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Episode hosted by: Robert Webster, Global Vice President – Strategy at CvE
Intro – 00:00:00: Welcome to the Time for a Reset podcast, where we interview senior marketers on the big issues of the day and how they are dealing with those challenges in an ever changing landscape.
Rob Webster – 00:00:15: Hello and welcome to Time for a Reset. It’s me, Rob Webster, and here is the latest technology division. And I’m delighted to invite on my first podcast as host the wonderful Stuart Colman. Stuart Coleman has had over 20 years experience in antech and marketing. Started out bringing digital marketing to the world of print at the FT, one of the pioneers of behavioral targeting, which was audience sites where we first met. And I think at the time you were also the IEB chair for behavioral targeting, is that right, Stuart?
Stuart Colman – 00:00:39: For my sins, yes, I was. Yeah. That was a fun gig, talking to too many MEPs about how the internet works.
Rob Webster – 00:00:44: And then a few other roles after that. You’re a consultant for a period, but then at a long stint as being, I think one of the real pioneers is of the data clean room world and how that applies to marketing at InfoSum. Do you want to talk with me about that, Steve?
Stuart Colman – 00:00:55: Yeah. So a great time at InfoSum. I joined almost as commercial employee number one. There were a couple before me, but when clean rooms didn’t really exist and did four and a half years there, which is fabulous, and grew the company to what it is today, established the space at a brilliant time. But four and a half years in, it was time for a change, time for doing something new in Andrew, the fast pace of consulting and getting back into that. So, yeah, fun times.
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Rob Webster – 00:01:15: Well, thanks to it, you’re the really good person who introduced me to the potential for clean rooms in marketing, and I’m sure we’ll talk more about that as the chat goes on. But my first question, and it’s the name of the podcast, is what do you think it’s time for a reset within the world of marketing, data and tech?
Stuart Colman – 00:01:28: And that’s a great question. And we could literally spend hours talking about it, and we probably have over the years. I think one of the challenges that we have is the third party cookie made life easy for us. Whatever the question was, the answer was a third party cookie. Whether that’s planning insights, whether that’s activation and various forms, whether that’s measurement and the things that we do at the end, it made life simple. It was a bit like a Swiss Army knife for the Internet. So what needs a reset? I think the whole industry probably needs a reset, but a reset around the fact that we need to think differently about almost every single part of how we do what we do and look at what technologies provide the best solutions and the best services on those individual elements. What are the best measurement, what’s the best planning insights, what’s the best activation and reset, how we think about how they work together and how we need to build out a holistic solution across them all without just relying on the cookie to underpin it and essentially solve everything for us.
Rob Webster – 00:02:21: No, I quite agree and I think this is the whole world that needs to change. I think the world that you and I have both relent into the last X number of years. But to kind of bring that conversation forward, let’s look at the basics first, then we can kind of get onto the nuts and bolts. For me, identity is all about there’s the world of first party density, which is if you run a company’s website, they need to know what you’re doing so they can A, make their service better and be able to sell you stuff. It doesn’t work if there isn’t that first party world. And by and large, that’s staying more or less the same. It’s being tightened up, but it stayed the same. So we can park that. The third party cookie is all for companies who are not the owner of that service. And that’s mostly advertisers, but not exclusively. And that’s the world that’s changing so quickly. And it’s changing really in terms of two or three ways for advertisers. One is the world of how do you target people, how do you understand which people you want to show your adverts to. Then there’s also the world of how do you measure whether or not that advertising works. And then there’s also some nuts and bots in between about how do you interact with ads. But that’s really the fundamentals of what’s changing and it’s led to some really weird dynamics. But first of all, you agree with that? Would you build on that at all?
Stuart Colman – 00:03:21: Absolutely, I agree with that. And I joke about it being a Swiss Army knife of the internet, but it really was. It made everything accessible and easy. And for those that didn’t have either a direct relationship with consumers or more specifically, a direct ability to engage with consumers, I think the third party cookie was a great way of being a proxy for that engagement. So things like measurement you and I talked long about measurement approaches and techniques, but it really was the third party cookie that allowed that singular view, that singular opportunity to understand someone across multiple environments. And that bred so many ways that we can think about how we create value and how we measure that value and how we understand that value. Yeah, that changing is seismic.
Rob Webster – 00:03:58: But a lot of people think that this is a challenge of the future, that the old world still works and something to worry about in a year, two, three years time, and that it will sort itself out. Now, you can tell that my view isn’t that, but what do you think?
