- June 20, 2018

The Potential of Digital Advertising Strategies amid GDPR: A Q&A with George Panayiotou and Felix Hansen

So far, the year 2018 has seen the fight against the overall lack of transparency, invalid traffic and concerns around brand safety continue. However, these issues have somewhat been overshadowed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union (EU), which has been the main topic of discussion in the digital advertising industry and beyond.

In this Q&A, Comscore’s George Panayiotou, Senior Product Manager, International Advertising and Felix Hansen, Senior Director of Product Management, Advertising, share their views on the effects and the potential of the ruling.

Comscore: What effects do you think GDPR will have on digital advertising strategies?

George Panayiotou: There’s several perspectives to this, and remember, it’s not just affecting our industry, it affects everyone selling products and services in the European Union (EU) no matter their origin. However, within the ad business specifically, there will be an unsettling effect on the use of third-party data and it will become even more difficult to find scalable, accurate audience segments.

Buyers are likely to revert to less accurate means of targeting, potentially even falling back to more direct buys. At the same time, consumers will start to see a decrease in ad relevance. Overall, the focus will shift to using data provided by publishers and other parties who are in a position to collect it. This isn’t all negative, however, as we should see transparency and quality increase across the industry – helping to clean-up digital supply chains.

Felix Hansen: While some of the effects will reveal themselves in the second half of the year and into 2019, we expect that different participants will be affected in very different ways. For marketers and agencies, it is already clear the data toolbox will change substantially and necessitate a careful adjustment of existing targeting strategies. Expecting scale with ID-based audience data can’t be guaranteed. Hence a strong alternative in the form of page-level data needs to take the leading role in any campaign strategy.

Technological autonomy will continue to grow for Publishers as they have even more reasons to build services based on their first-party data to reduce dependency on transaction platforms such as SSPs, exchanges, and DSPs. End users and consumers – who do not opt in – will receive even more irrelevant ads which will negatively impact ad experiences. Relevance matters and those users will be even more annoyed by generic campaigns, which might drive increases in ad-blocking (another unwanted side effect.)

Comscore: How can advertisers stay compliant and still make sure their campaign activation is driving greater marketing performance?

Felix Hansen: Simply put, use page-level data. Remember that ad impressions are generated by a user who decided to open a page or app related to a specific topic or interest. Page-level data has become “ad hoc” or “proxy” audience interest data and allows campaigns to be delivered onto hyper-relevant inventory.

George Panayiotou: Compliant, transparent and reliable data sources will shine in the form of page-level segments. Activation at Comscore, for example, brings together audience composition indices and sentiment analysis – along with multiple levels of media quality, brand safety and contextual relevance filters – at scale. These allow marketers to still reach granular demographic and behavioural audiences while following the new rules.

Comscore:  With brand safety now front and centre for every reputable brand, how can advertisers make sure they have just the right amount of filtering – so their campaigns remain cost-efficient, but brand safe?

George Panayiotou: There’s an unwritten consensus in this space that keyword and domain lists are the only way to ensure ultimate brand safety – but that isn’t the case. With the right technology, marketers can achieve protection that is just as (if not more) rigorous, but takes only a fraction of the time to activate. This means no more keyword list trial and error for reach, and no more time being wasted on domain vetting.

Felix Hansen: Finding the right balance between accurate brand safety and impact on reach is crucial. The most sophisticated and nuanced brand safety strategy crumbles if campaigns are not delivering. Using granular and accurate page-level criteria such as “safe from accidents” (alongside custom keyword avoidance if required) will extend reach while maintaining scale, safety and spend in programmatic environments.

Comscore: In a world where one-to-one marketing at scale is the ultimate goal, how can you make sure that messages are delivered to the right target at the right time?

George Panayiotou: By using contextual and audience composition data provided at the page-level, advertisers can still reach their desired audiences and demographics in real-time. For example, a grocer or food brand could target pages about “barbecues and grilling” that are visited frequently by adults, aged 25 – 49, to drive sales of a specific type of summer food. They could also add protection filters such as “safe from health issues” to make sure the content is appropriate.

Felix Hansen: Reliable page-level data is a seamless way to reach audiences spending time on relevant, brand-safe inventory in pre-bid. Like the example George just mentioned, there are hundreds of thousands of combinations of filters and targets that can be applied to reach the right audience in an appropriate and germane setting.

Comscore: Can you give an example of a campaign where Comscore’s cookie-free, contextual solution helped clients strategically reach the desired targets?

Felix Hansen: We recently did some work with Centro, in which one of our advertiser clients was looking for a cost-efficient way to reach women, aged 25 – 34. The client applied our audience composition segments via Centro, which limited biddable inventory to pages with a high composition of that target. We then measured delivery on the back end using vCE and found that the client was achieving 6x the in-target delivery when compared to a campaign without segmentation applied. This is particularly exciting, as women, 25 – 34 is an extremely granular target.

George Panayiotou: In addition to that example, we also released a study last year with Hearst, one of the world’s largest news publishers. Hearst’s properties, SFGate and San Francisco Chronicle, wanted to offer advertisers valuable custom sponsorship opportunities ahead of the “Titans of Mavericks Surfing Competition”, however the manual process of creating custom ad packages was too costly and time consuming.

Leveraging our Activation solution, Hearst automated this process using custom categories we built for them and a combination of specific keywords they required. This helped them unlock revenue and earn premium CPMs by efficiently scaling their inventory offering ten-fold – without sacrificing relevance to the surfing competition.

Comscore: With GDPR now in effect, how do you see campaign activation evolving? What trends do you see shaping the industry in 2019 and beyond?

George Panayiotou: GDPR should have a cleansing effect on the industry as a whole, making it harder for middlemen and inefficient data providers to stay afloat. Publishers will now have the most direct route to collecting audience data, and – of course – rich contextual data.

Felix Hansen: There will be a better use of page-level data attributes, and publishers will regain some level of control of pricing from buyers. Publishers will be able to garner higher value for their inventory, if they can effectively leverage first-party data to create compelling packages.

To see how Comscore Activation can help you succeed in a post-GDPR world, click here to learn more.

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