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Like an oil corporation opposing the rise of renewables or a tobacco company lobbying for its own cause, a reactionary wing of digital advertising is struggling to accept the radical change needed in the way audience data is handled.

Fighting for self-preservation is a common theme in digital advertising’s recent years. A few companies, but also individual ad tech and media executives and developers, have been lashing out against Apple’s ATT. They accuse Apple of taking advantage of its position, exerting its dominance across the app ecosystem.

One of the recurring issues of ad tech — and its biggest limitation…

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There is no way back. The knowledge of the individual (a consumer brand’s customer, a media owner’s subscriber, a gamer, a user) about personal data and online privacy can only grow exponentially.

Media owners have a higher responsibility, as they are the gatekeepers of the environment and their own audience experience. They are also the repository of the trust of the “user”, which manifests through consent to the use of that individual’s personal data.

They have a binary choice:

1) Siding with certain ad tech, acting behind the back of their own audiences, “saying-not-saying”, muddying the waters and going…

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That part of the advertising industry that was born and existed on third-party cookies and tracking is trying to persuade the rest that the future is all doom and gloom.

The future of data in media, marketing and advertising is exciting, because policies and technologies will reward and boost those companies investing on communication and engagement with their audience and clear, transparent strategies where the user is embraced, rather than exploited.

A long-term strategy of co-creation and value exchange vs the short-term tactic of data grabbing, and a barrier to entry protecting quality media and advertising environments.

There is a…

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The most serious threat to publishers’ business models is coming from within.

I’m talking about email-based universal IDs.

In the last couple of years, media owners have made large investments in the diversification of revenue sources, especially around subscriptions, registrations, logins, e-commerce, and the first-party data coming from those connections. I see a huge focus on controlling their assets and building a direct relationship with their audience.

To turn around and contribute that data in order to reproduce a system which historically strangled publishers and reduced their activity to a fight for survival, makes little sense. …

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Fixing your own strategy and business model when the industry is a whirlwind of moving parts takes time, courage, vision and above all the ability to recognize the risks associated with easy fixes.

I’ve described before how short-term choices left media owners vulnerable to frequent emergencies, which triggered more short-term decisions, which caused further emergencies. This vicious cycle slowed publishers down, cost them revenue and affected their ability to think and act strategically.

But in the last couple of years, quality publishers have matured, developing confidence in their value and a will to protect their own assets.

Meanwhile, the advertising…

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Are we witnessing a renaissance in media owners’ data and audience strategies?

It feels like yesterday when many media brands believed having a data strategy meant sprinkling their inventory with ambiguously-sourced third-party data. That data often provided the ecosystem with little quality and individual publishers with no differentiation whatsoever.

But, following privacy regulations around the world like the EU’s GDPR and the unraveling of online identifiers, forced media owners, not without hesitations and delays, to rethink these initiatives.

The first-party data renaissance

Today there is a new phase of data ownership within media companies, as third-party data goes extinct, and…

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I recently had the opportunity to dive deeply into how media owners approach the diversification and the coexistence of business models built on audience, data and monetization strategies.

It was a privileged observation point, where I engaged with a group of medium-size publishers at the early stages of diversifying their business models. The background of it was a program run by FT Strategies, the consulting arm of The Financial Times, which has built a very successful subscription strategy.

Watching the media owners enthusiastically learn about the Financial Times’ subscription strategy and listening to their everyday challenges reinforced my conviction that…

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Digital advertising is becoming subtly and silently polarized. Not in the angry, conflicted way currently witnessed in politics, but a bifurcation in the road ahead is clearly taking shape.

On one side is a group with a worldview that identifies the ad slot ­- rather than the content — as the end product that should be monetized. From an audience perspective, they take a “hunting for identity and addressability” approach that views the user as a means to an end, rather than what should be the dominant focus. …

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From the consumer’s point of view, advertising hasn’t evolved.

Digital ads mimic print’s design as simply a space on a page. And video ads take the old TV approach of interrupting content.

The promise of rich media and creativity in the early aughts never materialized, as digital advertising embraced the big, programmatic factory belt that suffocated creative flow.

From 2008 onwards, the industry prioritized reach vs. quality and dumbed down ad format specs in order to guarantee the widest adoption. Ad impressions sold by the truckload at decreasing costs, which increased available ad slots, further degrading the user experience.


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Remember all the times that media owners complained about how the majority of advertisers’ budgets end up in the pockets of Google and Facebook?

Today a growing number of global and local advertisers are joining the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, boycotting Facebook and other social media networks and demanding stricter hate speech policies.

One would think that media owners would feel vindicated and use the controversy to articulate why those budgets would be more wisely spent on quality media. …

Alessandro De Zanche

Media and advertising. Data, audience and monetisation strategies.

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