Wishful Thinking, Meet Pragmatic Planning: A Portfolio Approach To Addressability

Anthony Katsur, CEO, IAB Tech Lab

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 Anthony Katsur, CEO of the IAB Tech Lab.

Is anyone tired of articles claiming to know the key to the post third-party cookie future? Is it first-party data? Contextual? Is it integrating with browser or operating system ad tech? Should you just pack up shop on the web and mobile, then place all your chips on connected TV? 

Maybe cynicism is the lens you use to filter these predictions. You feel the lure of the “this is unfair and isn’t about privacy concerns at all” narrative, which grows in popularity as we begin seeing impacts of Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency program on advertising outcomes and quarterly earnings. Perhaps you assume with each passing week of all-talk-no-change that there’s no change actually coming. Or you’re simply hoping everyone is wrong.

Don’t be fooled. Change is coming.

What’s more, change is already here

Let’s acknowledge a few things. Yes, the platform privacy narratives may smack of cynicism, but that doesn’t mean they’re going away or the cat isn’t already out of the bag on real privacy concerns. Regulators are waking up to the unintended consequences of data protection and privacy law.

But waiting on perfect enforcement or for privacy policy makers to change course is not a surefire strategy. And without a doubt, first-party data collection, contextual, browser APIs and new channels are all part of what the digital advertising ecosystem is turning to in the face of uncertainty. 

So, what should you do? How should you advise and plan?

Not just one thing

Start thinking in terms of a portfolio approach to addressability.

To make this a bit easier, IAB Tech Lab created a three-bucket framework for considering the realities of the addressability landscape going into 2022 and beyond. Each of the three buckets is based on whether advertiser audiences are linkable to publisher audiences and, if so, by whom and when.

Bucket #1

The first bucket is ad requests whereby a publisher segments its audience, but there’s no connective tissue with an advertiser’s audience, whether the ad is sold programmatically or not.

We call this bucket “unlinked first-party audiences.” We expect to see a range of approaches in this bucket from publisher-defined audiences sold as private marketplaces to contextual. New IAB Tech Lab work, in partnership with Prebid, supports scaling both. We refer to it as Seller Defined Audiences or SDA for short. It’s meant to give buyers, sellers and, importantly, their ad tech stacks common terms for talking about content and audiences.

Bucket #2

The second bucket is ad requests where the browser or operating system is doing the audience linking via one of the work-in-progress, on-device bird acronyms you’ve likely heard (FLoC, FLEDGE, PARAKEET, etc.).

We call this bucket “browser and OS-linked audiences.” There’s no way to say which Privacy Sandbox proposals will land, but it’s a safe bet to assume a few will. Everyone is likely to come up with different strategies here.

IAB Tech Lab’s work in this area falls into two categories: helper tools, like our SKAdNetwork list service, and channeling feedback into the development process for these new Privacy Enhancing Technologies or PETs for short.

Bucket #3

The third bucket is ad requests where the publisher and advertiser are using some method for connecting audiences, either in real time, beforehand in batch or after the fact in analytics.

We call this bucket “1:1 linked audiences.” Companies are achieving these outcomes with some combination of identity resolution and data platform products. While this approach doesn’t scale to the degree that third-party cookies or device identifiers do/did, it’s grown in popularity over the last year.

IAB Tech Lab’s work in this area is focused on creating a single, standard interface for businesses to connect to ID solutions and for ID solutions to connect to privacy signals and technical transparency.

Pulling it all together

Across all three buckets, IAB Tech Lab is designing an adaptable, streamlined privacy signaling protocol – the Global Privacy Platform – and methods to create uniform traceability for audits through an Accountability Platform.

Whether you’re creating audiences as a publisher or connecting audiences between an advertiser and a publisher, transparency and control with teeth are table stakes.

Resist the urge to plan based on hope or cynicism. Instead, focus on a defensible approach to each of the three buckets.

Follow IAB Tech Lab (@IABTechLab) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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