How can publishers optimise ad revenues in the ‘privacy-first’ future?

A new survey of senior UK marketers has some important pointers to offer.

Tim Geenen, Managing Director, addressability Europe, at LiveRamp, unpacks his company’s recent poll and identifies some encouraging signs…

In 2021, increased restrictions on the use of consumers’ personal data and third-party data are forcing publishers to reassess their relationships with advertisers and the wider adtech industry.

LiveRamp, in association with Censuswide, recently conducted a survey of 251 UK-based senior marketing professionals to find out how they are responding to the changes taking place. The research was launched alongside our report 'Marketing in the first-party future: publishers, brands and authenticated data', which includes input from major publishers including Dennis Publishing, The Stylist Group, Global, and News Corp. 

Some of the results were surprising, but very encouraging from a publisher perspective. For example, 78.1% of brand marketer respondents believe that the final withdrawal of traditional third-party cookies (expected before the end of 2022) will have a positive impact on their advertising strategy.

We asked senior marketers what alternative advertising strategies and solutions they are looking to implement to combat the loss of traditional third-party cookies .‘Diversifying formats and channels’ was the most popular response (49%) closely followed by ‘first-party authenticated data’ (45%), ‘identity solutions’ (43.4%), contextual targeting (41.4%) and Google’s FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) approach with 30.7%.

Publish or perish?

Without the traditional digital methods of identifying consumers, the task of connecting advertisers to their target audience will become more difficult for publishers. But let’s not forget traditional third-party cookies have not always benefited the publisher community. 

According to Alex Kirby, Global Head of Programmatic & Commercial Data at Dennis Publishing: “I’ve worked in programmatic advertising for the past 10 years and on some levels it has been an incredibly destructive force for publishers, which has often commoditised and degraded the value of our ad inventory. We want to utilise this time of change for the digital ad industry as an opportunity to remind brands about the value of working with premium publishers.”

Norm Johnston, Head of Global Advertising Strategy at News Corp, agreed that, for publishers, the loss of hyper-granular targeting is both a threat and an opportunity: “If your business is highly dependent on open-auction programmatic, there's a potential threat to the value of your inventory. Some industry studies estimate that roughly around 50% of the value of CPM [cost per thousand] and corresponding revenues could be wiped out.

“On the other hand, it's a huge opportunity for publishers to develop stronger relationships with their advertising clients,” Johnston continues. “If you're an advertiser, and you want to have that same level of fidelity in data, working directly with a publisher and their key partners is one way of doing that.”

The publishing community has long complained of having their ad revenues eroded by the increasing number of adtech vendors required to execute a transaction. But, according to the survey, publishers might be able to insulate themselves and take greater control over the process.

When asked if their brand would benefit from a closer relationship with their key target publishers, an overwhelming majority - 84.9% of respondents - answered ‘yes’.

Move closer

Marketers surveyed stated that publishers could help convince brands to run more campaigns with them by offering ‘a compelling value exchange’ (53.4%), ‘new consumer-centric or engagement-based metrics’ (48.2%), ‘working with trusted identity partners’ (45.8%) and ‘increasing their percentage of first-party authenticated data’ (43.4%)

When asked whether their brands would pay more for authenticated media and if so, how much more, 84.1% of marketers revealed that they would be willing to pay more  – a crucial takeaway for publishers. 

Several major publishers are already building new propositions for key advertisers based on first-party data. For example, Karen Eccles, Senior Director of Commercial Innovation, The Telegraph, responded: “To grow our strong direct business, we've built products based on our own audience data and premium formats that fit our editorial environment. I think there will be a net gain for publishers over the next year as we’ll regain some control over the value of first-party data on quality inventory, and reset the value exchange of advertising so it benefits the reader, the advertiser and the publisher, not just the ad tech ecosystem.”

The message for publishers is loud and clear: it’s time to turn the page on a new era of digital advertising and develop deeper, more profitable collaborations with brand advertisers by leveraging privacy-first, first-party authenticated data.

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