How First-Party Data Helps Advertisers

How First-Party Data Helps Advertisers


First-party data is more important to marketers than ever, according to a newly published survey by Acquia and Vanson Bourne.

The two companies surveyed U.S. and U.K. marketing executives about their growth strategies going into 2023. The study found that:

  • Marketers are creating first-party data strategies to generate insights for personalized content as web browsers prepare to phase out third-party cookies.
  • 88 percent of those surveyed say gathering first-party data is more important to organizations than two years ago.
  • But only 35 percent “strongly agree” that their organization is “fully prepared for the cookie-less future.”

The above suggests that marketers understand that first-party data is important. But they need help tapping into the value of first-party data.

First-party data is information that your business collects from customers. Examples:

  • Data tracked from visits to your website.
  • Customer feedback
  • Surveys
  • CRM data
  • Social media accounts
  • Subscription-based emails or products

By contrast, third-party data is data that your business collects from potential customers based on their browsing habits across the web. Third-party data, which is typically bought from another company, is based on third-party cookies that track consumer behavior. But privacy controls from Apple and Google are making it increasingly difficult for businesses to use third-party cookies. Apple eliminated third-party cookie tracking on its Safari browser, and Google will do the same on its Chrome browser (the most popular browser in the world) in 2024. In addition, a privacy control enacted by Apple in 2021 makes it easier for people to opt out of cookie tracking on Apple devices.

In a more privacy centric world, advertising that uses third-party data is going to be less targeted. It won’t become useless, just less effective. How can first-party data help a business, though? Here are a few ways:

  • Retarget customers. In addition to retargeting customers with ads, a marketer can use first-party data collection to send out personalized emails, for example like cart abandonment reminders.
  • Target new customers based on data you collect about your current customers. Based on data collected from your site visitors, social media following, and email subscribers, you can pinpoint other demographics and geographical locations likely to be interested in purchasing your products. You can use this \ information to build out campaigns that target fresh audiences.
  • Understand you customer’s journey. First-party data can give you insight into all the ways a customer interacts with your brand, assuming you combine web analytics with other forms of first-party data such as customer surveys and email outreach.
  • Improve the buying experience. You can identify how smoothly or problematic the conversion and purchase process is after your advertising takes a customer to your site or app. Are they clicking through? Are they completing a transaction after that? Why, or why not? For instance, are customers abandoning your site at the shopping cart?
  • Develop new products and categories. Using first-party data from surveys and questionnaires, you can identify gaps in your offering and create new products and categories to match customer demand.

First-party data does not get collected and used in isolation. Businesses can make their online advertising more effective by building campaigns based on their own first-party data and:

  • Someone else’s first-party data. For instance, Amazon, Walmart, and other retailers have been building online advertising businesses based on their own first-party data. Meta’s broad targeting ad program consists of an automated targeting approach that reportedly produces better results for Facebook and Instagram ads than more refined, more niche audience approaches  do.
  • Workarounds to third-party data such as Google’s own Sandbox, which is Google’s own effort to develop alternatives to third-party cookies. However, the Sandbox is very much a work in progress. Learn more about third-party workarounds here.

Businesses can also continue to rely on third-party data and accept less effective results. But the clock is ticking. When Google phases out third-party cookies in 2024, everyone will be entering a new world.

At True Interactive, we can help businesses improve their advertising as they transition to the use of first-party data. For instance, we know how to work with all the major platforms that rely on their own first-party data, such as Amazon and Walmart. And we can work with businesses to create more targeted campaigns based on first-party data collected from analytics tools such as Google Analytics. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

Walgreens Doubles Down on Its Advertising Business

Walgreens Doubles Down on Its Advertising Business


In December 2020, Walgreens launched its own advertising business, Walgreens Advertising Group, wag.  Now Walgreens is doubling down on advertising by expanding wag’s capabilities into over-the-top (OTT) services, connected TV (CTV) and traditional linear TV across 100 apps and 10 supply-side platforms, with an inventory of 2.5 billion daily impressions. This development demonstrates a growing trend of retailers using their customer data to provide advertising services.

What Walgreens Announced

Walgreens has touted wag as an effective way to leverage insights from 100+ million Walgreens loyalty members and one billion daily digital touchpoints with customers to create personalized advertising. wag provides businesses access to advertising platforms on Walgreens-owned and third-party channels, with the potential of achieving higher match rates versus the industry standard method of digital media buying. wag provides the ability to reach shoppers across digital display, video, social, streaming audio, email as well as Walgreens digital platforms and stores. On May 17, Walgreens announced that wag will extend its reach into television. According to Walgreens, the new capability consists of:

  • The addition of OTT & CTV inventory accessible via the wagDSP — a proprietary programmatic buying technology that integrates Walgreens customer and transaction data with dynamic creative capabilities and real-time optimization.
  • A first-to-market collaboration with OpenAP, and integration with the OpenID that enables brands to reach audiences powered by Walgreens first-party data as part of their television buys. Brands will be able to collaborate with Walgreens to execute against deterministic audiences now, and closed loop measurement will be in place by the start of the broadcast year.

Inventory is sourced through 100+ apps and 10 supply-side platforms with 2.5 billion+ available impressions daily, including access to inventory from key platforms.

