During lockdown, with Covid raging outside, those with the opportunity to do so turned to their gardens, treating them as sanctuaries, lavishing them with care and attention and cultivating what they could.
And at about the same time, the ongoing eradication of public identifiers was inspiring a comparable new strategy for publishers. Edged out of the third-party-data-driven world they knew - but which had never really played to their strengths - they busied themselves creating their own walled gardens, their own content fortresses.
What have they grown? More personal data, more insights and a much deeper connection to their audiences - a connection anchored in consent. Publishers’ first-party data is private, relevant, hugely detailed and engaging, and so, like anything built with care and attention, these sanctuaries have a very real value to those they invite in.
Your data meets mine in a data clean room
First-party publisher data is manna for brands, and especially those who have been carefully tending their own data gardens. Google has found that brands using their own first-party data for key marketing functions achieved up to 2.9X revenue uplift and 1.5X increase in cost savings.
When brands work with publishers to mix their data and build relevant segments and publisher cohorts, the effect is equally compelling: The Guardian last year reported a 65% higher than average brand lift for brands using its first-party data. Wherever you look, the effect of first-party publisher data is emphatic.
However, at every step, old habits need to be questioned. For publishers, the best way to amplify the value of that data has always been to connect it to brands, but for all the obvious reasons, that can’t happen over public programmatic pipes anymore.
Instead, the most efficient, effective, privacy-safe way for publishers to make their private data available for analytics and activation is through a new, proper, data clean room-enabled infrastructure.
The proportion of publisher inventory that transits through clean rooms - what we call clean room media - is growing, as brands and publishers realise in unison that their old channels are drying up and new ones are needed.
We’ve been here before - only different
In fact, the shift is uncannily reminiscent of the old programmatic revolution - the very architecture the new privacy-conscious world is now working to replace. Just like clean room media, programmatic started small and ended up huge, as the scale of the opportunity - and the opportunity cost of ignoring it - became apparent.
But clean room media is many leaps ahead of the old programmatic free-for-all, in that it allows publishers to easily monetize their newly available audience data in a safe, privacy-preserving way. And it gives brands bespoke data - better than anything they might have found in the old marketplace.
So brands get what they need: more precision and performance through exclusively available audience data, while leveraging the data they’ve been carefully collecting and enriching in their own CDPs.
Publishers, meanwhile, get the reward for the deep, private, inimitable relationships they have developed with their users.
And, crucially, in this new ecosystem, consumers get more control and more privacy protection than ever before.
Exponential growth of clean room media
One publisher that uses Optable has seen its share of clean room media increase six-fold over the past few months, and it’s expected to continue growing exponentially.
So, just because programmatic is yesterday’s technology, does not mean that the technology of tomorrow shouldn’t adopt its trajectory.
Before outstaying their welcome, third-party cookies gave us the very worthwhile expectation of openness, interoperability and ease of use - all attributes of clean room media.
In the same way, tomorrow’s data solutions need to echo the revolutionary, problem-solving qualities that made programmatic the success it was - only with the addition of privacy, exclusivity, a better deal for brands and publishers and a renegotiated consumer contract.
As clean room media continues to grow as a category, it’s exciting to see more and more publishers and brands adopt this new way of transacting.