Christopher Reher, Axel Springer All Media: "Be brave"

"Be brave"

The first-party data era is ushering in a better future for the industry, one that prioritizes privacy and puts the customer’s needs first. However, different countries are at different stages in this process, with data privacy legislation moving at different speeds across the globe. Germany and Europe have always been one of the leading examples of data privacy and protection with the introduction of the GDPR.

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum's Chief Operating Officer, Lauren Wetzel, sat down with Christopher Reher, General Director Data at Axel Springer All Media, to discuss privacy, first-party data, legal standards, and more.

“The current state, let's be honest, is way better than it was a year or two years before, but [...] I think we have the pain and the benefit having been hit by GDPR in 2018 that there's always been a very lively discussion around data privacy issues in Germany. For example, because of the past where it's been used against the people, and so it was always a very strong discussion and therefore there's a kind of heritage around discussing those parts. And if you look at the solutions that are coming out of the German space, driven by technology but also driven by publishers, I think there's a lot of good stuff there.”

So, what’s the hold-up? Shouldn’t Germany already be fully prepared and no longer be using third-party cookies?

“We do also have the issue that a lot of German market participants are really hesitant to move new stuff. The classic German thing is like rather go with a market leader than create stuff themselves. [...] But right now, in this topic, I think the German space is ahead of the rest of the world in terms of discussion level. Also, in terms of what solutions do work and don't work because we're really in the nitty-gritty right now with a certain group of people. [...] But on the same side, what you can see in the German market is that still the adoption of the new solutions is lagging. People know what to do, but they rather not do the job. [...] Right now, I think we're at the cusp of just getting everyone really ready.”

It’s positive to know that the necessary conversations are happening to keep the industry moving forward and prepare for the first-party data era. But action is required to bring real change. Advertisers have been used to transacting on third-party identifiers; without these, advertisers will need to build their own data assets or partner with companies with large addressable audiences in order to connect with customers. This represents a significant shift compared to the status quo.

“But we have to make the move now. Otherwise, we will drop. [...] There is an ongoing power shift, I think, right now in the markets, especially in the European market where you see where all the power once was at the agencies and the technology providers. It's more moving to the data holders, which are the publishers and advertisers right now.”

So how and what can other countries learn from Germany regarding privacy and first-party data?

“What we've been having to face in Europe right now is something that's going to help any business from Europe in the US pretty massively because a lot of that stuff is going to hit the US market or is already hitting it. I think there's a big chance for exchange between the different countries in terms of new usage, in terms of how to structure identity solutions, how to cover all the legal aspects of it [...] and I'm really looking forward to that because what I see now is that this discussion is really ongoing now. One and a half years ago, people weren't really talking to each other, everyone was brewing their own stuff, and that was it.”

We’ve seen rapid change over the last two years. Axel Springer All Media have been at the forefront of this change, testing and learning.

“We wanted to be first movers. We wanted to make that jump because obviously with our strategy of going digital first. We really have to see data as a basis of the digital economy and as a basis of digital business at this point and so that was the main goal to basically move ahead and also make that jump because we can.”

And with great success, evident through a recent collaboration with Renault. Axel Springer All Media successfully proved that first-party data collaboration boosts campaign performance and lowers costs when compared to third-party cookies, with Renault increasing its conversion rate by 18%

“It's all because of the aspect that you're finally close to the user, and I think all this really shows is that first-party data - and in the way we structured it - is a massive benefit for any partner. And also what we did is we built basically a system where we would do the heavy lifting because we understood that if the rest of the market isn't ready to do the jump, we need to make this easy to access for anyone and make sure that we rebuild the connections.”

It’s great to see change towards doing the right thing. However, there are still challenges ahead, as some organizations are not seeing the urgency in moving away from third-party identifiers. 

“Get over this last hesitancy, accept that the change is there. There are so many discussions still where people hope that it's going to be postponed once more and the old business models are going to work out, third-party cookies are going to stay, and I still see business models pitched that are completely based on third-party cookies and that's not going to work. [...] I sometimes wonder how such a future-focused industry like ours can always be so hesitant to move. [...] The way we're doing advertising, but even more like personalization of digital service, is going to change masterfully, and it's already changed and trying to stick to the old ways is not going to help because anyone who tries to defy the change is always going to be rolled over by the wave. [...] We can only win this thing if we work together.”

Could not have said it better ourselves. It’s all about collaboration, working together towards a better future. 

“Be brave. Do the jump, be willing to interact, be willing to not do business as usual, but accept new stuff and be creative around that and be responsible, take accountability, take responsibility for what you're doing because stuff gets better with that.”

Thanks, Christopher, for the chat!