Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Publishers prove the value of their first-party data to US agency leaders in a Shark Tank-style contest

In a world lacking third-party cookies, publishers’ first-party data has been hailed by many as the answer to the industry’s issues around identity and privacy. So, we asked some publishers to prove just how valuable their first-party data really is.

New Digital Age partnered with audience platform Permutive to launch ‘The Pitch US’ – a Shark Tank-style contest where publishers attempt to prove the strength of their first-party data solutions to a panel of agencies. 

The event saw representatives from Fandom, US News & World Report, Group Nine Media, and SHE Media present to ‘Sharks’ Lisa Giacosa, President & Global Head of Data, Technology, Analytics and Insights at Spark Foundry; Kelly Lundquist, SVP, Head of Health Strategy, North America at Havas Media; Andrea Kwiatek, Strategic Partnerships Manager at Goodway Group; and Fabio Giraldo, Head of Advanced Analytics, USA at Mindshare.

All the contestants were thoroughly put through their paces by the panel of judges, and grilled on every claim they were making. In the end, there was a mixed reception from the panel about how each publisher dealt with that pressure. 

“All seem to offer a suite of compelling solutions with the ability to find and engage refined audiences, based on both behavioural indicators as well as with relevance to the decision journey,” said Havas’s Lundquist, praising most of the participants in the event. 

On the other hand, Mindshare’s Giraldo was left disappointed by “the application of data science and machine learning”.

“They learned from their data mostly by looking at charts. They could add more rigor and uncover more learnings using modeling and statistics,” he suggested.

Fan platform Fandom was first to step up (virtually) to face the esteemed panel of judges, and deemed to have done “a great job showcasing their strengths and what made their offering different”, according to Goodway’s Kwiatek.

Fandom introduced the panel to its ‘Smart Targets’ first-party data product, which enables it to identify and activate based on the behaviours of its audience. It is made up of over 650 million targetable device IDs globally and more than 30,000 unique segments. 

The service was followed by US News – famous for its rankings around education, health, cars, money, travel, law, and news. The publisher shared its ‘Intent Intelligence’ data-first marketing platform, which was called “interesting” by Spark Foundry’s Giacosa. 

The platform can help to identify and target consumers by going beyond demographic characteristics and leveraging intent-based behavioural signals. US News used Intent Intelligence to drive a 29% more effective cost-per-account complete for a brokerage firm versus its other partners.

Third to dive into the tank was Group Nine Media (G9), which houses some of the world’s biggest millennial and gen Z focused digital media brands, including NowThis, PopSugar, The Dodo, Thrillist, and Seeker. 

Based on its reach in the tens of millions across the LGBTQIA+, African-American/Black, Latinx, and Asian-American communities, the publisher is able to create a range of audience personas and cohorts. 

Giacosa praised that “they addressed data privacy early on”, and was impressed by the clarity of “the connection between data, content, and brands” presented by G9. 

To close the show, SHE Media pitched its offering to the Sharks. The Penske Media Corporation (PMC)-owned publisher is home to properties such as BlogHer,, Stylecaster, and HelloFlo. 

SHE Media benefits from the PMC Atlas Studio, which Lundquist “would be interested in exploring”. It combines contextual data, behavioural data, proprietary data collection, and data enrichment to find optimal audiences, identify editorial strategies, and look at how it can connect brands to users in more meaningful ways. 

Kwiatek was impressed by the publisher’s “advanced offering for analytics with first-party data customisation”, while Giacosa and her team declared the publisher as having the best pitch of the event.

All-in-all, the judging panel felt that the contestants presented some compelling solutions, and proved that their first-party data could be the gold standard for advertisers as we move into this cookieless world. These publishers displayed how they can understand their audiences in real-time, and help brands achieve their KPIs, which will be vitally important for brands.

*Permutive is a client of Bluestripe Communications, owned by Bluestripe Group, the owner for NDA.