Advertising Guest Columns
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Publishers’ first-party data has a positive impact on brand metrics

First-party data delivers 65% higher brand uplift for the Guardian — this was one of the headlines stats revealed at Permutive’s recent Make Possible event, The future of measurement in a world without third-party cookies.

It shows that among the threats adding chaos to the digital marketing industry are opportunities that are future-proof, privacy-safe, and allow advertisers to continue to build data-driven campaigns and measure them in a way that befits consumer behaviour.

As brands consider their options, publishers are testing campaigns with first-party data and seeing results. At the event, Paula Stanford, Display Director at Guardian News & Media, revealed the results of a three-month study into the impact of first-party data and audience targeting on brand awareness, consideration, preference, and intent. The study involved 350 first-party data audience segments, built using Permutive’s technology, and reader surveys run across 50 campaigns.* 

First-party audiences boost consideration and intent  

In addition to the Guardian’s first-party data delivering brand uplift for those campaigns, the proportion of impact on preference and intent metrics was 39% higher when using first-party data. One particular example Stanford showed was for luxury furniture brand, Rimadesio. The brand wanted to drive consideration for a new range of bedroom furniture, so the Guardian created a bespoke first-party segment for readers interested in art, architecture, interiors and luxury.

The campaign saw consideration increase by 102% and an intent uplift of 79%. Standford said: “It’s a good time to be engaging with publishers; we can offer privacy compliant solutions that don’t use third-party cookies. We can drive uplifts with confidence because we know the recommendations we make are rooted in data.” 

Permutive Make Possible event

Brands need to start preparing for new ways to target

To discuss the impact of these findings for brands and publishers, the event included a panel session with James Swan, Digital Director at Guardian News & Media, Catherine Lofthouse, Programmatic Director, L’Oréal, UK & IRE at Essence, and Rafael Aquino, Programmatic Trader at L’Oréal — moderated by Morika Georgieva, Customer Success Lead, EMEA at Permutive.  

Rafael Aquino at L’Oréal expects to see a rapid change in the way media is targeted online. Aquino wonders whether marketers are fully prepared and understand the implications of these changes to their digital campaigns. The is due to an increased focus on targeting audiences and ad personalisation over the past few years.

He said: “It might feel like we can’t do [targeting and personalisation] anymore, but as publishers and data providers start rethinking how we target users, we’ll be able to get back to our usual campaign efficiency.” James Swan at Guardian News & Media believes that it’s “an amazing chance to reset, to take a step back and ask ourselves, is the way that we’re working sustainable and are we looking at the right metrics?” In the past, the industry has been guilty of looking at audiences as numbers and not in “human terms,” said Swan, who added that trust has never been more critical with impending browser changes.

The value of first-party data lies in privacy-compliance

Browser changes, mixed with tightening privacy regulations, are shifting digital advertising into an era where consumer and audience privacy is a design default.

Catherine Lofthouse at Essence believes that relationship building and transparency are the “foundation blocks of where the industry needs to move to,” and to build longevity in solutions and measurement lies in making sure that the “industry adheres to the concepts of these changes in honesty and earnest.” She said: “It’s about leaning into them, and it is about making sure that to fulfil the value of that first-party data and fulfil a brilliant experience for customers, that we focus on the true intention of what’s happening here.”

From a brand perspective, we have been using first-party data for a long time. As a brand, start understanding your various consumer profiles, start building them and mapping them out. It will be relatively easy to match them with similar aggregate data sets, audience cohorts and [similar solutions] that media providers, publishers and DMPs will offer.

Rafael Aquino, Programmatic Trader at L’Oréal

At the heart of this, it’s about understanding your consumers from a macro perspective rather than that micro individual level, said Aquino. He added: “Another thing is to leverage first-party publisher data because it might become one of the most accurate ways to target online.” Morika Georgieva at Permutive agreed and said: “As data deprecates from the open web, the collaboration between buy and sell-side has never been more important.” She added: “Soon, publishers will be the only ones able to offer 100% visibility into target audiences — trusting their data and expertise will be key to the digital success of brands.”

Move campaign measurement from CTR to interest-based engagement 

Aquino will look to publishers for their expertise in measurement too. He said: “It’s important not to just look at CPA or CTR but understand [consumers] interests, what content they engage with, and feed that back to the publishers.  [With that] you should be able to find success with your campaigns.” 

Swan at Guardian News & Media emphasised the need to move away from standard metrics by thinking about the end goal for brands. He said: “Everything that we’re talking to our advertisers about now is how we can help with business objectives, so rather than driving X amount of clicks, it’s about how can we help you build your awareness by X percent.”

To move the entire industry away from just using CTR as a form of measurement in media plans will take collaboration. Swan realises that one publisher’s focus is not a uniform approach; any metrics-based evolution will need to work across publishers. Lofthouse at Essence calls for ambition when it comes to moving metrics forward.

“Yes, clicks are universal but let’s be more ambitious, and let’s be future-proofed because that’s where the value lies.”

Catherine Lofthouse, Programmatic Director, L’Oréal, UK & IRE at Essence

Collaboration between publishers, brands and agencies will ensure that the industry refocuses from having an abundance of data on consumers for 1-2-1 targeting towards targeting using first-party, consented data. The Guardian’s study shows the value of first-party data for brand effectiveness and protecting user privacy, and is just the beginning. 

*Reader surveys in the study were run by the Guardian’s measurement partner, Brand Metrics, and results are scored against publisher averages.  

Permutive is powering the future of targeted advertising on the Open Web. As the only audience platform built on edge computing, the company enables premium advertisers and publishers to plan, build and activate cohorts — all while keeping everyone’s data safe.