Sometimes stepping back means moving forward — and in the age of privacy, the legacy media-buying processes of years past are becoming new, once again.
The Age of Data Gathering & Lever Pulling
With the advent of programmatic buying, we entered an unprecedented age of data gathering and lever pulling — far beyond what was available in legacy ad servers. Marketers had access to unprecedented opportunity and efficiency. A world of data and audiences at their fingertips with conversations facilitated in one, or even zero-touch user interfaces. The days of one-to-one relationship strength against siloed publishers, and navigating ad networks of old, began to fade.
In turn, programmatic efficiency with header bidding, open auction, deals and ad exchanges helped activate the third-party data being amassed. This allowed media buying to become extremely agile. However, with simplicity, there is always a razor’s edge of complexity. Learning quickly that the pillars of power — like exchanges and packaged audience data — were all about the integrity and contextual makeup nested within, and visibly controlled by, the supply or server-side providers themselves.
Even with the best-intentioned exchanges and audience providers, exchange and package make-up is very hard to scrub consistently against vanity URLs, long-tail redirects, click farms and black hat tactics that seemingly seep through. Third-party audience packages always tend to be a bit of a black box, and this is where marketers and end-users start to lose control and confidence. To combat this, index safety, viewability and contextual vendors appeared alongside initiatives like ads.txt, ads.cert and the IAB with standards, to help temper the wild west — but now we enter a new era again.
The Age of Privacy
With privacy regulations constricting, programmatic buying as we know it is set for a bit of disruption. Aside from waning trust and rising prices on third-party data, government regulations with tough silos are also cementing change. Moreso, deprecation of cookies and third-party tracking from industry giants is backing into all of this, and forcing a step back.
The Age of Deals
The new trend is shifting from a focus on amassing data into hyper-personalization and user privacy. One-to-one or direct buying is increasing, but there is a middle path: Deals. Semantically called a private auction, preferred, or direct buy depending on the DSP of your choice, there are options to programmatically make a more direct handshake one to one, or one to a few.
For a more tactical guide on deal types, and how to navigate and activate against them, check out our Display & Video 360 (DV360) eBook. The verbal handshake of old is being retooled and highlighted via programmatic DSPs like DV360 and TradeDesk. However, touches of the old ad network structure and handshake appear with new veneer. For those consolidating direct buys and tagging, ad servers like Campaign Manager continue to be an industry standard.
Lean Into It
Creatives should focus on building a bulletproof brand that users will natively flock to, then finding contextual pubs that support their brands without relying on layers of third-party data or open auction exchanges. Of course, this can be done within the DSPs, but any direct relationship garnered with pubs will only yield better rates, placements, support and transparency outside of what is offered in a virtual handshake.
On the back end, allocate a data science team to start building your own first-party audiences and data lakes to extract, and then activate against users who have authentically interacted with your brand in a meaningful way. Whether that’s by watching a video, downloading a PDF, landing on a homepage on-site or by clicking a search or banner ad.
In the hands of the right team, tools like Ads Data Hub (ADH), BigQuery and Google Cloud can achieve this and are undeniably the future of meaningful audience activation in the face of privacy and third-party data changes. Unlocking your own data will not only assist display and video efforts, but it will open opportunities for emerging and future marketing channels as well.