We just wrapped up two amazing days of our first Virtual NOVA event series. Well over a thousand professionals from around the world tuned in to hear from leading companies about today’s advertising challenges. As well as hearing about the launch of our new Quantcast Platform, attendees heard speakers from organizations including Christie’s, Disney, Equifax, Forbes and Microsoft cover everything from data privacy and the deprecation of third-party cookies to the worrying accumulation of power among the walled gardens. 

Konrad Feldman, CEO at Quantcast, started the conversation with a key point about the role of advertising in the open internet: “We as consumers rely on the free access to diverse sources of news, information, education and entertainment on the internet. Advertising remains the number one source of funding for that content so it’s essential that the relationship between consumers, brands and publishers remains symbiotic.”

During the panel discussions across the three regions (North America, EMEA and APAC) there emerged some consistent and urgent issues. Let’s take a look at some of what the industry leaders had to say.

How brands and publishers are adapting to data privacy 

Privacy is at the center of the next revolution of digital advertising, publishing, and adtech. With increasing regulation, privacy and consumer consent must be a top consideration in every part of the ecosystem. The challenge is to achieve this while still empowering brands, agencies and publishers to be able to know and grow their audiences. 

“Not only is Equifax focused on putting the consumer first, but likewise me as a person and a marketer, I believe that putting the consumer first and serving their needs, builds loyalty and builds the relationships that you need,” said Joella Duncan, Director of media strategy for North America at Equifax. Joella touches on an essential trend: that consumers will put their trust in trustworthy companies, i.e. those that don’t play fast and loose with their data. 

The challenge of compliance is exacerbated for companies operating in multiple markets with diverse data privacy laws.

“We took a privacy first approach to GDPR, with the understanding that we are an international business, that regardless of where someone lives, they could be coming onto our site from anywhere in the world, added Samantha Margolis, VP of Digital Marketing at Christie’s Auction House. We deal with a very small and high net worth client base and want to be really careful about their data and privacy. Above all, we want our consumers to trust us.”

Bye bye third-party cookies

“It’s impossible to open an industry newsletter without hearing about the deprecation of the third-party cookie,” said Alyson Williams, SVP Digital Operations and Strategy at Forbes, which uses Quantcast Measure to better understand its global audience. She went on to say that Forbes is focused on growing its logged in experiences to create more direct experiences with audiences, highlighting the pressures on publishers today to gain more intelligence about their audience but potentially having to create more friction between audiences and the content they want to engage with in the process. 

Joella Duncan, Director of Media Strategy at Equifax highlighted the challenge cookie deprecation has created for campaign attribution. According to Joella, by 2020, up to 40% of Equifax’s sales were unattributable, meaning the business didn’t know where they were coming from and so couldn’t understand the consumer journey. In response, Joella and her team began a strategy of ‘knocking on doors’ by carving out a percentage of budget each month to put against experimenting with new audiences to drive results. 

According to Maralyn Yeong, Regional Client VP at agency ForwardPMX based in Singapore: “The reality is that none of us are going to go back to what we were before” and that change has accelerated innovation and testing. “Now is a good time for people to really start thinking about what’s happening in preparation for the post cookie world,” she concluded.

Amidst the uncertainty there were also notes of optimism. Bustle’s President and Chief Revenue Officer Jason Wagenheim gave this perspective: “We’re a premium publisher. Context has always been king for us and I think it will be a boon for premium publishers. I’m really looking forward to it and I think it will be the right thing in terms of the consumer which we should always put first and foremost.”

Increasing power of the walled gardens

The likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon are “circling the wagons” and capturing an increasing share of ad revenue thanks to their “largely deterministic data’, according to Jason Crawford, VP Display at Dentsu Media. He went on to warn of the risks that come when you brands “put our eggs in one basket”, in that it “reduces the overall ability to innovate, to drive performance.” 

“The nature of a walled garden is that if you’re not in it, you’re at a disadvantage,” added Forbes’ Williams. “And unfortunately, I think smaller publishers are the ones who are really going to feel that the most.” Williams went on to emphasize the importance of publishers building strengths and diversifying revenue in areas where they have an advantage over the walled gardens, including events, communities and experiences. “That’s all something that we can control that we don’t have to compete necessarily with the walled gardens to give to our audience” she said.

Looking to the future, Jessica Beaton, Director, APAC Media and Digital Advertising at Disney, said that GenZ might be a triggering factor to brands moving away from the walled gardens: “If you look at GenZ media consumption, they are shifting away from what we would see as the traditional walled gardens in a lot of ways. And I’m sure they will create new ones in their own time.”

For the full conversation please visit the Virtual NOVA event page where you can watch the replays of all three Virtual NOVA events. Happy watching!