How building a holistic customer view will help publishers thrive in a post-cookie world

Last year was a whirlwind in the advertising industry. Publishers navigated through a tumultuous period of reduced ad spend, axed campaigns, and overzealous keyword blocking. However, 2021 brings with it a new and arguably more significant challenge: the deprecation of third-party cookies and other universal identifiers.

But we’re not doomed. The impending changes to online advertising, while no doubt disruptive, present incredible opportunities for advertisers and publishers alike. Publishers and content creators possess troves of first-party data. Given their direct relationships with audiences, they may be in the best position possible.

Publishers are meeting the moment

Eliminating third-party cookies and other universal identifiers alters the dynamics of the digital advertising market. The “cookie-free” world aims to serve the needs and wants of consumers first and foremost. Consumers will set the terms for digital advertising. This marks a fundamental change from what we’ve been used to.

Publishers currently have the strongest and clearest connection to consumers through their large networks of audiences. As the market makes its shift away from universal IDs, we can expect to see many brands and advertisers work more closely with publishing partners. But this additional leverage doesn’t mean publishers can get away with business as usual. Innovation is crucial. For publishers to establish staying power, they’ll need a sophisticated first-party data strategy that’s proactive and meets the needs of today’s advertisers.

Diversification is essential

As the digital advertising industry moves beyond personal identifiers, diversification will be key to success. A single-point, silver-bullet solution to replace cookies or MAIDs isn’t what anyone’s calling for. It’s unlikely that such a solution will exist given the ubiquity and heavily embedded infrastructure we rely on today.

Rather, the answer will more likely involve a diversified portfolio of solutions and approaches to data-driven targeting and measurement. The fundamentals for sound data strategy won’t change, though. In the “cookie-free” world, publishers will still need to:

· Preserve customer experiences and deliver heightened value to visitors

· Support advertisers in reaching the right people with the right message at the right time

· Optimize yield through diversified approaches to inventory packaging

3 Data strategy shifts

Changes to data strategy will center around three core areas. Publishers will need to maximize data to build stronger advertiser relationships, leverage context-based technology to increase understanding of one’s inventory, and commit to measurement that extends beyond baseline metrics. Publishers must:

1. Maximize the value of first party data and enrich customer understanding.

As premium publishers move towards a subscription model, we expect to see the shift to gather as much known first party data as possible. Many will leverage new subscription models to do that. The new data will primarily reveal demographics and online behavior restricted to a publisher site portfolio. However, publishers will need to enrich that data to get a 360-degree view of their audience to better sell inventory.

2. Use contextual intelligence to drive more inventory value.

There are myriad signals on a page. Sentiment, for example, reveals the tone and context of an article. Understanding this context (and doing so at scale) will play a more integral role in ad targeting as cookies disappear.

ID-free technology such as contextual intelligence maintains an acute focus on content and consumer mindset. This allows intelligent publishers to curate inventory packages, based on high value content, which their advertisers seek.

Tapping into reader sentiment will be of particular interest to both advertisers and publishers. Research shows the value of emotionally connected customers. They buy, visit, and pay attention at higher rates compared to people who don’t share the same emotional connections. As context gets more advanced, expect to see this area explored with great interest from both advertisers and publishers as they aim to create detailed views into the content interests and subsequent consumption behaviors of their audiences.

Brand safety, suitability, and sentiment-based decision-making also opens up publishers to more custom solutions. This will more accurately value their supply and subsequently make addressable media more valuable. Plus, contextual advancements across a variety of formats, coupled with new and more data-informed approaches to context, will create additional opportunities for advertisers to reach people in an anonymous capacity.

3. Find out how analytics and insights matter more than ever.

Among the adtech lessons of 2020—media moves fast. Measurement must keep pace during critical times. It must also operate across all channels and platforms to ensure a comprehensive view of success and uncover areas for optimization.

We can also expect a greater focus on analytics with limited reliance on personal identifiers. Publishers will want to prove that their sites are safe for advertising. They’ll need viewable inventory that features low invalid traffic (IVT). They will also want to provide rich insights to show the best creative performance, media attention across multi-format content (such as video, CTV or streaming audio, eSports, desktop, and mobile).

A portfolio approach for the future

Digital advertising exists to evolve, and businesses need to adapt. The change to identity unquestionably baffles the best of us. However, some may mistakenly invest in only one solution when we’re certain another shift will closely follow.

The nature of this business requires more forethought and imagination, especially now. Widening the array of solutions and approaches keeps publishers and other players in the digital media ecosystem prepared for the inevitable changes that will happen next.

By Dave Constantino, senior director of client development, Oracle Advertising

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