What are you waiting for? The time to rethink your measurement was yesterday.

What are you waiting for? The time to rethink your measurement was yesterday.

Change is coming. Fast.

The way that the industry tracks and measures advertising online is going to change drastically. It has already started.

If you are a marketer or a publisher, you should already be preparing for upcoming changes. Do not wait until new solutions are fully baked. In fact, the time to change your strategy and measurement approach was yesterday (at least three months ago).

Now is the time to take control of your measurement strategy, before it’s too late.

Why is it timely?
Over the last year, platforms, from browsers to operating systems, have ramped up their privacy agendas in ways that threaten to cripple the digital media industry. Meanwhile, regulators around the world are creating an unhappy patchwork of privacy and data protection regulations further complicating measurement’s status quo. While some think that Google’s Privacy Sandbox and Apple’s iOS 14.5 are welcome changes to the data status quo, there is also concern that these changes could result in financial ruin for thousands (if not millions) of online businesses.

These changes mean that it will be difficult to:

  • Retarget anonymous users
  • Create look-alike audiences
  • Optimize bids and creatives
  • Measure and attribute performance properly across publishers, apps, campaigns, devices, and/or channels
  • Manage reach and frequency across publishers, platforms, and/or devices

Furthermore, these changes by Apple and Google create dependencies: businesses will have to use their platforms and rely on them for data. This gives them more control over your data and what can and cannot be done with it.

The recent State of Data study by the IAB Programmatic+Data Center revealed that 67% of data leaders in the industry believe they are prepared. However, when questioned further, it became clear that many organizations are not prepared; they assume that their technology partners will figure things out for them.

If you’re fully relying on technology partners to solve your measurement & attribution problems… don’t.
Several companies claim that they won’t be affected by the coming changes since they don’t rely on third-party data or identifiers. The fact is that every company involved in the ad ecosystem will be affected in one way or another. Some will be affected more than others, especially ad servers, ad verification services, demand-side platforms (DSPs), supply-side platforms (SSPs), data management platforms (DMPs), header bidders, and measurement vendors.

If a vendor is telling you that they won’t be impacted by these changes, that they have a solution in place, they are clearly mistaken.

The key question to ask your technology partners is: “how will these changes impact both user experience and the ability to deliver relevant ads?” Ask them what data will be available to help you make informed decisions. Bottom line, it’s important to evaluate how your technology partners will be affected by the deprecation of cookies and identifiers. Don’t simply take their word for it.

One thing we know for certain is that the way things work today will not work the same tomorrow.

Plus, with different new privacy legislations rolling out in multiple states and potential for Federal privacy legislation, companies will face increasing complexity. We will all need to figure out how to adapt. It’s going to be a bumpy ride for the next handful of years.

What you need to know
Apple and Chrome will control and limit what companies can and can’t do with data.

Here are some of the changes that need to be taken into consideration:

  • Shortened latency and attribution windows
  • Limited / less data that can be collected
  • Limited number of campaigns that can run in parallel
  • Limited number of trackable events
  • Delayed reporting
  • Limitations on the number and types of reports available for given timeframes
  • Limitations in cross-site/app tracking

Cheat Sheet: Things to change

IAB Tech Lab has made some bets that sustainable addressability ecosystems for targeting, measurement, and attribution will revolve around three modalities centered on whether and how audiences can and cannot be connected from advertiser to publisher (and vice versa) :

  1. Unlinked First Party Audiences. Publishers can leverage their own first-party data for monetization through contextual signals and/or by defining their own audiences only known to them, but they cannot connect ad views or clicks to an advertiser’s property.
  2. Browser/OS Linked Audiences. Apple’s iOS 14 and Google’s Privacy Sandbox fall into this scenario where anonymous audience targeting via cohorts are available. Advertisers and publishers will rely on browser/OS to provide anonymous aggregate data for targeting, measurement, and attribution.
  3. Linked 1:1 Audiences. Publishers and advertisers can connect audiences based on a common linkage (such as email or phone number). Users opt in to provide consent to use and share their data for ad targeting, measurement, and attribution purposes.

Big picture: Change your organization’s mindset and measurement approach to account for these transformations before these changes take effect.

More concretely: Reconfigure each measurement platform. Start investing time and resources in restructuring your campaigns, audiences, algorithms, reporting platforms, and analytics models.

Ask yourself what data is needed, and what data shouldn’t be collected.

For Marketers:

  1. Separate campaigns and reports by operating system and browser.
  2. Do away with collecting raw event level data and start leveraging aggregate reporting.
  3. Change latency windows to seven-day post click and one-day post impression. But try not to focus on clicks.
  4. Overlay aggregate data onto first-party data and begin experimenting with correlational and inference models.
  5. Don’t just rely on algorithms to optimize campaigns. Experiment with manual optimization techniques based on insights.

For Publishers:

  1. Invest in first-party audiences and develop your own defined audiences with user provided information, contextual signals, and behavioral insights. Consider how consistent labeling of your data via Tech Lab’s Data Transparency Standard can help you monetize via the proposed “Seller-defined Audiences” approach within Project Rearc.
  2. Establish ways to provide advertisers with audience insights pre-, mid- and post-campaign. These might include content the audience reads, types of ads they typically engage with, user interest / preferences, etc.
  3. Diversify solutions that can improve yield management strategies and help you prioritize measurement data sets based on core competencies.
  4. Work with vendors that can provide geographic flexibility when presenting users with transparency and control options. Legislation is rapidly changing throughout the world.
  5. Consider identity resolution partners and clean rooms. (You’re going to be asked to do so anyway, so don’t wait.)

Goals and next steps
It may seem as though the options are limited, and the simplest solution is to lean into Google and/or the other walled gardens, but consider alternative solutions, diversify and focus on the following:

  • Build a value-based relationship that is respectful of consumer preferences on the collection and use of rich, secure data. Make it easy for consumers to understand your data and privacy policies. Provide them with transparency and give them choices. Explain the benefits of what value they get in exchange for their information.
  • Leverage third party cookie/ID-less, privacy first addressability solutions to understand, measure, and monetize audiences.
  • Collaborate with experts within your company, external partners, and others across the industry. Have discussions with all stakeholders to assess the impact of these coming changes to your business, particularly around media strategy, measurement needs, attribution modeling approaches, and user privacy.
  • Get involved in defining standards and adopting them. Industry bodies such as IAB, IAB Tech Lab and the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM) are actively developing guidelines, standards, frameworks, and solutions for addressability, privacy, and measurement that enable the entire ad ecosystem to work together.

The IAB’s Programmatic+Data Center is interested to hear how your organization is approaching these changes. Send us your story at: [email protected].


Angelina Eng
VP, Measurement & Attribution, IAB Programmatic+Data Center
at IAB