Google Gives Publishers More Ways To Manage First-Party Data

Google has introduced what it is calling “publisher provided signals” -- codes that identify audience segments based on the Audience Taxonomy and Content Taxonomy -- standards created by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The idea is to categorize first-party data into audience or contextual segments before sharing the signals with programmatic buyers.

The signals are intended to make it easier for programmatic buyers to find and purchase audiences based on demographics, content interests or purchase intent across multiple sites and apps without tracking people’s activity in apps or across the web.

The company said it will work to incorporate industry standards, initially by integrating the IAB Tech Lab’s Seller Defined Audiences -- a technical specification released earlier this year to help publishers monetize their first-party data on the open web. 

As part of the beta test, publishers can use the IAB’s Audience Taxonomy and Content Taxonomy to share signals with Google Ads and Display & Video 360. The plan is to roll out publisher provided signals to more publishers and Authorized Buyers and Open Bidders.

“It’s refreshing to see Google following standards set by the IAB as opposed to inventing their own, which has been part of the criticism with their approach to date,” says Andrew Frank, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Using open standards is a positive feature in the announcement, but whether or not it will lead to a more balanced and competitive ecosystem in digital advertising is a more complicated question.”

Google also has been working to improve a feature that allows publishers to securely share signals with trusted third-party buying partners through Authorized Buyers and Open Bidders. Adding more flexibility with the feature, Google will add controls and rename the tool from encrypted signals to secure signals.

The expanded functions enable publishers to use their own code, making it easier for them to create and send data, such as first-party identifiers, to trusted partners. The previous method required publishers that work with third parties to set up code on their websites and apps to activate this feature.

Secure signals give publishers full control of the data collected and who receives the signals. When passed through Google Ad Manager, the data is required to be obfuscated, meaning that Google cannot read or use the signals, according to the company. Ad Manager acts as an intermediary on behalf of the publisher to pass the signals to their chosen third-party bidders.

In March, Google shared that it was building a new feature to enable publishers to securely share encrypted signals with Authorized Buyers and Open Bidders via Ad Manager.

In the coming months, Google will begin to onboard additional beta partners and increase functions to include app and video inventory. Workflow improvements in the Ad Manager dashboard -- including troubleshooting tools and controls to make it easier for publishers and their partners to use the feature -- are also being made.

The goal is to make encrypted signals available to all publishers and Authorized Buyer and Open Bidder partners in 2022.

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