Publishers Can Take The Power Back – Here’s How

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

Today's column is written by Jonathan Moran, Global Product Marketing Manager, SAS.

 Humans crave trust. Trusted relationships with family, friends, colleagues and, yes, even brands. And as societal, government, economic and health-related pressures weigh heavily and misinformation is delivered daily, consumers will tell you that their trust levels have fallen. 

So, in a world that can often feel devoid of trust, publishers have a unique opportunity to contribute to the “great trust rebuild” I believe we will see over the next couple of years. Let me set the stage.

The trust rebuild

It’s no secret that third-party cookies are going away. This is due in part to consumers demanding more privacy and control surrounding their personal data. They want to be in control of the information they share with brands – instead of brands stealthily taking that information from them as they traverse the web. With this shift, we are seeing the rise of technologies like customer data platforms (CDPs), which help manage first-party data and associated strategies. 

With all these things at play, now is a perfect time for brand publishers to take back control of their data collection, data usage and advertising processes and focus on building new, trusted relationships with their customers, readers, viewers and subscription base. At the center of this trust rebuild is the notion that a new value exchange must take place. Consumers must understand that brands still want their data, and brands must understand that consumers want some tangible value for relinquishing that data.

So how do brands take this power back? It will involve a three-pronged approach:

Focus on first-party data. First-party data has always been extremely valuable to organizations. Information provided directly from customers provides tremendous insight into their behaviors, preferences and personalization desires. Brands that truly put first-party data at the center of their strategies will build a customer database or CDP with declared data (zero-party data) and first-party data that is full of identified users and detailed individual-level information. 

This, of course, will be complemented by second- and third-party data sources. As a result of this shift to a first-party-data-first mentality, brands will have full control over their advertising and media business and will no longer be exposed to any fallout from changes that Big Tech providers may make. 

 Pick the proper tech. Once you have your first-party data strategy in place, the next thing to consider is how you want to serve ads as a publisher. With a full-fledged first-party ad server that is connected to a sell-side platform, demand-side platform or media business, publishers can have full control over who they partner with, who and what to prioritize and how to adjust priorities as they see fit. 

For instance, with a stand-alone first-party ad server, publishers can quickly pivot between in-house promotions, direct campaigns, external ad campaigns and waterfall or programmatic connections. Buying a proven piece of technology that allows brands to maintain control is certainly the future and allows publishers to regain control over their advertising programs and processes. 

But publishers need to choose their ad tech partner carefully. The ad tech partner is not only a platform provider but will have a significant influence on the entire publisher business going forward, whether it fits with the publisher’s current strategy or not. Indeed, doing your research upfront on selecting the proper tech will pay future dividends.

Look to the future of ad tech. As marketing continues to become more digitally native in its processes and operations, there is no doubt that mar tech and ad tech are on a collision course. Marketing hyper-personalization and the notion of on-demand relevance requires the interactive advertising content and creative that publishers provide. Digital advertising work by publishers relies on the integration of marketing technologies to achieve end-channel delivery – whether it’s in-app, in-browser or via some other digital medium. 

From an advertising point of view, having an independent, pure first-party ad server that offers a fully integrated sales workflow for retargeting and personalization, advanced ad management for optimized placements and advanced reporting for better insight makes the most sense. On top of that, being able to scale while adopting an open monetization framework for ad inventory will benefit the organizational bottom line. 

From a marketing point of view, having a first-party ad serving platform that integrates with your customer data platform, marketing operations management solutions and customer journey activation technologies will streamline the entire customer engagement process – from advertising through to marketing engagement and, ultimately, conversion.

 As publishers look toward the future, they should place a proactive lens on alternatives to Big Tech. Consumers today are seeking relevant relationships with brands. They want choice and control when it comes to their data usage. Brands that have the correct data management, advertising and marketing technologies and processes in place – to facilitate a tangible value exchange between brand and consumer – will be ahead of the game when it comes to regaining consumer trust.

Follow SAS (@SASsoftware) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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