How Companies Can Cultivate Their Own Identity Gardens

Matt Prohaska, principal and CEO at Prohaska Consulting

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

Today’s column is written by Matt Prohaska, principal and CEO at Prohaska Consulting. Matt will present “5 Things You Should Do Now To Get Ready For Our Post-Cookie World” at AdExchanger’s upcoming Programmatic IO conference on Oct. 21. Register to hear his session, along with 40 others, at

Have you ever felt like certain important things in life are out of your control?

Did you see that classic sales move? Start off with an extremely easy and obvious question that is sure to get a head nod from everyone, so folks are on your side agreeing with you right away.

Of course, since at least mid-March, all of us have felt like we have less control in our lives than we’ve been used to, personally and, for most of us, professionally. In these COVID times, many mental health experts have suggested certain activities to improve our state of being, such as exercising, drawing, painting or gardening. (My wife has always been an amazing gardener, but I only more recently realized how great it can be, thanks in part to comedian Jim Gaffigan’s own success.)

What my wife and Jim now know is that part of the joy is not just having tasty healthy vegetables but a feeling of control – accomplishing something, watching something wonderful grow because of what you specifically did.

When I wrote last year about our coming identity crisis, I never imagined there would be multiple, more important global crises in 2020. But here we are, and just like our lives currently feel out of control at times, our industry continues to face major challenges to life and work as we’ve known it. More personalized experiences, attribution, measurement, creative sequencing and overall campaign performance are all at risk of diminishing, sparking a further acceleration of ad spending among a handful of walled gardens and a worse overall experience for consumers.

We have overall been too slow to react to regulatory and technical compromise of our foundational tracking configurations. For many publishers and brands, it can feel like recent and pending changes from browsers, combined with various state and national laws, create a world where individual companies have little ability to take control of their own destinies. And while Project Rearc and the new Partnership for Addressable Media are underway to collectively forge a path forward, there are quite a few areas that publishers and brands can focus on now to take more control of their own destinies and commercial health.

garden image

Source: Lera blog

Growing your own identity garden

While there are plenty of great sources giving five steps to help you start your fall victory garden, here are the key steps to growing an identity victory garden.

  • Support more than one and fewer than nine different ID solutions: Publishers too often think their identity strategy is solved because they cut one deal a year or month ago with one partner, when several others have different collection methodologies, commercial types and reach. Don’t do what most publishers did from 2012-17 (and some still do today) by having nine different SSPs with tags throwing inventory blindly into too many open auctions. But don’t think that one is always the answer either. You need another partner to benchmark the audience experience and commercial impact so that you can move up the learning curve faster and be ready to adjust if or when browser and legal rules further tighten.
  • Report and optimize by browser type: Publishers’ CPMs have fallen 50% on Safari since Apple’s first moves restricting third-party cookies more than a year ago. If publishers are still managing inventory or brands and agencies are managing ad spend without this filter, they are missing a major way to understand how ads perform in different environments.
  • Create more PMPs: It’s nice that open auction CPMs have risen again from the difficult drops in April and May after COVID-19 first impacted ad spending, but there will be another big drop-off after Chrome’s and Safari’s next unpluggings take hold. Leverage contextual and branded strengths by knowing who you are transacting with, one key publisher and brand at a time.

That should be enough to keep most publishers and brands busy. They can also avoid feeling like the world is changing too quickly around us and threatening how we have done things for years to achieve current ROIs.

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1 Comment

  1. Max Mead

    Nice write-up, Matt — clearly you have a green thumb on this topic. I think publishers will also play a role in getting the industry back on track, in addition to, and while tending to their own gardens. I saw this article this morning suggesting that publishers push back on platform-specific identity solutions to help ensure interoperability and eliminate creating another fragmented mess– which would also suggest growing a lesser number of varietals rather than more.