Ugly Delicious Advertising

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

Today’s column is written by Erik Requidan, founder and CEO at Media Tradecraft.

There’s a lot to admire about restaurateur David Chang. He’s accomplished, innovative, highly creative and, these days, reflective. He rose from humble beginnings to attain “underground” status, then went on to achieve tremendous success and respect in the culinary world. After that, he returned to his roots and remains loyal to principles that guide everything he does: cooking good, clean food that doesn’t have to be pretty. It can be ugly and delicious.

I see great leaders in our industry taking a similar approach. Ugly and delicious. Or in our industry, simple and great.

As we evolve to a world without third-party cookies, we are moving forward with technology – but also returning to simpler methods of targeting. We are revisiting basic principles that suddenly feel innovative in their effectiveness. So, while they may not be sexy, they have a lot of flavor.

Like Chang, we need to fuel our passion to drive innovation in the future. With the disappearance of the cookies on which we’ve relied for so many years, we must look not just to the newest shiny object – whatever it may be – but to what we already have and what we know will actually work.

Simple solutions for even the most refined palate

For publishers with first-party data, relying on that data to attract advertisers is going to be simple, clean and effective enough. The information you have about your audience is the best raw ingredient that will cook up some delicious results. Big players may seek to replace cookies with new identifiers, such as independent IDs and hashed emails. These could end up being fine new ingredients that may be fraught with privacy issues, but for the biggest sites, it’s a solution that may play out well.

For the rest of the web, there’s going to be some creativity required to make a meal out of the ingredients we’re left to work with. Many publishers will try to make the jump from fry cook to gourmet chef, endeavoring to transform themselves into tech companies – albeit without the full staff of engineers and data scientists they’d probably need. Not the best plan, unless there’s cash to burn and lots of time to play around in the kitchen. For most, outsourcing technology is a far better option.

There’s an opportunity for old-school contextual advertising to take the spotlight again too. As audience targeting rose in prominence, contextual fell out of favor – but we should be giving it another look. Is it sexy? Not really. But does work? Yes – and with better artificial intelligence and deep learning, it’s more effective than it was the last time you tried it. Offering high-quality contextual ads might be exactly the entree some publishers need to attract brands, even if it can’t offer the same insights cookies deliver.

Other sites may look to really basic options such as partnering. Teaming up with a bigger publisher, other niche publishers, a management firm or a customer data partner could be the shortest route to success. Again, it’s not slick, it’s not shiny, and it’s not necessarily even expensive, but it may yield the tastiest results. A partner that already has a clean process, people and a plan might be the simplest solution to a complex problem.

Ugly and delicious

So, the point is this: The disappearance of cookies creates some complex problems for many of us within the ecosystem. But to fix the problem, we don’t have to rely on layers of new technology. Things are already complex enough.

We have to go back to the things we know that work. Back to simple, clean and transparent solutions that help us deliver value to brands and consumers. These are the clean ingredients that will drive results and better user experiences.

They may not be the sexiest, slickest solution – although they might be – but they will serve as a satisfying meal for publishers, marketers and audiences.

Follow Erik Requidan (@Requidan) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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