Digital Innovation Guest Columns
4 mins read

Opinion: Could a new breed of media alliances be publishers’ answer to the tech giants?

Will 2019 be the year when we see publishers fight back against the rise of the big four – Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple (GAFA)? Even though, with the tech giants investing more in creating their own content in addition to aggregating content created by others, they could seem a daunting and relentless threat…

A small but growing number of publishers and broadcasters are working together to create advertising offerings that are starting to play GAFA at their own game through the creation of a new breed of media alliance. But what makes them different?

The biggest change is that these new media alliances are incorporating not only media brands but also a wealth of other organisations whose data adds a real richness to their offering. This is an important distinction as ‘traditional’ media alliances have been built using only publishers’ navigational data to create the scale that advertisers want. 

However, when you look at the depth of targetable data that the GAFA brands offer, such as gender, interests, friends’ interests, transactions etc, this has made it difficult for these alliances to compete as the playing field has not been level.

So, to see a good example of one of the new breed of alliances look no further than the Gravity Alliance in France (full disclosure: mediarithmics helped to set up the alliance and our technology now runs it day to day). It doesn’t only have large publishers like Le Parisien and Lagardere Active as members, but also two telecom companies (SFR and Orange), sizeable retailers (e.g. Fnac-Darty) and search businesses and content providers too. There are a total of 25 members within the Gravity Alliance to date.

Et voilà! By adding non-media brands to the publishers in the alliance, the Gravity Alliance has been able to build both scale and a unique picture of consumers. The combined offering has made it possible to provide a depth and richness that goes over and above what GAFA can provide, including contextual, search, geographic, transactional and purchase intention data.

The alliance is in control of its own ecosystem and the members can monetise all of their first-party data across all their sites. With over 150 campaigns already executed via the platform and revenues of 5 million Euros in its first year, the Gravity Alliance is starting to mow down the walled gardens.

At mediarithmics we are already in conversation with several potential new collaborations around the world looking to exploit the greater opportunities that these alliances create, so it seems we could well be at the start of a bigger movement.

These new ‘super alliances’ are likely to be led by the publishers because of their wealth of knowledge and expertise in online advertising and their sharp focus on fighting the GAFA threat. However, in our experience, bringing in non-media partners is relatively easy as the appeal of opening up a previously untapped revenue stream is compelling.

The opportunities aren’t just for big, broad alliances either. There is also potential for more niche companies to join together to pool their inventory and data to create heightened targeting. For example, travel publications could collaborate with travel comparison sites, airlines, online travel agents etc to build a travel-focused alliance which would be incredibly powerful for advertisers operating in the travel sector.

While most publishers understand the financial benefit of creating a media alliance, the complexity of setting one up, coupled with the need to partner with other publishers who are usually viewed as competitors, can be barriers to entry.

There’s no doubting that setting up a new ‘super alliance’ is complicated, especially when the type of data that will be fuelling it comprises a variety of types and formats, will be in huge volumes and will need to be managed and processed in real time. However, the technology to set them up and run them has been evolving fast.  The new generation of Universal Data Marketing Platforms (like we have at mediarithmics) are built to sophisticated standards to ensure that any worries about data safety and security are met and the data from each member always remains totally separate so it’s totally safe and GDPR compliant.

Any potential problems that could arise from long-term rivals working together are manageable and outweigh the benefits. All members need to get clear terms agreed up front and, between them, set up an independent company to run and market the alliance. This ensures that every member’s interests are equal and their data is sold with the same level of priority.

For any publisher still wavering about the idea of creating or entering a ‘super alliance’, it’s worth noting that our analysis of the Gravity Alliance shows that the collaboration has grown revenue incrementally, so any worries about cannibalisation are unfounded. If that’s not enough, we are seeing agencies like Dentsu Aegis (who are using the Gravity Alliance) going public in saying that the results they are achieving are especially good with regard to the visibility rate and also scale.

It’s proof, if any were needed, that campaigns targeted via a new model alliance are a real, viable alternative to GAFA.

Graeme Finneberg, Country Manager, UK at mediarithmics