Email-Based Ad Targeting Works For Epsilon And Publisher PoolHost

Epsilon Pub Link
Over the past year, Publicis-owned Epsilon has been developing a system called Pub Link, designed to buy ads using a publisher’s authenticated users instead of third-party cookies. Epsilon claims its early results are sending more revenue to test publishers.

This setup requires publishers add an Epsilon tag to their site or create a server-side link to Epsilon. Epsilon looks up a user log in against its CORE ID. During a bid request, it passes through another version of the ID, giving the marketer the signal they need to target the ad.

Pub Link’s audience buying system worked for PoolHost, one of the early publishers to pilot this program in December.

PoolHost helps people create office pools around the NCAA’s March Madness or NFL football games. Almost all of its content requires an account tied to an email address to access.

During an initial test run in December, Epsilon’s Pub Link picked up nearly three of four  impressions across the entire site. Fill rate increased 460% on PoolHost, and Epsilon purchased previously unfilled impressions at a competitive rate. It bought 73% of the impressions on the site, comprising 66% of total earnings. And the majority of the incremental lift came from impressions served on the Safari browser, where the lack of cookies makes audience targeting tough.

In the previous world of programmatic and header bidding, PoolHost’s strong logged-in user base didn’t hold as much value. So PoolHost CEO Larry Lubman is eager to be an early adopter of solutions like Epsilon’s that recognize the value of his site’s user base.

“We’ve been monetizing like any other publisher,” Lubman said. “If we could have taken advantage of the fact that our users are authenticated much earlier, we would have done that.”

PoolHost was so eager to test, it risked implementing new ad tech in the midst of its December peak season, partially because its traffic is highly cyclical. PoolHost experiences tons of traffic during the NFL season and during March Madness – a period that begins in the Fall and ends in early Spring. Within that timeframe, activity spikes on game days of Thursday, Sunday and Monday. The site makes its ad revenue for the year during these huge peaks.

Implementing Pub Link proved a breeze and happened in a week. Epsilon required publishers use of a consent management platform (CMP) to use Pub Link. PoolHost wasn’t happy with its current CMP, so it switched to one provided by Epsilon. The additional tech on the page didn’t negatively affect site performance or ad delivery in any way PoolHost noted. Lubman felt comfortable with Pub Link’s privacy standards.

“With a solution like this, you can find a balance between maintaining privacy and being able to monetize your audience through anonymous identification,” he said.

Additionally, Epsilon VP of media acquisitions Brii Wilson assured PoolHost that “the [email address] information is only used to improve the biddable impressions on PoolHost.”

Lubman likes that Pub Link increases monetization of the limited inventory on the site. PoolHost’s content uses lots of tables, so slotting in viewable ads is hard, especially on mobile. Using an identity-based solution lets PoolHost make its advertising more valuable without increasing ad load.

Epsilon is currently in active integrations with several dozen publishers after rolling out Pub Link in November.

Epsilon is also confident that its Pub Link solution solves for two of the key publisher issues.

First, publishers want to know if a solution is simply trying to outrun a browser’s privacy update – a cat-and-mouse problem. Epsilon’s Wilson says no.

“We’ve been browser-cautious and privacy compliant,” she said. “We’ve put a lot of forethought into thinking about solutions that will stick around for the long term.”

Second, publishers want to know if marketers are actually using a new ID to buy ads – a chicken-and-egg problem. Epsilon counts a deep bench of marketers who use its Core ID, with hundreds more migrating onto the solution after its acquisition by Publicis.

Using Core ID “typically involves complete tagging of their properties and a live data feed of transactions, both online and offline. When you have that level of identity tied back to real-time transactions, that creates instant demand,” Epsilon Chief Media Officer Chad Peplinkski said. “That’s why day one has such lift.”

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