ALM 2021, IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting, was a virtual summit that featured senior voices in the marketing and advertising industries. Quantcast CEO Konrad Feldman led a panel discussion with Shiv Gupta (Founder at U of Digital), Mike Peralta (Global CRO at Future Plc), and Jen Scheel (Head of Programmatic at dentsu Media) on “The Center of Everything: A Path to Consumer-First Identity.” This in-depth session explored how the ad tech industry will adapt to a cookieless future, how walled gardens restrict the open internet, and what the consumer’s role should be in this new digital economy. 

A Post-Cookie World

There is a lot of uncertainty about the future, especially after Google’s announcement that they will block third-party cookies by 2022. As Shiv observed, “uncertainty equals risk,” and thus it is essential to come up with diversified solutions and contingency plans to prepare. But the announcement also clarified the future, Jen pointed out. It “reaffirmed the priority level of this work,” Konrad explained, to come up with cookieless solutions to support an open internet. Mike confirmed that it has “given us an even greater sense of urgency.”

The ad tech industry has been working to create a range of new identity solutions for measurement and attribution. Whatever the approach, the panelists agree that publishers, marketers, and consumers need to work together in this evolving ecosystem. 

According to Mike, in a post-third-party-cookie future, publishers need to focus on producing strong content and developing a strong relationship with their readers. He explained, “If we produce good content, we’re going to drive high-intent traffic, which is going to be valuable for the advertiser today and tomorrow.” The content needs to be available in an easy way, though, not blocked into a walled garden. Publishers therefore need to work closely with their marketers and advertisers to help them understand measurement and attribution in a consumer- and privacy-focused environment, so that they can provide a good platform. 

Jen agreed that “content is king. Where content is being created that consumers want to consume,” that “compelling news writing and fantastic journalism… will continue to command eyeballs and eyeballs equal dollars.” From the marketing perspective, Jen advised that advertisers should start with an audit, reviewing how much of their targeting relies on third-party cookies. In addition, advertisers need to determine how they are leveraging their first-party data and what future-proof solution will allow them to continue to leverage that information. Jen posited that first-party data is going to be the biggest asset that anyone can harness and leverage to their benefit going forward. 

Shiv urged the ad tech industry as a whole to prepare better for the upcoming changes with aggressive testing. But he also suggested another priority: educating the consumer. According to Shiv, “There’s been a mass campaign in our public discourse to make the average consumer believe that data privacy infringement equals targeted advertising. And that’s not reality.” Companies are not using technology to figure out a consumer’s specific identity and use it in nefarious ways. He suggested: “We need to do an opposite campaign: educating consumers that targeted advertising can be a positive thing, when it’s funding your experiences and giving you free content.” 

The Open Web vs. Walled Gardens

As Konrad reminded us, “the internet’s original sin was allowing everyone to believe that all of this fantastic content that you can access anytime from anywhere was free. And, of course, it’s not free. It costs a lot of money to produce good content” and “it’s all primarily funded by advertising.” The alternative is walled gardens, but the majority of people can’t afford to subscribe to services. As a result, those paywalls and registration walls block access to information, which hurts undeserved communities. Instead, Konrad affirmed, we need to redirect funds to the open internet. 

Mike shared this goal, stating, “I fundamentally believe in the open web. We have to make it easy for the consumer and the advertiser to go where they want to go and have choices and do it the privacy-focused way.” 

Shiv suggested that we think of walled gardens as a big behemoth fighting against a divided, fragmented open web of very small individual players. That divided group, he argued, needs to come together to succeed, creating a united web. A collective approach will allow for competition, so that we can have “a world in which the open web can be healthy and survive and do really well.”

Jen shared those sentiments: “We have to start seeing some cooperation and collaboration across the open internet as a whole” to “build sustainable, wide-reaching solutions.” She suggested that we might be “discounting consumers and their willingness to share and allow for a more personalized web experience. I know from my experience, I would much rather have personalized ads than non-personalized.” 

Konrad concluded that we need to communicate the value of advertising to consumers. If consumers do not participate in sharing their data in a protected way, they will not be opting out of advertisements; it will only mean that they get advertising that is not as useful and not as relevant. Advertisements can be valuable to consumers by providing a helpful service, but, most importantly, by facilitating a free and open internet. 

Watch the entirety of this panel discussion at IAB ALM 2021 here:

Interested in Learning More?

For more on how we believe the open internet is a force for good, check out this blog post authored by Konrad.
To learn more about how the Quantcast Platform helps publishers, brands, and agencies, visit our detailed product pages here.