With every Google, Apple and Firefox announcement, the status quo of the open web is rocked. The ecosystem of advertisers, ad tech companies and publishers falls out of balance.
With Google sunsetting the lifeblood of digital marketing — third-party cookies — and no longer supporting identifiers in the bidstream in its own ecosystem, advertisers face a fragmented market to find solutions to their targeting woes. Yet this same change puts publishers in a unique position to create value for brands.
Instead of seeing data leak out of their organizations – essentially allowing their valued readers and viewers to be tracked around other sites - publishers will become walled gardens with highly defined audiences available for advertisers to target. This approach protects user privacy. Any business that ignores privacy will not be sustainable.
The third-party data-led advertising model is set to expire. While some scramble to protect the status quo, publishers are working hard to carve out their places in this new ecosystem.
As Google bans identifiers in the bidstream, it’s time for first-party data to shine
The best way for publishers and marketers to future-proof their businesses is to establish deep, direct relationships, as they both have access to consented first-party data on their audiences and consumers. Using this data, marketers will be able to plan and reach their audiences via publisher cohorts without relying on a cross-domain identifier.
Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) replicates the cross-domain tracking that happens today — and decouples publisher data from inventory — whereas publisher cohorts don’t aggregate data across domains.
In addition, publishers can place users in more than one cohort, unlike FLoC. Because of the understanding of their audiences, publishers can provide a more descriptive representation of the user.
Publishers will be the only part of the ecosystem to own identity. They will be the only ones who can create cohorts across all platforms and buying tools. Once regulation kicks in, this advantage will be further cemented. Therefore, working directly with publishers will be the only clean, safe and compliant route for advertisers to use their first-party data.
Google and Facebook have already provided the blueprint for direct media buying and direct relationships between marketers and publishers: walled gardens. Publishers must use this blueprint and reposition themselves to take a privacy-first position that emulates the walled gardens. The defining feature of walled gardens is that advertiser data can come into that ecosystem, but data cannot leave. If publishers can keep their data within their own walls, they will have a huge opportunity to succeed.
Winning in a new advertising ecosystem
Privacy updates and regulation means it’s no longer possible for ad tech to build products, sell them to advertisers, and write checks to publishers who run ads using that technology.
In the new world, publishers will be responsible for providing products that help advertisers to reach their audiences on the open web. Rather than spending budget via an ad tech partner and network, advertisers will be able to define target audiences, and then communicate those requirements to a publisher. They will access multiple ‘closed’ ecosystems at scale, with ad tech acting as an enabler.
On the sell-side, we are seeing this shift toward technology and scale happening. With contextual, behavioral and intent data, publishers will be able to draw up highly defined customer segments using their rich first-party audiences and data. Larger companies with multiple titles will break down their data silos, and then organize, segment, and surface audiences.
Publishers are becoming guardians of data on the open web. In this new ecosystem, the balance of power will be fairer. Publishers will not be expected to allow valuable user data to leak. Ad tech companies will assume a supporting role, allowing a more direct relationship between buyers and sellers to flourish.