondents say they use publishers’ first-party data in half or more of their marketing campaigns today, the Forrester Consulting study states that these brands are “getting an important head start on pivoting from third-party cookie-dependent strategies to more ethical and sustainable approaches.”

These first-party data strategies send an important signal about the future of data-driven marketing. Not only does it elevate the role and value of publisher audiences, but it also sees a shorter supply path between the buy- and sell-side, which increases privacy and keeps customer data and audience data safe.

Publishers have a first-party relationship with their audiences‚ this means they are able to attach compliant identifiers to 100% of users that browse the site and give consent. For brands, in order to scale your data — and work with the 95% of the web that will be anonymous once third-party cookies are removed from Chrome — you need to be working more closely with publishers.

It’s imperative is that brands take this opportunity to make plans around what they can control — partnerships with those who have privacy complaint practices and build first-party data collection and execution strategies.

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Brands and publishers as champions of privacy

The digital advertising industry has been collecting a huge amount of data about consumers to track them across the web, which erodes trust. Brands and publishers need to understand the privacy preferences of their audiences. The research shows that both advertisers and publishers are prioritizing consumer trust as a result.

Brands put this in their top three priorities, which cover improving marketing efficiency (36%) and customer trust (36%) and satisfaction (33%). And publishers are prioritizing improving customer satisfaction and trust (42%) ahead of traditional revenue drivers like increasing subscriptions (38%). It shows that both are aligned with that consistent message coming from the chaos that surrounds privacy regulation and browser updates — protecting user privacy.

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Stronger relationships between advertisers and publishers is a core part of future-proofing the effectiveness and privacy compliance of digital marketing campaigns. And time is of the essence with third-party cookie demise and other privacy changes on the horizon.

Apple, Facebook and Google are grappling to be the ultimate champion of user privacy. But with their first-party data strategies and mission to build user trust, publishers and brands are arguably in a better position to not only protect user privacy but work together to rebuild privacy in data-driven advertising.

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