Curation for the Ad Tech Nation: An Overview

An overly convoluted programmatic supply chain means that both publishers and advertisers are looking for more refined ways of buying and selling ads. We take a look at curation as a viable solution, a programmatic tool that is a win-win for all parties involved.

Monetising first-party data is becoming a growing source of apprehension, especially as the demise of cookies looms closer, leading to the potential loss of audience. Adding to this predicament is the reality that providing a top-notch user experience entails publishers restricting the quantity of ad units they deploy - numerous publishers steer clear of strategies like purchasing traffic or implementing automatic ad refreshes in pursuit of the same ethos. With the programmatic identity in flux, striking the right equilibrium between user satisfaction and revenue generation remains an ongoing conundrum for publishers.

It therefore comes as no surprise that many of those within the industry are increasingly turning towards curation, which has the potential to be a one size fits all solution. Curation introduces a crucial element of transparency into the programmatic supply chain, while simultaneously equipping publishers with an upgraded and privacy-conscious approach to monetising their first-party data. 

For an industry that is constantly reshaping, could curation enable a new form of control over data and inventory? We explore the possibilities as well as some of the potential drawbacks.

What’s the opportunity for digital marketers?

Given the deprecation of third-party cookies, a growing and increasingly convoluted spider web of ad tech technologies, and an ever-increasing need for closer ties between buyers and sellers, the opportunities associated with curation seem endless. Curation platforms are not just another addition to the already complex ad tech ecosystem,  rather, their primary function is to act as self-service suites, offering opportunities to create innovative and value-added media solutions. 

By tapping into a wider pool of inventory, these curators can expand their audience reach and create refined auction packages tailored to specific business rules and curation features. Such features include building audiences with contextual targeting aligned with performance KPIs, and the ability to filter inventory based on domain, location, and device. The result is an enhanced ability to deliver precise and engaging ad experiences that resonate with the right users at the right time, boosting campaign performance and achieving superior results.

Through curation, publishers, data providers, brands, and retailers have the opportunity to combine their first-party data with inventory sourced from third-party publishers within PMPs, which can then be offered to potential buyers. While the idea is straightforward, curation introduces the potential for expanded audience reach for buyers, novel sources of revenue for data owners, and heightened demand for publishers.

Curated PMPs is the future of programmatic 

Until recently, PMPs served as a way for publishers to package their own data and inventory to sell to buyers. Through curation, publishers, data providers, brands, and retailers gain the ability to leverage PMPs for bundling their first-party data alongside third-party publishers' inventory, which can then be offered to buyers. Although the concept is straightforward, curation introduces expanded outreach opportunities for buyers, generates novel income avenues for data proprietors, and boosts demand for publishers.

Unlocking enhanced revenue possibilities through curation becomes an increasingly viable alternative to cookies, as curation facilitates the bundling of diverse data types into a single PMP. For instance, tailored PMPs featuring audience, contextual, and cognitive (predictive audience) data are emerging as a cookieless, future-ready solution for data-centric campaigns. This innovative approach is fueling performance, substantial scalability, and cost saving advantages for media buyers and brands alike.

There are of course some downsides to consider when talking about PMP activation. While curation can deliver targeted and premium inventory, challenges around scale, selling processes, post-cookie environments, and sustainability underscore the need for a dynamic and forward-thinking approach. There may be a need to develop alternative targeting mechanisms that explore new forms of contextual advertising, leveraging advanced technologies like artificial intelligence to optimise curation efforts while minimising negative impacts on aspects such as scale and sustainability.

Putting the human element back into programmatic 

Amid the deluge of information and content bombarding consumers daily, marketers face the arduous task of breaking through the noise and making a meaningful impact. Curated marketplaces offer a solution to this exact problem, playing a pivotal role in strengthening direct, personalised publisher relationships by streamlining the management of preferred terms and rates in programmatic payment processes. 

Curators each have the ability to put their own unique spin on the programmatic marketplace - this is everything from sustainability and DEI initiatives to sales funnels and specific inventories. Moving just beyond streamlining the purchasing process, curation empowers publishers to locate expansive audiences on a global scale across various ad exchanges, building a better and more relevant brand. 

Owing to the transparency inherent in curated arrangements, it presents a guarantee of brand safety to advertisers in search of high-quality, secure spaces for their clients and advertisements. Further to this, curation primarily operates within the SSP domain, delivering publishers heightened operational ease, swiftness, and effectiveness.

Looking towards data privacy in a post-cookie landscape

The benefits associated with transparency also extend heavily into data privacy - in the current age of prioritising user privacy, the practice of curation presents publishers with an opportunity to responsibly utilise their immensely valuable first-party data. This can be done in a manner that enhances advertiser trust and precision in targeting, all while adhering to regulations. Moreover, curation opens doors for the expansion of audience extension initiatives in alignment with brand principles, allowing publishers to generate income from their data even in the absence of advertisements on their platforms.

There are, of course, impending challenges related to post-cookie or ID signal environments, which each could potentially pose significant hurdles for those considering curation. The diminishing reliance on third-party cookies necessitates the development of new methods for precise audience targeting and attribution, driving the need for innovative solutions within curated ad tech environments.

For more on the possibilities presented by curation, check out Ciarán O'Kane's MadTech Sketch