First-Party Data Is More Than Just Emails

Rich Calkins OpenX

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Rich Calkins, Director of Product Management, OpenX.

For ad tech wonks who spend countless hours in industry working groups, getting deep in the weeds to solve problems is all but required. But when it comes time to communicate solutions to the community at large, we rarely rise to the level necessary to describe them clearly. 

Instead, we often add more confusion to an already overly complicated industry. I was reminded of this while moderating a virtual discussion among publishers about Prebid, when the topic of first-party data came up. Several participants expressed frustration at the fact that they can’t generate first-party data because they have no realistic path to collecting user emails. It seems the breathless debate over authenticated ID solutions has led some to believe that email is the only kind of first-party data that matters, or even exists. 

There is no doubt email-based IDs are going to be a critical component to the future, and publishers should test strategies to collect and activate them. However, first-party data is much more than emails. 

Behavioral data is generated as users browse your properties, take actions and engage with content. CRM data is generated when users create a profile and declare information about their name, location and/or preferences. Contextual data goes beyond the category of the page or app and expands to the actual content and metadata on-page. Purchase and intent data can be generated from affiliate links. Every publisher attracts visitors for a unique reason, and each interaction on your site creates more data that can be very valuable to an advertiser.

While advertisers have long relied primarily on their own first-party data combined with third-party data, for programmatic buying, publisher first-party data was thrust back into the spotlight with the impending deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome. Not only does it offer an alternative targeting mechanism, but it is also more accurate, privacy safe and browser agnostic. And for publishers, it is exclusive to you! Nobody else knows as much about your users as you, and that gives you leverage.

 The main challenge with first-party data in programmatic remains scale. Select few publishers have the scale and data infrastructure necessary to attract meaningful advertiser dollars on their own. The aforementioned ad tech wonks are hard at work attempting to solve that problem (and many others) by developing standards like seller-defined audiences (SDA). Together with the already launched Prebid.js First Party Data Module, they offer a well-defined path for standardizing an effective, scalable and privacy-forward approach to helping publishers monetize first-party data, even outside of private marketplaces.

Given all this, what is a publisher to do? I would recommend taking these actions immediately: 

  1. Catalog existing first-party data assets: Based on the expanded definition above, what first-party data might you already have available?
  2. Strategize tactics for generating new first-party data: How might you collect and expand the first-party data on your site?
  3. Make that data actionable: Talk with a publisher-first DMP or build your own solution to determine a strategy for first-party data segmentation, collection, storage and activation.
  4. Update Prebid: Add support for the first-party data module and SharedID in your next Prebid update.
  5. Talk with your vendors: Discuss the options you already have for first-party data activation and tell them about the challenges you face, so they will help build solutions for you.
  6. Involve your legal team: Ensure that all data collection and activation strategies follow your relevant user privacy regulations.

Waiting for the end of 2023 is not an option. Developing or improving your first-party data strategy will take time. First-party data is already a critical source of revenue for many publishers, and advertiser interest is only increasing. As a self-proclaimed ATW (ad tech wonk), I’m very confident the investments made now will pay dividends sooner than you think.

Follow OpenX (@OpenX) and AdExchanger (@AdExchanger) on Twitter.

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