Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Identity in a post-cookie world: Immediate Media, Global, Future and ESI give solutions

Immediate Media’s Advertising arm recently held an event discussing ‘Identity in a post-cookie world’. The publisher-focused part of the event – after part one featuring the tech platforms – brought together Dom Perkins, Digital Advertising Strategy Director at Immediate Media; Eleanor Marshall, Commercial Data Director at Global; Nick Flood, Global Commercial Operations Director at Future; and Jo Holdaway, Chief Data & Marketing Officer at ESI.

As we slowly roll toward the delayed deprecation of Google Chrome’s third-party cookies, publishers are working hard to prove the value of their first-party data to advertisers and show that forming direct relationships with them is the way forward. But the general consensus, among the big publishers at least, is that they’re more than prepared for whenever Google does decide to pull the trigger.

“Safari has been in this situation for a year or a year and a half already, so we’ve been working on how we unlock increased revenue opportunities across a cookieless environment,” said Immediate’s Perkins, whose only concern is that the delay may make the industry complacent. “A lot of the things that we’ve been doing haven’t just started because of Google’s announcements that they’re going to block third-party cookies. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve been working with partners that add value to what we’re trying to do.

“For us, it’s not a delay – we carry on as normal. We are going down that path that we’ve been on for the last year and a half. Nothing is changing.”

Future’s Flood is wary of the fact that the industry tends to only react to things once they are already in place, rather than being fully prepared ahead of time. 

“It reminds me of the introduction of GDPR. Half the publishers had a CMP live, half didn’t, it was all grey, and we saw what happened. And, being totally honest, we’re not seeing any money through the ID pipes at present. Buyers haven’t really transitioned over to that way of thinking, and all the agency conversations I’ve had are still very open,” said Flood.

“We’re here already with Safari and Firefox but, weirdly, no one seems to talk about that anymore. Smart publishers will continue to go down the track and aggressively chase it. It gives us a two-year window to make sure that we’re capable of transacting in the best possible, highest yielding, way with our biggest browser.”

Where there is disagreement among publishers is when it comes to which identity solutions should be used in order to benefit the most out of what’s to come.

Better together?

The likes of Future and Global are building their own ID solutions by exploring the introduction of their own customer data platforms (CDPs) because, “ultimately, it’s the publishers that own the data and own the technology that will win through,” according to Flood. And Global’s Marshall supports this.

“What’s difficult as a publisher is going to ad tech vendors and having an off-the-shelf solution that we have to plug in to. The more mature publishers are at a point where we know what data we have, we know what’s valuable, we know how we want to use it, and we’d love partnerships that can help us do that,” said Marshall.

“If there’s something that we can buy that completely ticks all the boxes that we haven’t done already, then absolutely. If there’s something that we’re going to have to take on a journey with us to get into a state, then there’s a bit of a balance between how much we do in-house as well. 

“From a CDP point-of-view, that’s absolutely where we’re heading as a business. We’re really getting on the front foot with combining all first-, second-, and third-party data. It’s a really powerful and futureproof way.”

However, ESI’s Holdaway doesn’t see this as the answer. Instead, ESI is focusing on developing well thought out partnerships and being able to use those partnerships to start working more closely with other publishers as well. 

“We’re a really lean, entrepreneurial-minded company, and we don’t have the resources to do that. But we’re very picky on our partnerships now,” said Holdaway. “Quite a few premium publishers are using the same key partners, which enables us to start working together. Those key partnerships will be an enabler to do that, because we need to make our inventory available, at scale, to buyers to make it easy for them to buy.

“I don’t think we’ll be building our own anytime soon, but we do have a really good way of manipulating the existing tech to its best effect and to give us an edge in the market,” she continued. “We definitely need to start collaborating a bit more, and maybe this gives us time to do that more effectively. We are vetting those partners more carefully than we ever have in the past, and we’re shedding the ones that aren’t providing us with value too.”

Perkins is also sceptical about the idea of each major publisher building their own technologies, warning against the likelihood that these solutions won’t work with each other, which is going to be so important for the future of the industry. 

“We need to better make our inventory and our data transparently collected and compliant and available to buyers to use in the right way. My fear is that we go too far down the line and start building our own tech that doesn’t work together,” said Perkins. “I don’t think we should be in a situation where we build ourselves and we don’t allow that to be used by other publishers. We’re stronger together.”  

And this idea of togetherness was on full display when Holdaway proudly responded to a question about publishers building their own walled gardens with, “why not?”.

“We have commonality,” she said. “We have commonality in quality. We have commonality and curation of editorial articles, news stories. If we can, why wouldn’t we?”


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