ATS Tokyo: Adele Wieser on Japan’s programmatic landscape & the cookieless future 

The cookieless future looms large on the ad tech horizon. Ahead of her appearance at ATS Tokyo, we sat down with Adele Wieser, regional managing director APAC, Index Exchange, to discuss the industry’s readiness for the upcoming changes, and what technologies are set to succeed the third-party cookie. 

Adele also takes a look at the development of the CTV landscape in Japan, and the trends she expects to really take hold across the industry over the next twelve months.

Is the ad tech industry ready for a cookieless future? What further preparation is needed to ensure a smooth, compliant transition into this new era?

“Change has already been apparent over the past couple of years, but as we all know, the biggest changes are yet to come. I do believe there are still many companies who are operating on third-party cookies and using them across the Chrome ecosystem to run, measure, and track campaigns. Are we ready for it? I’d say we’re getting there – it’s a work in progress. Everyone is continuing to test, learn, and adopt new technologies to find what’s right for their business. There will be different types of data and unique understandings of customers on both the buy and sell sides that will need to come into consideration to find the ultimate end solution. 

When we talk about what’s needed to facilitate that smooth and compliant transition, it comes down to really understanding the impact of cookies on your trading practices right now. Now is the best time to test, learn, and lean in. It’s an incredible opportunity. There’s still a valuable audience that sits in the open web, so understanding the benefits and values that can be identified and subsequently transacted through it will ensure there is continued scale and ultimate performance. Advertisers need to identify the solution that best matches their data capabilities and goals. They should look at how they are running campaigns, what targeting they have applied, how they are measuring campaigns, how they are tracking outcomes, etc. Once they’ve built that understanding, they can then start leaning into new technologies.”

As people prepare, what are the signals that will replace the cookie? What can people focus on and what models can really make a difference? 

“There are a plethora of options to assess from the media ecosystem through to the buyers. They can be split into two types, the first being authenticated universal IDs – these are the most accurate reflections of logged-in data across the internet. Their ability to leverage audience/data profiles really allows you to hone targeting messaging. Their downside currently is their scale. The second type is non-authenticated audiences. These encompass a number of different types of data to build audience profiles.    

Contextual data, either through a publisher, media owner’s site, or third party which is able to build audiences around the context of the content being consumed, can be used to address particular interest groups. The data can be leveraged to create some level of targeting for those profiles. There is also an incredible power in publisher first-party data that buyers can lean into. A beautiful partnership can be formed between the demand and sell side of the ecosystem. Publishers can conduct very targeted campaigns to ensure the users that the buyers want to reach are based on interest or particular data segments they can build through their own platform. We could see some significant momentum around this in the next 18 months. 

Google’s Privacy Sandbox is also an exciting option to explore. The industry is still learning about this, but Index is heavily participating with Google in the proposals and testing. Index has developed end-to-end code to test and interact with Privacy Sandbox in order to understand the complexities of the new auction dynamics and take a proactive role in educating the industry. We are investing a large number of resources to ensure Privacy Sandbox is an effective, scaleable, and privacy-safe solution, and that our partners feel prepared as the industry reaches the end of third-party cookies.”

How does the Connected TV (CTV) landscape in Japan compare to Europe's? Does it mirror the programmatic landscape of other regions? 

At this point in time, the level of maturity we are seeing in the Japanese landscape is a few years behind other more advanced markets. There seems to be a few causes for this. One reason is that the ecosystem is fragmented, and there’s a very vibrant scene of advertising technologies in Japan. There are many global and local players, which increases competition. Something we have seen in other markets, which we haven’t seen in Japan yet, is a move away from the tag-based waterfall. It’s inefficient and sub-optimal — it doesn’t drive the best results for the businesses engaging with it. Although it allows a level of control, it doesn’t bring transparency or high levels of efficiency and monetisation. From that perspective, the tags are hindering rapid growth. 

An area in which we can see a parallel between the Japanese market and others is the innate desire around control. There is a desire to ensure that user experience is very high, that users consuming and streaming content are immersed. This means there is a hesitation to dive into tests, try new things, and just see how it goes. To prioritise delivering the best user experience, there are many stringent controls and safety measures in place. We see parallels here with Western markets because our customers in the US, UK, and AUS have reported similar concerns. 

However, the Japanese market is ready. The consumers and consumer behaviour are there and the buyers are keen to access the supply programmatically, we just need to build confidence in the technological solutions that will ultimately get us there with the media owners and broadcasters in the country. Once we prove that there can be substantial levels of control without the user experience being impacted, and that replacing the tag based waterfalls with a parallel auction environment can deliver benefits in efficiency, control and ultimately monetisation, the broadcasters in Japan will rapidly evolve the marker forward to parity with the rest of the world.

What are the big trends to watch over the next year in Japan? 

In addition to the shift to parallel auction environment from waterfall in CTV,Another interesting trend amplified in Japan – although not unique to the region – is increased focus on performance. Over the past couple of years across several markets we’ve seen many of the typical always-on campaigns being rebuilt to drive increased performance. Performance CPC and CPA are still incredibly vibrant in Japan. They’re a big part of the ecosystem and it’s why we see so many of the walled gardens continuing to benefit in the region. It looks like this heightened focus on performance will prevail. Brand budgets are still very heavily focused on performance, which leads beautifully into this cookie deprecation world – as the cookie goes away, these new technologies and other ways of targeting and refining performance will come into play, so we can see both as being interrelated – trends around third party cookie deprecation will shift the market, while performance will prevail and probably advance. 

Another trend we can expect will be delivering curation at scale. In the wider theme of supply path optimisation, there has been (globally and in Japan) a desire to hone the supply pool in which you’re targeting. It’s partially due to this performance focus, this idea of building a supply ecosystem for a buyer that reflects the audience they want to address and the types of size they want to put spend towards, curating it in a way that gives them more control and transparency.  

Lastly, consolidation will continue to occur. Over the past two years or so, we’ve seen consolidation occurring on a global scale and partners leaning in to boost efficiencies and strengthen the supply chain. This will continue, and this is specifically interesting for Japan because of the blend of local and global tech which exists and operates in the country’s ecosystem. The high number of local players in the market increases competition. As consolidation continues, we expect to see the stakes increase for all of the parties on both the buy and sell sides.