Brands activating against this inventory can do so with all of the same functionality, optimization, and measurement capability as in digital video and display executed through the wagDSP. This enables people based media targeting, with measurement and real-time optimization.

Why the Expansion of Walgreens Advertising Group Matters

This news matters for two reasons:

  • wag’s expansion is part of a broader effort by retailers to capitalize on their own-first party data to provide advertising services. Retailers such as AmazonDollar TreeKrogerMacy’sTarget, and Walmart are all monetizing their first-party customer data by building ad businesses. Each retailer can give advertisers access to different types of consumers. For instance, wag gives advertisers access to consumers in the health and wellness space, and Macy’s is geared toward businesses wanting to reach fashion-conscious shoppers. We expect more of these platforms to emerge as businesses seek alternative ways to reach consumers amid the demise of third-party cookies, which are crucial for third-party ad targeting. With third-party ad targeting across the web threatened, platforms that give advertisers entree to shoppers within retailers’ walled gardens are more appealing.

What Advertisers Should Do

We suggest that advertisers:

  • Consider retailer-based ad networks as a complement to your existing digital ad strategy, not as a replacement. If your strategy focuses on Facebook and Google, for instance, don’t move your ad dollars over to a retailer network. Remember that Facebook and Google also already offer proven advertising products that capitalize on their vast user base. For example, location-based digital advertising tools help strengthen Google’s advertising services at the local level.
  • Do, however, monitor the effectiveness of your advertising on Facebook and Google amid the demise of third-party cookies and the onset of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, which includes more privacy controls that may make Facebook ads less effective (which remains to be seen).
  • Learn more about the ad products that might apply to you – and those products are evolving, as the expansion of wag demonstrates. In addition, we recently blogged about how Amazon is creating more ad units. The time may come soon when advertising on the web means constantly capitalizing on walled gardens’ offerings.
  • Work with an agency partner that knows the terrain. For instance, at True Interactive, we help businesses advertise through connected TV, complementing our deep expertise with online advertising on Google, social media, and the retailer networks such as Amazon and Walmart.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers

Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers


Google continues to nudge businesses away from using third-party cookies to personalize ads and toward the management of first-party data. On March 11, Google announced some product developments intended to make it easier for publishers to use their first-party data programmatically for ad buys. Let’s take a closer look.

What Google Announced

Google is going to help publishers expand the use of Publisher Provided Identifiers (PPIDs) in Ad Manager to more programmatic campaign types, including the Open Auction. PPIDs are created from anonymized first-party data and then fed into Google Ad Manager by the publisher. PPIDs improving functions such as audience segmentation and frequency capping. Publishers will now be able to surface their first-party data programmatically for buyers — so long as they use Google as their intermediary.

As AdExchanger explains,

The PPID’s technical setup works like this: the publisher will create a unique ID for users, based on a first-party cookie or a log-in ID. Then it will put that ID into Google Ad Manager, and choose who it wants to share that data with. Google will hash that ID and pass it through to buyers.

Buyers won’t know that PPID 123 is a sports fan in an open auction. But as they observe the ID in bid requests, they may notice that the user ID goes to a sports site frequently, for example, and deduce that a buyer is a good fit for an ad campaign.

Google also said it is experimenting with functionality that will provide publishers with the option to share encrypted data directly with advertisers with whom they already have a direct relationship. Publishers will have full control over what data is collected, and who can receive the data. Google will not be able to read or decrypt the data. Ad Manager will only act as an intermediary on behalf of the publisher to pass the signals to the third-party bidders they choose.

What the News Means

The announcement is another sign of Google’s intention to bring about the demise of third-party cookies and push businesses toward using first-party data to personalize content. Over the past several months, Google has announced that it would stop supporting third-party cookies on its Chrome browser and that Google would reject alternatives to third-party cookie tracking. As an alternative, Google is developing alternatives to third-party cookie tracking in Google’s privacy sandbox. Tellingly, Google also noted in a March 3 blog post:

We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.

Google’s March 11 post now shows that Google is going to nudge publishers to use their first-party data more effectively.

What Advertisers Should Do

Flexibility and patience are key. Don’t assume targeting and personalization are dead. You can still use your own data to buy targeted ads on Google properties such as YouTube, Gmail, and Google Search – so long as you bring their first-party data into Google through the company’s existing Customer Match product. Customer Match takes information a consumer gave to a brand, such as an email address, and determines whether it matches data Google already has. If so, advertisers can work with Google to send an ad to that individual. Moreover, as we noted in a recent blog post, if you want to use your own data to serve up targeted ads outside Google’s walls, Google is developing its own cohort-based alternative to third-party cookies to help you do that. Stay tuned for more product developments.

Do consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site. Note that brands that have relationships with publishers can pass first-party data directly to those publishers, outside the Google environment, and still manage the buy inside Google’s automated ad-buying system Display & Video 360 (often called DV360). But the use of data and the ad buy will be supported by proposed methods that enhance privacy as discussed in Google’s March 11 blog post.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

For more reading:

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking: Advertiser Q&A.”

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome: Advertiser Q&A.”

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash