Pick Your Audience Wisely – How Advertisers Can Help Build a More Responsible Web


By Isabella Jenkins, Agency Partner at Permutive

Over the past few years, there have been a number of changes impacting advertising – whether that’s increasing consumer privacy regulations or third-party cookies disappearing. We’ve seen third-party cookies blocked in Firefox and Safari and Google follow suit in Chrome by introducing its Privacy Sandbox, while Apple has overhauled its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) and introduced its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature.

In the end, it all comes down to consumer privacy.

Big tech making moves to comply with data regulations and better protect the privacy of consumers sends a signal to the entire industry to adapt or risk the future of their businesses. As a result, this provides the perfect opportunity for organisations to work together to build a more transparent and responsible web that puts consumers–and their data privacy–at the center of everything we do.

In this privacy-first world, any solution that tries to replicate the functionality of third-party cookies, such as fingerprinting, will struggle to not fall foul of the regulations in place. That means the direct relationships publishers and advertisers have with consumers and the consented first-party data that comes with those relationships will be crucial to advertising.

The First-Party Future

As the data that marketers have relied on disappears, advertisers will need to seek out more privacy-compliant data to power their advertising. And that’s where publishers and their first-party data can fill a much-needed gap.

The trusted relationships between publishers and their audiences places publishers in a central position to provide advertisers with audience data and insights, without compromising data. Publishers know the interests of their audiences, the behaviours they exhibit, how long they spend on their sites, how many times they visit those sites, and how user browsing habits are changing. They are also able to build deeper profiles on their users via subscriptions or event registrations.

A more direct relationship between the buy-and sell-side also addresses the issues around the programmatic supply chain, which the ISBA Programmatic Supply Chain Study revealed to be even more complex than some may have originally thought. According to the study, for 15 advertisers to buy media across 12 publishers, information is passed through 300 different supply chains. This results in a less transparent industry, where sensitive user data passes through a myriad of different channels.

Brand Influence

Many advertisers are on their own first-party data strategy journeys as they can gain first-party data via online orders, loyalty programs or consumer interactions with customer service. While advertisers are aware of consumer behaviors around purchases or uses of products, they cannot rely on their first-party data alone. Advertisers don’t have access to the broader behaviors that consumers exhibit, which are often crucial drivers in consumer purchase decisions.

Advertisers can scale their first-party data by combining it with publishers’ consented first-party data and insights. This collaboration between advertisers and publishers ensures that ads are served to the audiences that are interested in seeing them, at scale, without compromising consumer privacy.

Finding the Right Partner

When seeking publishers to collaborate with, advertisers have to test how their data and publishers’ first-party data performs. Advertisers should be, of course, looking to work with publishers that deliver them the best results. The key to that is determining whether a publisher’s audience cohorts – a group of readers with particular interests – match what the advertiser is looking for.

If a brand is selling tents, it may be worth looking for an audience that shows an interest in adventure, camping or music festivals. But, sometimes, the personas a brand should be targeting are not the direct and obvious ones. Publishing partners should also be able to guide an advertiser to what is the most appropriate cohort for them and via technology, advertisers can match and model based on their first-party data and insights.

When publishers package this data up, they need to understand what advertisers look for in audiences and how it will address their objectives. US-based voting site Ranker uses data to identify affinities and intent based on a combination of different first-party activities, all in real-time and uses these presale audience affinities.

This approach is achieving results. US News’ first-party audience data allowed their advertisers to see an uplift in engagement of up to two times by activating valuable cohorts. And by overlaying audiences powered by first-party data, Hello! increased brand consideration by over 15% and brand awareness by 129%.

Test and Learn

As with any test-and-learn process, optimisations should be made based on the initial results. And what the advertiser has learned can be applied to a broader selection of publishers.

Though the shift away from third-party data may seem daunting to advertisers, it’s actually an opportunity to achieve performance while being privacy-focused.

Advertising strategies built from consented first-party data and without the use of sensitive third-party data will go a long way toward building a more responsible web and restoring consumer trust.

Got a Question? We’ve Got Answers.