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The future of media is actually the future of audiences

Nestlé is pivoting to an audience-first advertising strategy, a move that has seen it ramp up its use of first-party data and lessen its “heavy reliance” on third-party sources.

Rachel Mervis, Nestlé’s programmatic lead, digital media team, sales, and eBusiness unit, discussed the journey the multinational had been on over the last three years at the Make Possible Summit 2020, US edition, hosted by publisher data platform Permutive.

She was speaking on a panel entitled ‘The Future of Media Trading’ alongside Riccy Jiminez, Dentsu Aegis Network’s programmatic director, and moderator/panelist Scott Messer, senior vice president, media, at publisher Leaf Group.

Messer said that the future of media trading was a topic that was “front of mind for everyone in digital advertising today”. He said: “The demise of third party cookies has had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the industry. It is clear that the advertising world must rethink long-standing tenants of digital media buying and must reconsider its approach.”

For Mervis, the first step in embracing a new digital ecosystem had been cleaning up its supply chain. Nestlé took a three-pronged approach to this, partnering first with tier one SSPs (supply-side platforms). “We wanted to form these tier one partnerships so that we could focus on a clean supply path and build relationships via trusted partners.”

Nestlé was also now focusing on DSPs and publishers, asking its local territories and markets to partner with local, tier one publishers so that they could become closer to their consumers without relying on third-party data.

“Probably one of the industry’s biggest misses has been the idea that supply is separated from the audience, but really you have got to bring them together.”

Continued Mervis: “We are shifting to an audience-first strategy and audience-first advertising.” We’ve had a heavy reliance on cookies but now we are super focused on building our first-party audiences. But we want to do it the right way. It’s very important to us to only reach consumers who have completely opted in to communications from us, so it’s a long process.”

The future of media trading was almost here, concluded Mervis – and it was good news for forward-looking publishers. “They need to find easy and scalable ways to provide relevant dependable information to agencies, brands and traders in a way they haven’t really been able to get before.”

A second panel explored the topic Publisher Data: The New Media Currency, how publishers were moving to more sophisticated first-party data strategies to inform every part of their businesses.

In a session moderated by Kristy Schafer, VP, Americas for Permutive, Ryan Pauley, chief revenue officer at Vox Media; Allison Murphy, SVP of ad innovation, The New York Times; Chip Schenck, SVP of data and programmatic solutions at Meredith Corporation and Stephanie Layser, VP of advertising technology at News Corp, discussed how publishers could thrive in a post-cookie world.

Murphy told the audience of the NYT’s ambition to eliminate the sale of all third-party segments. “We care a lot about the relationship we have with our users. Trust and transparency and having a more open relationship around data with our users is important,” she said: “That said, the timing and figuring out how we adapt to what is a truly massive shift is an understatement. It takes a huge investment.”

Layser concurred, outlining NewsIQ, its first-party data platform. “The quality of publisher first-party data is significantly better than a lot of the third-party data that has been the ‘crack’ of the ecosystem for so long. This is becoming the new currency or the new demand.” 

Schenck talked of the need to break down and recentralize data silos in order to make the most of unique first-party information. He also spoke of the three tiers of identity, two of which were “extremely valuable” – the logged-in and named users, and the anonymous, for whom they knew how they behaved but not necessarily a name.  The lowest tier were simply unknown – either they were being seen for the first time, or unknowingly re-seen. “Once we got to that level we started understanding that there was significant value in the anonymous audience.” 

He added: “That has helped us  understand long-term trends of user behaviors that allow us to constantly build more insight on the user, which is almost equal to or more helpful to our advertisers than the segments themselves.”

Pauley said that the idea of first-party data needed to be very broad in nature for publishers – beyond advertising. “We talk about this in the context of advertising because of the impact of the crush of the $19bn third-party data industry, but the real asset is the ability to deploy apps in any number of ways, whether that is user experience, commerce, subscriptions or advertising” he said. 

“The idea that this is an advertising-first set of solutions is not the premise that we should start from.”

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