Stuart Colman – 00:04:11: Yeah, I think if anybody is genuinely still sat there thinking that the third party cookie will be around for a while and things won’t really change that much and we can just carry on as we are. I think they’ve probably had their head down and not looking around them for quite some time because the world is already changing, the world is already shifting and we’re starting to see people think about and engage with new technologies and new ways of working that are fundamentally transforming their business. Not just how do I do what I did before with a different technology, but also how do I just do this differently, how do I think differently about what I’m trying to do and how I’m trying to understand the outcomes. I would argue anybody that isn’t seeing that and isn’t engaging with that is really not aware of what’s going on around them.
Rob Webster – 00:04:52: And the example I always use to sort of bring this home to people is the world of the Apple audience. So today the third party cookie doesn’t really work. Otherwise it’s nor does the app version, the IDFA, or the app ID. And everyone who’s doing marketing online today I think is experiencing that. And I think 99% of advertisers don’t get it right. What I was asked them to do is log into your measurement system of choice, look at the amount of money you’re spending on different browsers and realize how low it is on Apple, then have a look at how visitors your site or app gets and do that same test. And for almost everyone, it’s about half or less of the ratios it should be. So let’s say 40% of your customers or Apple users. I’ll have a wager with almost all of you advertisers out there that you’re only getting 20% max of your spend away to those devices. And that’s really, really important because Apple users I’m an Android guy myself, but Apple users represent the richest half of our market. 40% higher median average salary for iPhone users. And to not be able to target to that group is for me a sign that the online mappers in the world is broken right now.
Stuart Colman – 00:05:51: Yeah, it’s an interesting one. Again, we could talk about Apple for hours about what’s their motives, what’s the driving force behind some of the ways in which they’re limiting access or changing access for the broader world. Is it for consumer privacy? Is it for their own commercial benefit? I think the jury is probably still out a little bit as to which one it is, but there’s a whole world there combo. Yeah, both. I mean they’re a commercial business so you can’t really blame them. But I find it fascinating exactly what you’re saying there about how people perceive it. And I wonder whether the old adage of I know 50% of my advertising works, I just don’t know which 50%. I wonder whether people adopt a little bit of a well, I’m kind of just guessing that Apple’s working, because I can see it working on other platforms, and I can just kind of project forward and say, hey, if I’m getting this kind of return on Android or Chrome or anything, maybe I’m getting the same or better on Safari. And this kind of I can’t do much about it, so I’m just going to accept it.
Rob Webster – 00:06:40: Except in the reality it’s worse than that, right? Because what actually happens is the algorithm that you’re using will push all of your spend towards the bit it can measure. So actually I work with companies that literally sell iPhones and they’re not running advertising to people with iPhones. It’s that dramatic. They do a bit in branding but on the direct response, they don’t because the direct response budget for things that you can’t track is zero. And so people think they’d be very smart using all these automation AI Algos and actually what it’s doing is making their marketing worse because they’re actually moving it away from their target audience. And of course it’s not just Apple either. It’s also things like the world of CTV and out of home has different some of the challenges and I think that you’re on the same page. And what I’d love people to get across is the fact that it’s a problem for now, which is only going to get worse.
Stuart Colman – 00:07:22: It absolutely is only going to get worse. And I think for me, and I may be a lone voice in this, I don’t know, but it speaks to probably two areas that people should start are thinking about quite seriously. The first one is going back to some more traditional ways of targeting and understanding the internet. So the rebirth of contextual and first party DMPs and all those kind of fun things that we used to have and then we shifted into a more a third party world. I think that perhaps we’ll start to see more value come from some more traditional ways of thinking and ways of metrics and that can apply to some of the measurement techniques that we use as well and some of the old school ways of doing that. But the other thing I think, and I hope it’s something we’re going to get into as we go through this, is the role of an alternative identity approach, whether that be based on clean rooms and the one to one matching of first party data, whether that’s around the role of some form of universal identifiers in the space, but something that exists, particularly in Europe in a privacy safe, robust format that can provide some form of continuity of identifying a user across the internet, if never going to be to the volumes that you see with third party cookies. But if it can provide a bit like a portfolio, if it’s part of the answer, I think that’s a positive step forward.
