How publishers can protect their ad revenue

Walled gardens get the lion's share of ad spend, despite only attracting a 50/50 split with the open web for traffic. So, what can publishers do to protect and regain their ad revenues? 

Travis Clinger, SVP of Addressability and Ecosystem at LiveRamp, outlines how publishers can take back revenue opportunities for the open internet and how people-based marketing will enable publishers to have a better understanding of their users to then utilise these relationships to increase their ad revenue.

With increasing focus on data privacy, developing new and effective methods for people-based marketing – where a brand or an advertiser has the same definition of a person as a publisher – is at the top of the agenda for marketers and publishers across the digital advertising ecosystem.

Walled gardens vs the open internet

Traditionally, the walled gardens of Facebook, Google and Apple have excelled when it comes to people-based marketing, which is why 69% of ad spend currently goes towards these logged-in environments. Advertisers have always wanted the most effective way to reach their customers, and historically that has only happened in the big walled gardens because it requires an individual level of personal data that just hasn’t been available on the open web. 

However, this allocation of budget is far from reflective of where users actually spend their time online, which tends to be split closer to 50:50 between the open internet and the walled gardens. So, a disproportionate amount of media investment is going into this closed ecosystem that could be used as effectively across publishers on the open internet. 

With the growth of addressable solutions on the open internet and a growing focus on developing first-party data, publishers now have the opportunity to address that imbalance of spend and actually help marketers find their audiences more accurately. These techniques are essentially levelling the playing field and allowing digital publishers to target a slice of that extra 69% of digital media spend – providing them with an opportunity for incremental sales growth and advertisers with the ability to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns.  

This increased audience addressability delivers benefits across the board in digital advertising. For a start, for advertisers it delivers more effective campaigns and better results. Not only because they know more about who they’re targeting but also because those customers will be more engaged. Consumers want their internet experience to be tailored to their interests and previous online behaviours, but they don’t want to feel followed or frustrated by retargeting activity. Addressability provides a better framework for this, enabling frequency capping across devices and channels. 

From the publisher’s perspective, advertisers are prepared to pay a premium for inventory if they know it is going to be reaching the people they want to reach. Furthermore, because one of the core pillars of addressability is that it upholds and enhances consumer privacy, it provides consumers with increased transparency, and control and helps to build trust with the publisher – something that we have seen being eroded over time in the digital advertising sector.

First-party data strategies that support addressability

The key point behind all of this is that publishers need to have a clear understanding of who their users are as this will help strengthen relationships with brands.

For a start, they need to make the most of their existing authenticated first-party data, and then build strategies to grow that. It’s likely that many publishers will already have been gathering first-party data through their existing communities for some time, but may not be utilising this effectively. Tying all this data together is crucial.  

When it comes to building new first-party data pools, a clear value exchange is the key area that publishers need to focus on. This means that they must  ensure they are giving consumers something worthwhile in return for their personal data. The concept of a strong value exchange is pretty straightforward: the consumer consents for the publisher to use their data in exchange for something of value. Some of the most effective types of value exchange include tried and trusted techniques like newsletters, access to exclusive content, personalised experiences, reward programmes and access to special offers.

Building partnerships

On top of this, publishers need to be building stronger relationships with their advertising partners. In a recent survey earlier this year, it was found that brands are looking for more direct contact with publishing partners – 85 percent of respondents stated that their brand would benefit from a closer relationship with their key target publishers. These closer relationships enable brands to better communicate their advertising needs and publishers to better tailor their inventory to those requirements. In many ways, this is simply returning to the way publishers and advertisers used to do business before programmatic ad buying fractured the publisher/brand relationship.

As publishers head down this route, it’s important to realise that there is no one-size-fits-all solution - not everything works for every brand or publisher. This means publishers need to be prepared to test and evaluate different strategies, and they must be prepared to learn and adapt to the outcomes.

As we look for ways to achieve addressability without cookies and other device identifiers, it’s crucial that publishers are aware of the options and solutions that are available to them, and that they work with partners that are neutral and interoperable. This will put them in the best possible position to deliver premium content experiences for both consumers and advertisers, whilst improving their profitability and maintaining control.

By Travis Clinger

SVP of Addressability and Ecosystem