Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Don’t wait for the 3rd party data world to crumble. Here’s how to re-invent your data strategy before it’s too late

These articles have been written by the latest cohort of the Practice Makes UnPerfect programme – a course that helps women find and finesse their public voices

By Julie Vuibert, Senior Customer Success Manager at Permutive

For years, the use of people’s personal data was the holy grail for marketers and the ad tech industry in general.

Companies could abusively use 3rd party data without any need to have relationships with publishers to target users and make a profit. As such, only big tech giant companies were controlling the ad industry, making it difficult for publishers to get their piece of the pie.

However, use of 3rd party data was perceived as very intrusive by end-users, as they felt tracked during all their online journey. In fact, 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies, and 81% say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits, according to a study by Pew Research Center. 

In my own experience, this nearly ruined the surprise of my husband’s marriage proposal, when we were looking to buy a new TV for our new home.I still remember him moaning while seeing numerous engagement rings popping up under my face while trying to use his tablet to buy our new Samsung TV. When the stalking is this obvious, you can see why users got annoyed. 

A need for changes in the industry: are users finally taking back control of their own data?

The ad tech industry has been shaken over the past few years, with new regulations in place since GDPR came into effect, making it crucial for businesses to consider their users’ privacy. There’s a hunt against misuse of data, and changes made to mobile identifiers (Apple with ITP) or browsers (Firefox) were made to make it difficult to work with non-compliant cookie collection. All of these changes were reinforced when Google announced the deprecation of 3P cookies in a year’s time. And since GDPR, EU law on cookie consent is clear: web users should be offered a simple, free choice — to accept or reject cookies

As such, websites have to be clear on how they collect a user’s cookie consent, and they must also offer the option for users to reject the consent of their cookies to be collected. 

Some markets in Europe such as France or Germany have taken stricter steps than others in terms of the application of GDPR rules. According to Reuters, “The CNIL said that companies’ French websites must make refusing advertising cookies as easy as accepting them.” Earlier this year, for the first time, the French data protection authority (CNIL) imposed heavy fines against Google LLC, Google Ireland Ltd and Amazon Europe for a total amount of €135M, for not effectively taking into account the user’s objection to cookies.

In addition, we’re seeing a rise in data activism. Noyb (“my privacy is none of your business”) was launched by Max Schrems a few years ago to help consumers get their right to privacy strengthened. 

Despite European data protection regulation with GDPR, many big organisations still ignore users’ right to privacy and this activist group’s initiatives attempt to make these organisations compliant before they’re taken to court. 

As Schrems says, the purpose of the noyb group is to “make privacy a reality for everybody in Europe, by collectively enforcing your right to privacy”. Over the last 6 years, they have “successfully brought a number of model cases to make tech companies comply with the law”. The movement represents the first time citizens have been able to go to court against big tech companies.

Already the opposition has been massive. Germany’s largest media, tech and advertising companies sued Apple on Monday for abuse of power. A month earlier, a lobby group for 2,000 French start-ups filed a complaint alleging “privacy hypocrisy”. All of these make it clear that privacy is the new grail in the ad industry and users are empowered to take back control of their data.

New opportunities for publishers to thrive with 1st party data strategy: but how can they collect this asset and be efficient with this new data strategy?

With the deprecation of 3rd party cookies, it’s clear that marketers and brands have therefore less consumer data available and it becomes harder to have personalised content. According to Forrester, “41% of brands rely mostly or exclusively on 3rd party data to target their audiences.”

However, publishers know they can now thrive in the new cookieless world and partner more effectively with brands, but they are also aware they may need additional technology to  “ensure they collect data compliantly and use it appropriately to derive and leverage audience insights in an effective, ethical manner” according to a Forrester Study.

But how to collect this precious asset?

Publishers cannot just rely on authenticated users, and should be ready to work with both authenticated and non authenticated: a cohort model is the only alternative for them to reach 100% of their audience.

There are 3 ways to collect first-party data :

  1. Using behavioral data, which is collected when a user browses a web page (e.g. time of page, clicks, scrolling, video engagement)
  2. Using contextual data, though the content being consumed and metadata (e.g. locations searched, description, topics, keywords)
  3. Using declared data, which is provided directly to a publisher by users and subscribers (e.g. purpose of visiting, industry or preferences about certain topics or content

Once they have identified ways to collect this data, “publishers think they can better serve their brand clients and half of them say privacy measures will enable them to work more closely with brands — who are likely to be seeking new, more ethical data sources — and 38% believe it’s an opportunity to monetize their own first-party data.”, according to a Forrester customised study commissioned by Permutive in March 2021.  

Customer trust instead of customer data should be the new major driver of future strategies for brands and publishers. 42% of publishers surveyed by Forrester admit improving customer trust and satisfaction is part of their main business priorities for their organization, even before increasing their new subscriptions. 

Publishers have the assets to thrive in this new ecosystem, but only if they have the right strategy in place on the use of their first-party data. They can benefit from collaboration with brands and advertisers who need this knowledge of the end-user to better serve their customers’ experience, But trust and transparency – as hard as they are to achieve – must now be primary objective.