Publisher First-Party Data Can Fill the Cookie Void – Q&A with Thomas Baart, Permutive

In association with Permutive.

In this Q&A ahead of ATS London 2022, Thomas Baart, Customer Success Manager at Permutive, discusses the importance of first-party data in a post-cookie world, the value of publishers' first-party data and cohorts, and how the shift towards a privacy-centric landscape will affect all sides of the ad tech industry.


What innovation are you seeing in publishers’ data strategies?

The most exciting innovation comes from publishers building sophisticated data products on top of consented first-party data, enabling them to focus on extracting value from private auctions and direct deals.

Leading publisher first-party platforms also put audience insights at the centre of their data offering. Showcasing a compelling data narrative has propelled publishers beyond straightforward display toward leveraging first-party data in significant partnership deals. 


What types of first-party data do publishers hold, and how are they packaging this data up for advertisers?

At its most simple, first-party data is information collected directly from your audience or customers. For example, data is collected when a user engages with an article, signs up for a subscription, or interacts with an ad on the page. Some of the main types of first-party data include:

  • Behavioural data, which is collected when a user browses a web page. It includes content read, time on page, clicks, scrolling, video engagement, engagement with advertising or purchases via affiliate links.
  • Contextual data, which describes the content being read and metadata about an article. It includes author, description, topic, keywords, and publish date.
  • Declared data, which is provided directly to a publisher by a user. This includes name, location, job title, email addresses, industry, or preferences about specific topics.
  • Transactional data, which is when a user buys something from a brand or publisher. This data includes time of purchase and product purchased.


Because first-party data goes beyond authenticated data, such as an email, publishers can package this data up into rich, multi-dimensional cohorts built from consented user data. 


Why is this data so important given the privacy changes we’re seeing in the advertising industry?

Privacy regulation is creating a growing data gap in the market that publishers can fill. When third-party cookies — and unsustainable third-party cookie workarounds — disappear, the open web goes dark for advertisers looking to reach their target audience. Publishers hold the relationship with the user and can make audiences available in the form of privacy-safe cohorts built from publishers' consented first-party data. 

Historically, it's been challenging for publishers to differentiate their offerings in a sea of third-party data. As the guardians of audience data online, publishers can take a central role in advertising and create a data offering that stands out in the market while also protecting consumers' privacy. 


What makes publisher first-party data so valuable, and what results are publishers seeing from cohorts built from first-party data?

Thomas Baart, Customer Success Manager, Permutive

First-party audiences, or cohorts, unlock high-value users in cookieless environments. This, plus the ability to target users in real-time, enables publishers to increase targetable inventory significantly. Trusted Media Brands (TMB) saw up to a twenty-two times increase in audience size using Permutive, which has helped TMB increase direct sales, resulting in more scale and more granularity of segments.

Publishers can also highlight unique features in their data and audience insights that advertisers can’t get elsewhere, which helps publishers differentiate and prove the power of first-party data. For example, US News' first-party audience data allowed their advertisers to see an uplift in engagement of up to two times by activating valuable cohorts. And by overlaying audiences powered by first-party data, Hello! increased brand consideration by over 15% and brand awareness by 129%. 

When publishers package this data up, they need to understand what advertisers look for in audiences and how it will address their objectives. US-based voting site Ranker uses data to identify affinities and intent based on a combination of different first-party activities, all in real-time, and uses these pre-sale audience affinities to craft proposals. 


Given the wealth of data publishers have, what does that do to the relationships between publishers, advertisers and ad tech?

It is certainly shifting the power in the ecosystem back to the publishers. For so long, publishers watched their data being repackaged and resold elsewhere. With publisher data commoditised and widely resold, the shift to privacy is rewriting the rules. 

Publishers are central to advertising, so advertisers will have to build more direct relationships, as publishers hold the relationship with the user and have consented first-party data. To scale those direct relationships, we’ll see ad tech become an enabler of collaboration between publishers and advertisers instead of an intermediary. 


What advice would you give publishers and advertisers looking at solving data deprecation and consumers opting out of advertising?

Regulatory changes and broken consumer trust in how their data is used for advertising are forcing the ad ecosystem to evolve. To flourish, publishers and advertisers need to rely on tools and technologies built for the responsible web, with user privacy at their core. Look for solutions where user consent and data security are foundational, where data strategies are built from consented data, collected by first parties, and where strong data security principles ensure data doesn’t leak, built on top of cohorts instead of identifiers. 

Don’t wait for solutions to come to you; as a publisher and advertiser, start building those direct relationships and discover the tools you need to scale it—work together to be responsible with consumer data and experiment.


ATS London 2022 will take place on 14th and 15th June at Central Hall Westminster. Tickets and further information are available via the ATS London 2022 event hub.