Finding An Equilibrium Between Marketers And Media Companies

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Matt Spiegel, EVP of marketing solutions and head of the media vertical at TransUnion.

I’m happy the era of cookies is coming to a close.

This evolution was going to happen one way or another. Even if the third-party cookie wasn’t dying, we’d still be evolving to a world where advertising-supported content is consumed more in environments that never supported cookies.

This evolution forces the industry to increase its sophistication about what people-based marketing really is. Finally, marketers and media companies, alike, are having to recognize the mission isn’t understanding devices or cookies — but understanding how to reach unique people.

In the consumer-empowered world where we now live, everyone wants to create relevant content and advertising experiences that attract and keep consumer attention. Better consumer experiences improve both marketer ROI and inventory yield. That said, no one would pretend marketer and media objectives are always aligned. I’m confident, however, that we’re headed to one of the most balanced and productive eras of collaboration between the two we’ve seen in at least a few decades.

Ten years ago, media companies reluctantly helped enable the beginning of the programmatic buying era via open media marketplaces where individual buying decisions against each impression were deemed mission critical. The focus on an ad impression disconnected from the media source lasted for a minute — just long enough for the industry to realize there’s actually a lot of bad inventory (not viewable) and plenty of poor-quality data (no lift). Marketers instead turned their attention and dollars to the walled garden duopoly that proved that true people-driven advertising generates outsized returns and can be done at scale.

I’ve heard the argument that the death of the cookie will only serve to strengthen the duopoly. If this were a decade ago, I’d agree. In today’s reality, that argument misses the fact that all large media companies now follow the duopoly’s playbook — some more successfully than others — and have made significant investments in technology and use of consumer data against the goal of generating a people-and household-based advertising solution. It is no longer true that marketers have only two options for precision marketing at scale.

A marketplace with meaningful competition on both sides of the aisle is destined to create effective collaboration — and that won’t mean media companies are handing over their ID sets or providing impression-by-impression decision-making. But it also won’t mean marketers will accept blinded segmentation strategies set by media with no insights into cross-partner performance. In a world where marketers have more options for high-performing media, and media companies have more options for capturing marketing dollars (helped through the rise of direct-to-consumer brands), both have no choice but to make tradeoffs.

The next decade of conversation will be about big media companies and marketers figuring out how to truly recognize and understand consumer identity at scale — which is really complicated, by the way. This era will also look to create partnership models that protect consumers and media company interests, and meet the performance needs of marketers. When media creates a better picture of identity, marketers have better capabilities to leverage. When both marketers and media companies are more sophisticated about identity, consumers benefit too.

The future of effective marketing is clearly people- and household-driven, underpinned by customer identity and data intelligence. And as that future is being written, marketers and media companies are leaning into the fact that wherever the script goes, it has to meet consumer expectations or all of this falls apart. But as long as marketers and media companies are effectively enabled to do the best by their respective customers, I’m expecting this new era to be a better one – in terms of scale, accuracy, quality and trust.

Follow Matt Spiegel (@mspiegel) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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