Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Tom Jenen: Hey publishers, cookies are back! take your Dramamine, here’s what happens next

Tom Jenen, CRO, Brand Metrics, is an adtech legend. He launched the first programmatic platform for publishers with Admeld, selling it to Google where he then helped launch Google’s first premium programmatic play in Europe. He’s gone on to lead and advise multiple companies in the space and co-founded WomenPresent, a platform to help increase the number of female speakers at events.

On top of being one of our industry’s loveliest people, he is also now NDA’s latest regular columnist.

Three things became really clear to publishers, broadcasters and networks in the wake of Google’s cookie deprecation pause last week.

First, everybody keeps their jobs. Hooray! If you passed the pandemic cull, you’re home free for the next couple years.

Second, you can dust off your plans from a year ago, because fraud is still rampant, buyers are still stealing all your contextual data, and GAFA is still poised to take 95% of every new budget spent in digital advertising. And subs are down because Biden isn’t Trump. Still, you can also better predict revenues for 2022. Hooray?

Third, remember that strategy brief that you wrote for next year? The one where you said you wanted to secure more of your first-party data, offer buyers new audience segments and contextual cohorts in a privacy-protected way, and lure premium brand advertisers with brand lift measurement and creative solutions?

Hooray! You might now have the funding (from cookies) to actually execute the plan and it bought you some time as well; as it happens, buyers hadn’t started spending on these new methodologies, so they weren’t ready either.

Turns out, it’s more important than ever.

Cookies are still going away. More important, the direction of travel is toward, not a cookieless future, but an attribution-less future. No user-specific data at all. Apple isn’t just telling the world what it is doing, it’s telling the world where the world needs to go in order to compete. The battle is for the hearts and minds of users, and for regulators, and Apple is out in front.

Anyone who thinks they can beat Apple at the customer-centred PR game, by telling everyone that they really DO want ads that follow them around (or indeed advertising or tracking of any kind, at all) – is smoking something currently or previously illegal.

So what’s an enterprising publisher, broadcaster or network to do?

  • Invest in new ideas, like CTV, podcasts and audio, but also the right data management solutions;
  • Seek out high-margin ad revenue, like strong brand creative solutions and high impact formats and measure brand lift properly;
  • Collaborate (not necessarily consolidate) with other publishers to invest properly
  • Diversify revenue sources, besides subscriptions, ecommerce and even advertising when you can defend it against commoditisation; and
  • Become more important than ever to your true customers, the users who absorb your content and consume your marketer clients’ products.

I’ve worked more than two thirds of my career in adtech, in the US, in Europe and around the world. Adtech, as it is for many of us, is a passion for me. It is a community and a calling – not just for what we can earn, but for the actual positive change we can create.

And that change, that positive, consumer-centred (if not ad industry centred) change, is coming. Given the huge amount of funding, an absolute torrent of investment, into adtech right now – funded in part by the huge exits investors are also seeing – new solutions are inevitable.

With tech funding comes the marketing and sales pressure you will feel from these energised ad tech businesses. You’ll have to make some decisions. Do you have the team to assess and implement? It’s quickly become a seller’s market for talent.

These changes are absolutely part of the cyclical nature of the business, but also the cynical nature – half of the industry is ready to declare defeat, while the other half prepares to accelerate.

Acceleration is a lot more fun.