Rob Webster – 00:08:28: And to kind of repeat what you just said, I think what we’re trying to say is that there’s no one solution, right? The cookie was so easy and it did all of these things from an advertiser’s point of view at least. Really, really well. Whether it did it from an individual’s point of view is a whole different question.
Stuart Colman – 00:08:41: Yeah, absolutely.
Rob Webster – 00:08:42: And as you say, some of the solutions are around going back towards more traditional forms of marketing and measurement, as you say, contextual, but also going, when I ran these adverts, did I sell more stuff? And then on the other hand, it’s the how can we use modern technology to be able to be more effective in terms of replacing the people with a more robust and privacy friendly solution? Which still helps advertisers. Because we have to remember, don’t we, that this is also where your world is faster because you also run a publisher business for my sins.
Stuart Colman – 00:09:07: Yes, I do. Which is an interesting experience. It’s a relatively small kind of long tail publisher, but it does give me the opportunity to play with technology. It gives me an opportunity to kind of see some of the outcomes that publishers experience with regards to what browsers using, what return rates you’re getting, TCF opt in rates and all that kind of interesting, fun stuff. So it’s a good insight into kind of what’s happening underneath the bonnet of it.
Rob Webster – 00:09:27: Well, indeed. And I think if you were to say to people on the street that advertises are struggling because of this loss, I don’t think you get too many violins being played,
Stuart Colman – 00:09:34: Probably not now.
Rob Webster – 00:09:35: But will you also point out that this has a material impact on publishers and their ability to survive and thrive? Absolutely. And if you think about all the money that used to go to paying for a publishing really now is going to the big four or five mega publisher giants, your Google, your Metas, your Amazons, that’s really starving the publisher of all sizes their lifeblood. Is that what you’re seeing on that site?
Stuart Colman – 00:09:55: Without question. Mine’s a relatively small long tail publisher that I do as bit of a hobby, but it’s a good kind of barometer of the space, I would say the last 18 months or so. We’re having to work so much harder to generate good revenue. We’re having to work so much harder on understanding and optimizing the partners we’re working there seems to have lost that natural kind of progression that the publishers saw with using good technology and using good partners. Now we have to really work at that much, much harder. And revenues are down without question. And particularly you were alluding to earlier with the challenges with Apple across our Safari base, our CPMs are down quite significantly. We’re running about 55% to 60% of the CPMs that we see across other browsers which is a significant hit.
Rob Webster – 00:10:37: Yeah, given, as we said, it’s the richer half of the market. Right. So they should be higher.
Stuart Colman – 00:10:40: Absolutely. And then you throw in all the challenges around CCF the consent framework. Yeah, the consent framework and the global vendor list is ridiculously long. So that breeds kind of a little bit of suspicion with consumers, and therefore your opt in rates kind of fluctuate a bit. And the whole thing just puts more and more pressure on publishers to be able to generate a decent return on the work that they put in. And that is definitely harder. We’ve had to work much, much harder at it over the last probably 18 months, two years, I suppose.
Rob Webster – 00:11:05: There’s a number of things we should talk about here, but we’ve already talked briefs about clean rooms and about different IDs, and now we’re onto consent and the TCF. So we’ve already talked about all three of those. So why don’t we start with the TCF? And for those don’t know, the TCF is the IAB’s effort at allowing individuals the right to provide consent or not provide consent and be informed. There are the six tests, and I think TCF is ubiquitous. It’s used everywhere. Every time you see one of those pop ups that comes up, that’s almost always a TCF, they will pop up. Now, again, if you ask most consumers, they will probably think that if all GDP items achieved was do that, that probably wasn’t a net positive. Right. Yeah. Because do people feel any safer? They probably feel more annoyed.
Stuart Colman – 00:11:42: Yeah, absolutely.
Rob Webster – 00:11:43: And there’s a question as well as are they generally more informed? Because what proportion of consumers do you reckon have actually looked at the vendor list? It’s either an automatic yes or automatic no. Right. But that aside, it’s probably worth saying as well that the validity of the TCF has been called into question. Right. And I think there’s a case next year that’s going to be decided on that.
Stuart Colman – 00:11:59: Yeah, there’s been some backwards and forwards with the Belgium DPA. I think that’s resolved to a point. I think it’s yet to go up to a higher council for review, but it’s certainly been challenged the EU courts.
Rob Webster – 00:12:10: Go to, isn’t it? And that’s happening roughly. They expect the same time as Google has announced that it will, next time, at least remove the third body cookie from its setup. I always think with Google their dates ar⁵⅝g e more not before that date, at any point after.
