It seems there weren’t enough memes, GIFs or 140 character tweets on the internet for the proper reaction to Google’s recent announcement regarding their stand on the future of identity and privacy as it relates to the open web. The spectrum of emotions ranged from frenzy to fury with the occasional shoulder shrug tossed in there.

The future of digital advertising remains to be seen and the foundation of a fair and open web has some shaky pillars depending on who you speak to. However, what is starting to make itself very apparent is that Google has stoked a flame of innovation and collaboration from all corners of the industry and we may very well be seeing the beginnings of a marketplace bolstered by relationships between buyers and sellers that emulate the yesteryears of advertising.

Publishers Can Take The Wheel

The early days of RTB/programmatic brought a steep learning curve between buyers and sellers, with the pendulum swinging in favor of the audience-driven performance buyer. Programmatic had an initial use case as a means for ad network monetization of supply and demand, which in turn brought a commoditization of publisher inventory.

Along with that came an erosion of value – both in the value of supply, as well as the relationship between publishers and agencies. If inventory was accessible everywhere and at a yard sale value, then why would an agency not only need to speak to a publisher salesperson, much less sign-off on an IO for a bulk of “eyeball” impressions being eulogized as premium inventory?

Fast forward to the year 2021 and the value-add of publishers has never been higher.

Cookie-geddon has put publishers in the driver’s seat when it comes to re-establishing bonds with buyers at a more strategic level. The performance-driven insights into their audience and content will be crucial for the next step of digital advertising and more direct relationships with buyers and their tech partners will ensure higher user matching through their supply technologies.

Lastly, the creative and analytical thinking of publishers when putting together agency and brand proposals will be put to the ultimate test, which will require the publisher’s sales teams to be more like the fluid T-1000 model than Schwarzenegger’s outdated design. Rachel Parkin of CafeMedia makes an even greater note of this in a recent AdExchanger article.

The Odyssey of the Digital Agency

A decade or so of digital media innovation and technological evolution brought on an identity crisis for the modern day agency before having an identity crisis was even cool. The agency model went from a people-based business trying to figure out how to be innovative to their clients through data and technology to now striving to identify how to be innovative with their organizational structure and the people within it.

How do you train a 22-year old media planner to think about which creative messaging to use for a media plan, much less a comprehensive strategy around reaching the right users without cookies?

The agencies of today that are going to succeed are the ones that are not reactive to the needs of their clients or the solutions of their technology partners, but the ones who are proactive in how they work with them to bring measurable results and impact on the strategies and channels that are working. It’s time to put the “plan” back in planner.

RFP outreach needs to be more tactical than in the past – marrying the art of the creative message with the science of data-driven technologies. Then, going forward, they can continue to collaborate on how those strategies and channels can adapt and succeed with new ways of identifying and reaching users across relevant content.

The Next Wave of SSP

With this new age of innovation that Google’s forthcoming changes will bring about comes the need for an evolution of the supply-side technologies that power these publisher’s marketplaces. The direct view into the full breadth of the publisher’s inventory and audience data will be more crucial than ever before. We are already seeing brands and agencies asking for all the cards on the table to enable optimal paths to their most strategic media partners.

Curation has been at the forefront of the conversation for SSPs when it comes to their conversations with buyers, but maybe there’s an opportunity for supply partners to innovate further. The larger scale marketplaces out there seem to be playing a game of Scattergories rather than chess. Is it better to be a Jack-of-all-trades than a master of some?

The opportunity to enable publisher first-party data at scale, combined with the growing need for alternative ways to identify users and their interests via contextual means could give way to more innovative players gaining a tactical advantage and market share over larger supply platforms.

The more innovative and niche publishers can then take advantage of the smaller, independent, and more flexible supply platforms out there to complement the powerful audiences and content they are bundling for their more strategic brands and advertisers. There might just be room for another acronym to enter the fray: the VSSP.

No one can agree on whether the new era of digital advertising we are seeing will evoke a mindset of “what’s old is new again” or “what’s new is old again” when it comes to how media planning, buying, and selling will be shaped going forward. However, the general consensus remains that coopetition is the new cool for the future of digital media and the quickest way to an open web that is mutually beneficial to all.

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