Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Trinity Lunch: Meet the Sponsors – Alex Hetherton of Fifty

Following the success of NDA’s Summer ‘Trinity Lunch’ on Friday 10 June, we caught up with the leaders of businesses sponsoring the event. Here, we meet Alex Hetherton, VP of Sales, UK Agency at Fifty.

What are the big priorities for your organisations this year?

2022 is shaping up to be another busy year for Fifty. A big priority for us this year is scaling our cookieless solution, FiftyAurora, to provide ID-free, privacy-first audience targeting to more businesses around the world. In line with this, we’re also focusing on expanding the Fifty audience intelligence offering to allow for more bespoke understanding and analyses of our clients’ current and future customers.

Fifty has also recently developed a secure data exchange, Fifty SDX, to allow brands to enrich and share their CRM data securely and privately. When combined, FiftyAurora and SDX enable Fifty to provide value to any type of advertiser or publisher in the privacy-centric era. We can support a brand with little contact with their consumers by acting as their first-party data and those brands with strong first-party data can rely on Fifty to supercharge it.

Another key priority for us is company growth. Last year, we opened Fifty’s first Australian division in Sydney, so one of our main goals this year is to cement our presence throughout the wider APAC region. To keep pace with this international growth, we’re going to be increasing our hiring efforts across all teams throughout 2022.

What are the biggest issues your clients/customers are facing at the moment?

One of the biggest issues facing our clients is the impending deprecation of the third-party cookie. In light of the deprecation of the third-party cookie which is set to occur in 2023, many brands are turning to standard contextual targeting as a replacement. The issue that then arises is that most contextual solutions currently only focus on the content of a webpage or media item, which can be a limited proxy for understanding the audience you hope to reach. And understanding audiences is the key of any advertising – something we have lost sight of with constant tracking of consumers.

FiftyAurora overcomes this downside as it is powered by our human insight platform, allowing Fifty to deeply understand the audience and its subgroups as well as analyse their content preferences, interests, and other real-world signals like location or gender.

Another disadvantage of traditional contextual solutions is that they rely upon simple signals like the presence of a keyword match regardless of the overarching context of an article. This means that there is always a level of wastage – pages that include the relevant keywords but are not likely to be read by the audience. In contrast, FiftyAurora is able to use complex topical classification of audience media consumption patterns to exclude any inventory not relevant or read by a target audience.

Overall, FiftyAurora provides brands and publishers with an evolution of Contextual audience targeting – a solution that uses essential audience insights to improve performance and scale while avoiding wasted spend.

Due to these limitations, many brands today lack understanding of who their ideal customer is and how to reach them. Unlike other traditional contextual solutions, Fifty is able to do just that. By understanding an audience first, we can harness the power of our technology to model the relevant topics, categories and webpages that a campaign should be targeting for a specific audience, rather than being limited by an unclassified keyword list.

Our deep human understanding allows FiftyAurora to extend desired audience targeting beyond the central topic or interest of the campaign to include adjacent or unlinked topics that also engage the audience, thereby increasing audience reach without diluting audience relevance.

Are your customers/partners prepared for the ‘cookieless’ marketing era?

It really depends on the customer. The more progressive media agencies are already putting time and effort into searching for alternative solutions to this particular problem, whereas on the brand side, the reaction has been a lot more varied. Whilst we are starting to see more exploration from bigger brands seeking out longer-term targeting solutions, some smaller brands are only just discovering cookie-based targeting.

Are there any lingering after-effects of the pandemic still influencing your marketplace?

Absolutely. In a post-pandemic world, it’s become more important than ever to understand how your customers’ values have been shaped by the pandemic. One significant trend that emerged over the course of the pandemic is the increased demand for convenience, as seen in the meteoric rise of online shopping and food delivery apps during lockdown. Today’s customers expect easy, personalised, instantaneous and frictionless digital experiences and brands need to be ready to provide bespoke, accurate experiences if they want to continue to engage their customers well into the future.

Are there any other noteworthy trends in your marketplace right now?

Alongside the changes taking place within our industry, marketers have the added challenge right now of trying to understand their customers in an evolving situation. Post-pandemic, consumer behaviour has altered significantly and is continuing to change on a daily basis. In order to continue to understand who their audience is and where their growth is going to come from amidst so much change, marketers are having to shift their focus to measuring live data over time and they need to do it at scale for the measurement to be robust and comparable.

From a personal perspective, is advertising getting better or worse?

The clear direction of travel in the advertising industry is towards less online tracking of individual consumers, which means it’s becoming increasingly difficult to use customer data obtained through tracking to power digital advertising strategies.

At Fifty, we see this trend as an opportunity to make advertising better. Tracking and retargeting based on cookies and other forms of digital ID have always been hit-and-miss when it comes to targeting the right customers. By contrast, our solution is an insights technology that leverages privacy-compliant social data and allows brands to understand their target customers in a much more meaningful way, then find those customers wherever they are spending time online.

We understand target audiences: we don’t track them. Fifty’s solution delivers a way of effectively targeting advertising that is cookie-less and ID-less but still highly addressable and capable of finding customers online that would have previously been missing from a brand’s media plans.

Fifty is a technology company specialising in audience insights and digital media activation. Fifty uses data and technology to transform how organisations understand their customers and power digital advertising to best engage them.

Since its formation in 2015, Fifty has analysed over 3,000 individual brands or markets and emerged as one of the world’s leading businesses in this disruptive market. Since 2020, Fifty has grown by 270% from 20 to 54 employees across the UK, US and Australia.

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