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“Data innovation is key but so is communicating its potential”: Permutive’s evolution amidst shifting tides

Earlier this year, Permutive gathered 100+ publishers to introduce a new era for its Audience Platform and debate the future of online advertising. The event included discussions from The Telegraph, The Guardian, Immediate Media, Future, and LEAD Consulting. Mx3’s Ashley Norris teases out the four key takeaways…

For several years now publishers, agencies and brands have all been anticipating the demise of third party cookies. As the years have flown by, the web pages accessible to third party cookies have dwindled, spearheaded by Safari and Mozilla. In 2024 even that small section of the open web will disappear. So where does this leave online advertising?

At an event hosted at BAFTA, Permutive not only unveiled a new era in Audience Platform, but also created a space in which several of its key partners could share their take as to the future of online advertising.

During a round table at the event 

…offered their opinions as to what the demise of third party cookies means for media companies, brands and agencies and how advertising might evolve in the future.

Here are four key take outs from their discussion:

1. The shift to direct advertising is here to stay

While third party based advertising isn’t exactly over, as Matthew Rance, Head of Commercial Data & Analytics at Immediate Media pointed out, the conversation around online advertising has moved on. 

“I think that the days are numbered, if not gone, where as a publisher, you could just create the page views and providing the right tech is in place money’s gonna come flooding in. We know there’s so much disruption now. Not just because of the things the panel has discussed today, like the consent issues, but other factors such as the AI disruption that’s going to be taking place this year and beyond.”

It is estimated that as much as 70% of advertising is now direct, and for some media companies the figure is even higher.

Karen Eccles, Chief Commercial Officer at The Telegraph, said that publishers have long been prepared for this shift, having invested in technology and products. 

“This subject is absolutely one of our favourites,” said Karen. “We have a bunch of publishers in the room and I feel like we’ve been ready and waiting for this moment for a long time. I’m known for my unfailing optimism but I feel like we are all set. The technology, the products, the story are in place.” 

There are more and more conversations between publishers and agencies, and clients about direct sales. And at the moment 75% of all digital revenue or digital ad revenue at The Telegraph is direct. The direction of travel is pretty well set now.

Karen Eccles, Chief Commercial Officer at The Telegraph

2. Third party cookies are still an issue for some people in the industry

In spite of the shift to direct advertising (currently only 30% of the open web is addressable with third-party cookies still in use) media companies haven’t written off monetising content via third parties completely. 

Matthew Rance, Head of Commercial Data & Analytics at Immediate Media wondered if we might yet see a splurge on third party advertising in the coming year.

“I think it’s possible that this year, we might see one last kind of final Chrome boom as everyone anticipates cookies going away and they just throw every last penny into this final bit of tech. It certainly won’t last though.” 

At the same time other panel members still felt a degree of confusion about the future of third party cookies, perhaps the result of Google’s constant tweaking of the timeline for their removal from Chrome. Asked what he would like clarity on in 2024 Matthew Rance added.

“I feel like lots of people are thinking ‘I just would love by about this time next year to have a full grasp on what the impact is of the change to third party cookies,’ “

“It feels like we’re kind of in a car crash in like a slow motion. We’re all in the same car.”

3. Media brands need to work closely with agencies to unleash the potential of data

There was agreement among the panel that the relationship between brands and agencies have strengthened in some ways because of their joint requirement to understand the potential of data in advertising.

One way of moving forward would be for agencies to speak with media companies much earlier in the planning process.

Nick Flood, Global Ad Product & Revenue Operations Director at Future highlighted a key change that has occurred in recent years.

“Two years ago agencies never asked about data. Now I’d say 50% of responses have some kind of data element. We get follow up questions too. What’s the source? Is the data yours or has it come via a third party?”

“Agencies have really increased their knowledge as well which is a good thing. It has been triggered by the way in which brands have made them more accountable. For example, there are more questions about sustainability. It isn’t just about the number of clicks.” 

“This is precisely what media companies want. Agencies and brands not only need to understand the data but also have the confidence to dig into the details.”

Matthew Rance, Head of Commercial Data & Analytics at Immediate Media recalled speaking with an agency and realising that “they were using a variety of different tools as data sources to inform their brief.  They then shape it and come up with a target audience and then they come to us, and they say ‘here’s what we’ve got, here’s the budget, here’s the target audience. Why should you be the one that we work with?’”

The panel agreed that this is not really a collaborative process and that agencies and media brands need to start those conversations at a much earlier point in the process.

4. Data innovation is key but so is communicating the potential of that data

Publishers are investing time and resources at looking at the data they own and wondering how it might be integrated into delivering advertising for brands.

It is a complex and time consuming process. Katie Le Ruez, Director of Digital at The Guardian told the attendees that publishers like The Guardian have proactively invested in digital and audience experts to strengthen the connection between sales and expertise.

However, for data to be effectively harnessed for advertising in this way, agencies and media brands need to speak the same language, use the same tools and work closely together.

“We have so much data in there,” said Katie Le Ruez, Director of Digital at The Guardian. “Not just the stuff from a kind of audience segmentation perspective, but also programmatic spend, editorial trend based data, panel based research.”

The cherry on the cake for agencies could even be additional data sets and assets that traditionally wouldn’t have even been considered for advertising. As Katie said “I think in the future that’s a big place to focus.”