Build a tech stack with control, security and compliance in mind
The transition away from third-party cookies has given rise to a healthy new wave of innovation and investment from ad-tech and data companies. It has also crowded the headspace of CMOs with a dizzying fog of competing claims. Awash in whitepapers, articles, press releases and posts from vendors and platform partners, many brands are still trying to determine the right strategy for their particular needs and objectives.
To cut through the noise, it’s helpful to separate the ultimate objective from the tactics. The objective for marketers is always to establish and maintain a relationship with customers and engaged prospects, today and into the future. Smart brands, particularly consumer-facing companies, appreciate that such relationships are their principal enterprise asset.
Most of the new identity technologies and services are simply a means to that end. They are important mechanisms, but they are just mechanisms; no single one is enough, and they change radically over short periods of time as new innovations and regulations hit the market.
With this longer view in mind, marketers can approach today’s identity landscape with a more critical and discerning eye. Not only is there no single solution to solve cookieless media, but there’s also a very material risk that overdependence on short-term solutions could erode the strength and the security of a brand’s essential relationships.
What brands need
It merits repeating: Those relationships with customers and prospects are the most strategic enterprise asset for many companies—especially consumer companies. Implied in that relationship is the means to ask for information from consumers, to get their direct and explicit permission to use it, and to, in turn, provide tangible value to the consumer that justifies such an exchange.
Given the critical importance of these relationships, brands should prioritize a few key considerations in their efforts to build a marketing or ad-tech stack for the future.
Control: Brands don’t want to lose control of their core enterprise asset. At a strategic level, they can’t find themselves in a position where they can’t talk to their customers on their own terms. That relationship transcends any of the technical mechanisms that facilitate it and should be built to outlast the mechanisms that dominate today’s market.
Unfortunately, many of the identity technologies in the market today insert themselves as intermediaries in between the brand and its customers and engaged prospects. These technologies look to control when and how a brand engages, while often blinding a brand to feedback, both in terms of expectations and first-party data that would inform future dialog.
Security: The business of orchestrating data requires marketers to prioritize privacy and security as never before. Protecting against breaches remains essential to consumer confidence and overall company image, and bad actors haven’t stopped trying to find new ways to interrupt or ransom data usage. Every handoff of sensitive information—no matter how securely it is managed—carries the risk of data breach, data misapplication and jeopardizes a brand’s ability to account for the full chain of custody. Many of today’s identity technologies pose some of the greatest risks here, given the frequent passing of personally identifiable information (PII) used to resolve identities.
Compliance: Perhaps the biggest incentive pushing brands toward a reconsideration of their technology investments around data and identity is found in the new regime of data privacy regulation, encapsulated in the GDPR, CCPA, PIPL, and other landmark legislation. Marketers know that regulators will continue to introduce new and consequential changes that impact them as owners and users of data, and, if current trends hold, that they are likely to carry ever more severe penalties for breaching them.
In expanding personalization of messaging, as most marketers are looking to do, they are exposing themselves to greater regulatory scrutiny, which in turn increases the need to maintain transparency in data and identity management practices.
Access to supply partners
A recent survey from Advertiser Perceptions found that half of its advertiser respondents were leaning more heavily into direct relationships with publishers.
This makes sense. Publishers live on the vanguard of the identity ecosystem, as the ones interacting directly with consumers through content. They are constantly positioned to gather and enrich first-party data, and present increasingly viable options for brands looking to do the same.
Many of today’s identity technologies come from businesses that originally found success getting in between advertisers and publishers. It’s a leverage position that they are looking to replicate through this next generation of technology.
Don’t rush to your next crutch
Brands might understand the importance of identity, but if they overestimate the role of tactics, they’ll miss the long-term opportunity, and risk forming dependencies on technology that won’t make it through the next major change. And if there’s one thing that we can count on in ad tech, it’s that the next change is right around the corner.
Charlie Swift is currently the EVP, head of marketing and account management at Adstra, focused on orchestrating marketing activities across media channels with greater control, transparency and return. In his role, Charlie is responsible for overseeing Adstra’s marketing strategy, communications and execution, as well as overseeing the delivery of services and maintenance of Adstra’s direct account client base and the associated revenue.