Stuart Colman – 00:12:23: Yeah, think you’re right just on that. Just as a segue. I mean, Google, they’re a commercial business. They’ll do what works for them. They’ll get rid of the cookie when it’s right and relevant for them to get rid of the cookie. And I don’t think we have any insight as to when that is and how it will manifest.
Rob Webster – 00:12:36: No, let’s dive into that. So what would make up that choice? So I guess for me, three things, right? One is how much money would their ad products lose? And their ad products have lost money already from the situation with Apple B. How does it impact their broader products? So they wouldn’t want to have people not use Chrome, for example, and they won’t do anything that would hurt paid search. And then third, as to what size of legislation or fines could they get if they don’t do it.
Stuart Colman – 00:12:58: Yeah, I don’t know. People will see enough at Google decision making around this to speak for them in any way, shape or form. But I wonder whether the real catalyst for change at organizations like Google, but not just Google themselves, will be when the US catches up on privacy legislation. Europe is important to organizations like Google, and GDPR in its general form is probably a bit of a frustration for those kind of businesses because of what it makes them do, but it can kind of be fudged and worked around and manipulated a bit to make it work. I think that’s a different set of parameters and a different set of pressures when US really kicks in with privacy legislation. So I wonder whether we won’t really see massive change until that happens.
Rob Webster – 00:13:35: And when do you think that will be, just to give people an idea of what we’re talking?
Stuart Colman – 00:13:38: Yeah, I’d love a crystal ball and make a load of money by telling you an exact date, but I think you’re seeing the progression there already. You’re seeing of all states bring out versions of CCPA, which is the US version of or one of the US versions of GDPR.
Rob Webster – 00:13:51: CCPB California?
Stuart Colman – 00:13:52: Yeah, it’s the California one. So I think New York and Ohio and a couple of others are kicking in there. I know there’s some conversations at a federal level, these things will move at the pace they move at. I think for me, the real tells are when you start speaking to perhaps private equity firms who say, we’re really not looking at any companies at moment that don’t have a privacy story or don’t have technology that can be privacy applied because they’re starting to see that this is going to be critical.
Rob Webster – 00:14:13: Well, yeah, I think if you look across the US and globally, it’s a trickle becomes a flood. Right. So GDPR started fired the first shot, if you like, and you now see GDPR-like functionality around 50, 60 states globally. And then if you look at the US. As you say, you’ve got three or four or more states that have it in place now, a whole load more that are pending until you get to the point where you’re going. Right? Well, if this doesn’t work in California and New York and Ohio, do I not just need to apply everywhere because it’s too much effort to have different setups in every single state?
Stuart Colman – 00:14:41: Right, absolutely, 100%. And going back to what we started with talking about the technological change, that will be a big catalyst for changes when America catches up on privacy. We’re in a really positive state in Europe, I think, in terms of understanding privacy and understanding what’s going on and we’re getting there in terms of adapting our technology to meet that. We’ll go back to talk about TCF in a minute, but I think we’ll see the real acceleration of that when the US starts to really catch up.
Rob Webster – 00:15:05: And actually, I think that’s a real competitive advantage for EU businesses. Right? And you must have found that InfoSum that rolling out Cleveland is not an easy task, but actually, for the first time ever, really, in history, that Europe’s ahead on something, right?
Stuart Colman – 00:15:15: Without question, yeah, 100%. But not just on the legislation itself, but on the understanding of it. I’ve spent a lot of my time in for some talking to DPOs and lawyers and infosec security teams that have a privacy remit. There’s a lot of talent there now in those organizations that really truly understand the depths of the characteristics and the ways in which privacy needs to be developed and delivered, for brands, for tech companies, et cetera. There’s a lot of talent there, and I think it gives European businesses an advantage. I think it gives European tech businesses an advantage, and for some is one that has thrived, being UK based and having that strong privacy foundation built off a detailed understanding and a framework, privacy framework that underpins it.
Rob Webster – 00:15:52: We’re starting to see it already, but hopefully these dynamics will mean that European businesses start to have an advantage globally and can get that much of a leg up.
Stuart Colman – 00:15:59: I really hope so, because there’s some great businesses out there.
Outro – 00:16:03: We hope that you enjoyed this episode of Time for a Reset. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll be back talking to another senior marketer very soon. Make sure to leave a review and we’ll catch you next time.