Four Ways Publishers Can Use Data to Get Closer to Buyers

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

Today's column is written by Wenda Zhou, Head of Media Operations, IPONWEB.

When programmatic first started, publishers largely viewed it as another channel they could use to offload remnant inventory and squeeze out more revenue. It wasn’t considered a risk to their core business, but rather a more tech-enabled version of the network model with which most were already comfortable.

Ten years later, programmatic has become the preferred buying channel for advertisers and agencies, accounting for more than 85% of digital spend, and growing. This transformation has resulted in advertisers prizing audiences over content and context, and transferred the power of valuing inventory from publishers to platforms, namely DSPs and SSPs. 

With the looming deprecation of the third-party cookie, the dynamic between publishers, ad tech partners, media buyers and browser owners reflects today’s privacy-first world, with power shifting in favor of those parties closest to the consumer.

In light of this opportunity, publishers can use data to understand how buyers spend and maximize their own programmatic potential.

  1. Identify the most lucrative buyers

Compared to the amount of data at the buy-side’s fingertips, publishers often feel disadvantaged in their access to data. But they can still glean a fair amount of insight from the reporting provided by their demand partners. 

SSPs can share data about buyers, including the names of advertisers bidding on a publisher’s inventory, the channels they’re buying through (open exchanges, private marketplaces, programmatic guaranteed for example), how much and how often they bid, their win rate (or loss rate) and overall spend. 

Breaking the data down further by geolocations, devices, domains, and other supply dimensions to help publishers understand which advertisers (or category of advertisers) prize their inventory most - and how buyers value a publisher’s supply. 

Direct sales teams can then use this data for prospecting and for packaging inventory in more informed ways against observed bid patterns. At the same time, advertiser bid data can be fed to editorial teams to inform content strategies that attract more of those high-value audiences for top-spending advertisers. 

  1. Unearth the most valuable supply

With data from their demand partners, publishers can detect trends in spend and bid activity. Then, they can inform pricing and yield decisions. For example, looking at bid density, or the number of buyers competing for a given impression, helps publishers understand which supply or users are most valuable to buyers. 

For pockets of supply with higher bid density - like high-viewability placements or traffic to the sports pages, for example - publishers can set higher floor prices, forcing increased competition for their most prized inventory. Publishers can incrementally test pushing those floor prices higher over time to find where price and demand start to even out. 

Tracking the ebb and flow of bid patterns throughout the year may also lead a publisher to uncover seasonal buying trends that can be exploited with advanced floor prices or deals strategies in the future. 

  1. Make the most desirable supply scarce

Once publishers know which pools of supply are most attractive and which advertisers want that supply most, they can put up greater guardrails on its availability through the open exchange. 

By making private marketplaces the only source of highly prized inventory for certain buyers, publishers can build direct bridges to advertiser and agency partners while increasing campaign performance. 

Once there’s a clear value exchange in place, publishers should look for ways to bring even more value to buyers through the activation of first-party data, proprietary formats, performance-based or cost-per-engagement buying models, and other assets exclusive to the publisher. 

  1. Become a test partner 

With the imminent deprecation of the third-party cookie high on everyone’s priority list, now is a good time for publishers - who have the most intimate relationship with end users - to actively work with top buying partners to test new approaches for campaign targeting, audience packaging, measurement, and attribution. 

These new approaches may take many forms: building bespoke content taxonomies to enable greater targeting granularity; testing the various identity initiatives to understand which ones work best for different campaigns or advertising goals; or even arranging first-party to first-party audience matches through data clean rooms to maintain post-cookie addressability. 

At the same time, publishers - as audience experts - have unmatched data about their users that isn’t going away with the third-party cookie. For example, the content they consume, and how often, the time of day, and the channel or device it’s consumed on. Publishers know what videos get watched (and for how long), which ads get clicks, which emails get opened and forwarded and the social posts that get liked and amplified. 

As privacy regulations expand and third-party tracking mechanisms disappear, buyers’ ability to easily mine data on their target audiences will decline. Empowering brand partners with insights about their customers fills an emerging information gap. Advertisers can make important ad messaging, product, and media placement decisions based on this data, while publishers create a new revenue stream. 

The programmatic supply chain

Post-cookie trading mechanics are shifting, but making data the new foundation will strengthen ties with advertisers and trading partners. Publishers that invest in getting buy-side relationships right through strategic use of data put themselves in a position to re-establish their role in the supply chain and demonstrate the value they bring to it.

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