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Paving the way: Getting ready for more direct paths

Ashley Wheeler, VP of Seller Accounts at Magnite

August 17, 2022 | 5 min read

In a prior post, we discussed how the sell-side will define the future of ads and highlighted how publishers are looking to identify and showcase their first party audiences in privacy compliant ways. Here we highlight how publishers can use these first-party, seller-defined strategies to prepare for supply path optimization (SPO) as buyers move beyond a focus on efficiency and transparency toward optimization and strategic partnerships with publishers and supply-side partners.

Beyond supply path consolidation

Several market events have highlighted SPO and the desire for buyers and sellers to work more directly with one another. Examples include The Trade Desk’s removal of Google Open Bidding (OB) inventory, with others – such as Yahoo and Amobee – following suit, as well as the continued regulatory interest in Google’s header bidding alternative. As a result, publishers will need to explore more direct, alternate supply paths and focus on first party data to maintain and grow their revenue.

In the face of ‘signal loss’ and eventual deprecation of third party cookies, the goalposts of SPO are changing. What started off as a process for consolidating supply paths to promote more transparency and efficiency now also relies on consolidating to the paths that can continue to provide audience addressability and measurability in the future. As a result, buyers will work more strategically with the publisher supply paths that provide better data enablement, better audience curation, and improved contextual intelligence.

To supply side collaboration

SPO is both a driver and result of buyers’ desire for closer relationships with the supply-side and their need to drive efficiency, addressability, transparency and improved measurement. Publishers’ valuable relationships with users gives them the unique data and environments to meet those requirements, enabling buyers to reach their audiences more effectively and in privacy-safe ways.

As buyers continue to invest in more valuable paths to supply, the onus is on publishers to identify, curate and showcase their audiences and inventory through a range of methods such as premium marketplaces, seller-defined audiences (SDAs), and data matching. However, publishers will need to ensure that each method and the path that deploys them includes the protections and controls needed to preserve their data and their consumers’ privacy. That’s where SSPs are crucial.

What this means for publishers

This broader industry shift creates a number of opportunities for innovation and collaboration. Publishers and SSPs alike are now working toward improved ways of collecting and understanding first party data and contextual intelligence, better segmentation and curation, and more direct and privacy-centric ways of making those audiences available to the buy-side.

Go beyond standardized audience cohorts

In addition to mapping users into standardized audience cohorts, publishers should look to highlight their audiences outside of those standard labels, mapping content, keywords and behaviors into their own taxonomies. Examples of this include brand taxonomies, unique interest categories, or the use of custom audience pixels to uncover and activate unique audiences based on valuable contextual events such as time-on-page and number of pages visited. By highlighting these unique audiences, publishers can maximize yield through their premium marketplaces as well as through SDAs.

Mapping of custom taxonomy and on-page events also provides deeper levels of contextual intelligence and offers both a complementary and compliant alternative to behavioral targeting where identifiers aren’t available.

Surface audiences in privacy-safe ways

Facilitating audience execution in more direct ways requires certain layers of protection such as the removal of all other data when SDAs are passed in the open market, as well as using clean rooms and data matching services to protect user data in more identifier-based transactions. Curated marketplaces, for instance, enable publishers to extend their diverse first-party data into broader supply. This gives publishers the means to differentiate their ad offering in the crowded digital marketplace, while maintaining ownership and control of their data.

Explore collaboration

Closer collaboration brings a range of benefits to both the demand and supply side. For brands and agencies, collaboration with the SSP provides a number of optimization capabilities and gives them more influence over audience curation to fit their clients’ needs. It also provides more accurate measurement and accountability (e.g. environmental impact) for their advertising and allows them to access supply through lower cost paths with all the benefits of the exchange. For publishers, it means capturing a bigger share of budgets and higher yields while ensuring control of their first party data and preserving the value of their audiences.

Quality beats convenience

Irrespective of Google’s further delayed deprecation of third party cookies, publishers have incredibly valuable data that can be better utilized today. Now is the time for publishers to assemble segments via methods such as SDAs, and work with 1st party registration data where possible. By packaging up those unique signals, publishers can provide a competitive advantage to marketers in those already cookieless environments – such as Safari and Firefox – whilst also preparing them for the future cookieless environments such as Chrome. As a result, marketers will need to work more directly with publishers and their SSPs to take advantage of those audience opportunities.

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