Why Targeting And Identity Protection Are Not Mutually Exclusive
How Precision And Privacy Can Coexist Safely In An Open TV Ecosystem
For the past few years, our industry has labored under the notion that effective targeting and privacy protections are mutually exclusive; the narrative would have you believe that moving the needle with specific audiences requires an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy. Like most industry trends and narratives, the issue isn’t black and white. Are there unscrupulous targeting practices that threaten consumer privacy? Of course. But there is a broad spectrum of approaches that can achieve results without impacting privacy protections, offering a win-win for advertisers and consumers. The long-term key to success is collaboration.
As a convergent TV industry, we’ve made tremendous progress in recent years in meeting customers where they are and empowering them to watch their preferred programming on their terms: when they want, where they want, and on the platform of their choosing. Programmers have embraced new delivery methods for premium content, and they’re facilitating audience-based advertising across screens in each given environment. Of course, as consumers divide themselves among a growing number of channels and platforms, advertisers are challenged to find, target and measure these increasingly fragmented audiences.
Most recently, discussions around targeting and privacy have centered on the coming demise of third-party cookies. A few notable big tech companies have taken this opportunity to argue that audience targeting will have to fundamentally change in order to ensure consumer privacy protections — an argument that serves their best interest, because they own the platforms that enable the consumer to access their content. A new paradigm for audience targeting will undoubtedly put these platforms in an even stronger position; however, not all distributors are looking to the future through this self-serving lens.
Collaborative Instead Of Controlling
Last month, Jeff Green, CEO of TheTrade Desk, was quoted in AdExchanger discussing the two approaches taken by companies in the evolving advertising ecosystem: “There are two kinds of companies right now: those trying to control the open internet and those trying to enable it.”
Jeff is spot-on in his assessment. The tech giants looking to conquer and control — rather than coexist — fail to see what the traditional and emerging TV industry has known and continues to embrace: in order for the entire industry to grow and succeed, competitive entities must be willing to collaborate. While walled gardens may deliver strong returns in the short term, this performance will be outmatched in the long-term by an open, collaborative approach.
In order to take a more privacy-focused approach to identity resolution, many industry participants have adopted either proprietary or universal identifiers that enable audience targeting within their individual ecosystems. While this works within a single environment, is it capable of scaling? The industry standard these days for targeting audiences at scale is to work with one of the dozens of identity resolution companies that will associate your data to other companies’ identity signals. For even the best of these outcomes, this process can take weeks — hardly the seamless, real-time performance needed for effective targeting and measurement.
In order for our industry to be able to leverage identity resolution and targeting in a safe, sustainable and privacy-focused way, we need to take the following steps:
The identity architecture used to target at scale must be flexible enough to support the ever-growing array of identifier signals being developed by individual companies and brands. This is the only way to seamlessly match audiences across environments on an acceptable timeline. The weeks-long process of audience matching should be a thing of the past. Brands and advertisers need the ability to find and measure their audience via these identifiers in an interoperable environment. Rather than targeting within individual walled gardens or exclusively relying on a single universal identifier, a universal system will deliver improved returns to advertisers while simultaneously making it easier to protect consumer privacy. Even more, this architecture must be able to support various open and closed data strategies to support true interoperability.
As an industry, we must demonstrate our commitment to privacy. Third-party cookies are meeting their demise because they so often led to violations of user privacy. As we reshape advertising, targeting and measurement, we must resist the temptation to cut corners in search of marginal performance improvements. Our long-term success depends on a fair exchange of value with consumers.
These steps are possible. Through collaboration, we can share audience intelligence with trusted partners, facilitate targeting through data and identity interoperability, and provide protections for privacy and security. As an industry, let’s move forward together and embrace innovation and collaboration. It’s the only way to create a safe, sustainable, and open TV ecosystem for all.