As publishers, marketers, and the rest of the ecosystem navigate third-party signal loss – including third-party cookie deprecation, moving away from IP addresses, and other shifts – our focus naturally shifts to how we can mitigate these changes and build enduring addressability. What may go unappreciated by all sides at this point is that these changes are consumer-first, and once we’ve shifted away from third-party signals, what will remain is an ecosystem that rightfully favors consumers, thanks to trusted, transparent value exchanges.
How we got here
All of the changes affecting the market today have their roots in the way the ecosystem operated before, which was what lost the trust of consumers in the first place. The ecosystem was not transparent about how consumers’ data was being used. Bad actors took this a step further and began leveraging nefarious practices, some of which continue today.
Most – if not all – third-party signals were difficult for consumers to understand. There were ways to opt-out and manage your data, but it was not intuitive to consumers. Subsequently, the regulators and browsers both stepped in with the promise of restoring consumer privacy. Regulators kicked off privacy regulations to change the way consumer data was handled, with a focus on increasing transparency and control. Browsers, and the major tech companies behind them, began to adjust their approaches to restrict third-party signals accordingly, eventually leading to third-party cookie deprecation across the ecosystem, but also IP address deprecation and mobile ad ID deprecation. The end of third-party signal has arrived.
While it’s very true that none of the regulation has been perfectly conceived and there were likely better ways for the browsers to navigate these changes, we as an industry should embrace this and navigate as the ecosystem ultimately needed to be upgraded. It is now up to us as an industry to make sure the post-signal ecosystem is better for consumers than the pre-signal ecosystem and that includes continuing to enable personalized advertising and powering the free content and flow of information that has come to define the internet.
Why value exchanges are critical
As the advertising ecosystem shifts away from third-party signals, first-party data is increasing in importance and value.
As a refresher, first-party data is data shared by a company’s customers, and is collected with their explicit permission. It can be used to develop strategies, experiences, and campaigns catering to their ideal customers. It can also be used to better monetize the advertising shown to those consumers as they consume content at no cost.
In order to deliver these ideal experiences, companies can engage in trusted value exchanges, where they deepen the relationships with consumers transparently, in exchange for goods and services of value. Value exchanges help maintain the transparency – as well as control – that consumers are looking for, pushing us towards an ecosystem built on consumer trust. No consumer wants to pay for every website – they instead want to share data with publishers and marketers they trust, in exchange for better experiences and discounted or free content. We see this already with the ad supported CTV tiers – there’s a premium model, but consumers can also get a financial discount if they’re willing to view ads and in turn enable their data to be used to personalize those ads.
Value exchanges happen all the time: signing up for a weather newsletter; getting text message alerts; logging in to read articles, to name just a few. Consumers are happy to share their data with those brands and publishers they trust, and which offer something to the consumer.
Where this all leads
The end goal here is an ecosystem that drives the experiences that consumers are looking for, using information that consumers have agreed to share with companies. If consumers want to opt out of experiences, or opt out of relationships with companies, they should have the control to do so and have their preferences for their data observed.
Other companies can leverage the insights from companies’ first-party data, but they must do so transparently, and should be vetted, trusted partners with sound practices around data privacy and data collection.
What we can do today
As publishers and marketers gear up for third-party cookie deprecation that’s now a few thousand hours away, they should prioritize solutions that offer consumers choice and transparency, and not solutions that drag consumer relationships back to the outdated, devaluing relationships of yesteryear. Publishers and marketers should also think of how they can lean into the value exchange and offer consumers more: a consumer who logs into a publisher’s site and reads 20 articles is worth more than 20 consumers reading a single article they chanced upon via search.
Over time, consumers will gravitate towards companies that are sound stewards of their data and privacy, and will continue to express preference for these companies, incentivizing more and more of the ecosystem to engage in trusted, transparent value exchanges to continue strengthening customer relationships.