Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Permutive: ‘We can all be innovators of the privacy-first future’

At Mad//Fest London 2021 where NDA was the official media sponsor identity and third-party cookies, as you might expect, were the talk of the town. With that in mind, Permutive’s Head of Advertiser Strategy, Elizabeth Brennan, took to the stage to present how the industry can build for the privacy-first future.

“At the moment, our industry feels relatively chaotic,” Brennan declared. And it’s hard to argue that. The industry has been grappling with the idea of third-party cookies disappearing on Google’s Chrome browser since the news first dropped a few years ago, and then there’s been Apple’s changes around identity, and an ever-growing number of regulations from around the world.

“If we bottom-line all the news, and bottom-line what privacy regulators are saying, tracking people across environments is no longer acceptable,” said Brennan. “We need to rebuild strategies, and rebuild our ways of working, and put privacy front and centre of our industry. And this means thinking a little bit differently about this notion of identity.”

Brennan was keen to remind the audience that identity and how identity is used are not the same things. Identity itself is key to advertising and powers advertiser strategies, and gives publishers an insight into the people browsing their sites and what those people like. And that’s why “it’s really how and where we use identity that is the change we have to prepare for,” according to Brennan.

“In my view, advertising about three core things: people, advertisers, and media owners. We’ve all experienced brilliant advertising when those three things come together in harmony. It doesn’t have to be a poor experience. It can be provocative, interesting, and innovative.”

Brennan asked the question, “how can we rebuild the ecosystem and what will be the principles that we use to take it forward?”

The answer to that question, according to Permutive, is to not put IDs into the ecosystem, ensure that browser data stays in the environment it was captured, provide full transparency to consumers, and to only collect and use data that somebody is in control of.

In this new ecosystem, privacy-compliant data should come from a direct relationship with the end user, where the data is collected and controlled in a privacy-safe way. But this data can lack scale, because both the advertiser and the publisher have to have the same identifier for the consumer.

As such, the way to activate this data at scale is by working directly with data owners, like publishers.

“They have a direct, first-party relationship with everybody that comes on their site,” explained Brennan. “This means that they’re able to understand the behaviour of every single user. Publishers are in an incredibly privileged position of being able to pass cohort IDs to advertisers for the purpose of targeting, meaning that advertisers can target new users, incremental users, in a way that does not compromise people’s privacy.”

So, advertisers should start transitioning to cohort-based buying, build direct publisher relationships, find a way to safely onboard their first- and second-party data into publishers, and scale through insights and modelling by working with people who provide clear understanding of those who are interested in the brand.

Making these changes can lead to a cleaner supply chain, increase confidence in data integrity, ensure stability in the future, and rebuild customer trust, according to Brennan.

“We have the most incredible opportunity. We have the opportunity to redress the balance of trust and data integrity between advertisers, media owners, and customers. What’s exciting is that I’m not talking about an egalitarian future that’s 18 months in the future, it can happen right here, right now, and we can all be the innovators that make this change happen. So, let’s start working with safe, consented, and sustainable data,” Brennan concluded.

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