How Are You Defining Your Data?

Last week at Mediapost's Data and Programmatic Insider Summit, there were two inter-related questions that kept coming up in conversation. The first was “what is a viable alternative to third-party cookies?” The second question, surprisingly, is “how do we accurately define first-party data?”

You would think that by August 2023, we would have this all figured out, but we don’t.

Trust me when I say that at first, I felt silly asking the question. After all, first-party data is simply the data you own about your customers, right? The answer, strictly speaking, is “yes."

However, the challenge arises when we start diving into how first-party data gets used in conjunction between two partners -- say, a brand and a platform like Google, Facebook or even a partner like AT&T or Verizon.

Each of these platforms are B2C brands in their own right, so they all own their own repository of first-party data about their customers. What’s more, their customers are also heavily overlapped with your customers.



As you both have a right to leverage the data, and if you decide to do a partnership with one of these primary platforms, which also happen to offer numerous advertising opportunities, are you still within the basic parameters of how the industry defines first-party data?

After all, two brands can work together and leverage first and first-party data for a co-branded effort, so why can’t these technology brands who also happen to be the largest walled gardens in the digital ecosystem also be considered a partner for advertising campaign purposes?

In my eyes, they can, and in that fact lies the core of the issue. Even if third-party data does become obsolete (which is still questionable), there are more than enough partnership opportunities between data collectors and brands to establish first to first-party data relationships. In fact, one could argue that many of the so-called third-party data brokers are gathering first-party data through the offering of solutions and services, and they have the right to use that data in one-to-one campaign relationships.

As long as the agreements are in place between these two parties, they seem to fulfill the legal obligations set forth in the General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act, as well as other regulations I’ve heard about. The only question that remains is whether the subsequent audiences can be activated on a platform or channel of your choosing.

This last question is where Google, Facebook and the other larger tech platforms have the ability to be restrictive. They could make it difficult, if not outright impossible, to leverage the data once they understand where and how it was sourced. And that brings me back to the first point.

The walled gardens offer services and are indeed B2C brands in their own right. They have the right to use that data, and they become an important partner for these brands. In fact, they become the most important partners for the brands because they can augment what you know about your customers -- plus, they provide you the channel to reach them, and all that data sharing happens in a closed, walled garden. It’s like the Vegas of advertising -- what happens in the walled gardens stays in the walled gardens. 

The takeaway from the summit is simply that as an industry, we need to be clearer. We pontificate routinely, but we should also probably settle down a bit and be more focused on removing the gray areas from the business. It’s this sort of gray area that can open us up to being controlled by outside forces. At least that’s what we agreed when we were talking about it.

I’m sure there will be more to come on this topic in the coming months!

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