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Industry Contributor 14 May 2021 - 4 min read

Any adtech vendor dreaming up cookie alternatives is kidding themselves

By Simon Larcey - MD, Viztrade

As the advertising world changes fundamentally, publishers should shun adtech firms touting post-cookie ID solutions – and instead use their rich first party data to build deep value, take back control and get ahead of the pack.

It looks like adtech vendors haven’t learnt a thing. Instead of adapting to the winds of change and doing something different, they are still trying to create new identity hacks to compete with the walled gardens and tech giants. 

Right now, they’re trying to convince major media operators that ‘unified identity’ is the answer. They are selling the lie that, to stay alive in a changing world, media owners should now adopt these unified identity solutions to serve one-to-one targeted ads to audiences.

Not quite as clandestine as third party cookies, but it still stinks of opt out mechanics where the data of individuals is being exploited to send targeted ads without their express permission.

As privacy regulation finally starts to catch up with the technology, media owners have a unique opportunity to (a) kick dodgy adtech vendors to the curb, and (b) offer advertising solutions that do not intrude on the privacy of individuals.

Kick ‘em to the curb!

The tech giants and the walled gardens like Facebook, Google and Amazon have so much data at their disposal that no adtech vendor is ever going to be able to create an identity solution that can genuinely compete.  The best they can offer is a facsimile or a hack.  So riddle me this – how will Australian publishers ever seriously compete with the tech giants if they are using second-rate tools that mimic but never match.

The larger Aussie publishers forget that they are a product themselves, a repository of valuable data and information, which they are gearing up to simply give away.  They have the same ability to aggregate valuable data as blue chip brands like Coles or Qantas. They don’t need second-rate adtech platforms to do this job for them. They have buckets of first party data they can use to optimise their digital advertising.

Learn the lessons from programmatic. Programmatic vendors placed publishers under the thumb by becoming the brokers of the publishers’ own audiences, and now the adtech value-chain destroyers are trying to do it again by spruiking more “must-have” (and let’s face it, confusing) identity solutions.

If the larger Aussie media operators harvest their own data rather than handing it over, they can use tech platforms for the more limited purpose of transacting on audiences and inventory. With this in mind, for all my blustering, there are operators out there like Infosum (to whom my business has no particular business allegiance) that provide data owners full control of their data while incorporating the ability to activate against that data through adtech platforms. In other words, Infosum allows media owners to use the adtech tools without giving away the keys to the kingdom.

If publishers give adtech vendors the boot, what then?

Let’s imagine a world where the digital publishers tell the adtech vendors with complex identity solutions where they can stick it.  Highly unlikely, but one can dream. 

What then? Should media operators use the vast rivers of data at their disposal to build their own identity solutions?

Again, even if they do take control of their own data it will be next to impossible to get the scale of the tech giants.  And again, read the room, and recognise that digital identity solutions to target audiences without their express permission are no longer acceptable, even if they do technically fit within the letter (but not the spirit) of new privacy regulations around the world. 

The billion-dollar question is how publishers should leverage data for advertisers in the new environment.  It’s a tough ask, and I don’t have a crystal ball, but there are plenty of solutions out there already which, in my opinion, are far more effective than cookie-based targeting ever was anyway.

If you ask me, contextual advertising, being ads built and optimised around the media environment in which they appear, has always been better at targeting an audience with similar interests than targeting based on third party cookies using inferred user profiles (which, despite all its grandstanding, has never performed as promised).

Alternatively, some media operators are beginning to experiment with opt in targeting solutions, true value exchange propositions where individuals select their preferences and expressly choose the categories of advertising they want served to them.  Individuals have the option to pull advertising to them based on their own expressly stated interests, or they can choose to not opt in at all.  Again, without any business allegiance on my part, publishers should take inspiration from the likes of self-sovereign identity solution or alike and explore how they might work with these types of platforms. Will individuals share their personal data with publishers in return for some sort of value exchange?

Here’s the long and short of it – anyone who thinks they can come up with the next iteration of cookies is absolutely kidding themselves, and publishers who think they can stay afloat by teaming up with adtech vendors who are trying to do this are in for a rude shock when they don’t get the results they were hoping for. 

Publishers: be brave, recognise the times have changed, take control of your own destiny and get out ahead of the pack!

Mi3 Special Report: Australia Post-Cookies, Post-Privacy

  • How brands including ANZ, CommBank, Adore Beauty, Little Birdie, Menulog and Westpac are racing for new privacy-compliant ways to market to customers as platform and regulatory changes bite.
  • Report covers all of Australia‘s major publishers, their strategies.
  • All major alternative IDs covered.
  • Plus marketing consultancies, tech provider and agency insights.
  • Independent Mi3 report, based on 35-plus interviews, supported by MiQ and Resolution Digital.

How brands including CommBank, Adore Beauty, Little Birdie, Menulog and more are racing for new privacy-compliant ways to market to customers as platform and regulatory changes bite.

Get ahead of the curve. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE DOWNLOAD your 67-page report here.

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Simon Larcey

MD, Viztrade

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