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Dora Michail-Clendinnen, The Ozone Project: “Do better than yesterday”

It’s all about data - in the past, it was usually more about third-party data, now everyone is hyper-focused on first-party data to prepare for the cookieless future. But what is often overlooked is the more important fact that we are shaping the industry to be and do better. To create a privacy-safe future where consumers aren’t needlessly tracked without knowing and where there is a true value exchange.

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum's VP, Corporate Marketing, Ben Cicchetti, sat down with Dora Michail-Clendinnen, Chief Strategy Officer, The Ozone Project, to discuss first-party data, privacy, sustainability, and more.

“Over the course of time, that I think is important is a fundamental question about deciding as a brand, what are your guidelines in terms of how you want to use that first-party data. I'm a firm believer that brands are the gatekeepers, if you like, of the relationship with the reader or with the consumer. The question is, what would your customers expect from you when you are making decisions about how to use that data.”

The way that data-driven advertising has been powered for the last decades is flawed. It is important for every company to figure out how to deal with the data they’re collecting and how to use it responsibly. And it’s not all about collecting as much data as you can but to collect the right data.

“Just because you can do it doesn't mean that you should. At Ozone, we think about that kind of concept quite a lot. You know there's an awful lot of data out there, but not all of it is necessarily appropriate to use. And we think very carefully about the idea of data ethics.”

Data ethics is a good point. We must not not forget that consumers are part of the ecosystem too. When they hand over their data, they are placing trust in that company to protect and safeguard that data. Unfortunately, there have been too many cases of data misuse and leakages, which have eroded consumer trust. It is on the industry as a whole to create a better future.

“We have a collective responsibility to grow and maintain a sustainable media ecosystem. This idea of a sort of collective ownership of that responsibility is quite important. [...] Ridding our industry of unhelpful ad tech metrics will begin to go a long way. [...] A commitment to focus on quality rather than low-value inventory across the open web, which, as we know, is just beset with problems, ad fraud, etc. It's all possible if we collectively agree we want to do better than we did yesterday. We should all push back on those who say it isn't possible and probably question their agenda.”

Well said. But as always, it is easier said than done. There are still some challenges ahead.

“For as long as we still have third-party cookies, nothing's going to change. [...] In theory, we've been preparing for a very long time, but we've not had to put anything really into practice in a kind of urgent way because we can still use third-party cookies as an industry. And so I think one of our problems is the lack of urgency. [...] We sort of have these peaks and troughs in terms of the industry getting together and trying to solve the problem, and then it gets kicked down the road again, and then we go back to old ways. And so I'm excited about when it finally happens because we can start talking about putting in place all of the new ideas.”

Absolutely. While some companies are adapting by testing new solutions, others are moving with a great deal of inertia. Despite third-party cookies already providing a limited playground (IAB State of Data 2022 states the market has already lost 50-60% of the signal fidelity from third-party identifiers), some companies still rely on third-party cookies. It is, as Dora said, missing that urgency to start today rather than waiting for others to make the first step. 

“There's still a lot of unknowns. But I don't think we should be waiting for Google. [...] There should be a great deal more collaboration and conversation. But it also comes back to balancing the short-term with the long-term. We've all got such pressing things that we need to achieve, and it can be very difficult sometimes to sort of take stock and look long-term. But it's certainly going to be worth it in the long run.”

It's evident that technology is constantly evolving, with major influences coming from industry giants like Apple and Google. While these transformations pose substantial challenges for the media industry, it's essential to view them as catalysts for innovation and progress rather than obstacles. And it’s also about that collaboration and the collective responsibility to shape a better future we all are working towards.

“I think that regulation and consumer expectations will get more stringent. I think that we will look back at some of the things we've done in the past. [...] Some of the things that we do today or have done in the past won't be acceptable in five to ten years' time from a privacy perspective. [...] There'll be a way in which consumers have far greater control of their data and how their data is used. I think that technology will innovate and it will solve some of those use cases, which will give consumers far greater control in how their data is used, and what it's used for, and they'll begin to be quite discerning in terms of the brands that they want to work with on that kind of direct one-to-one basis, and I think that will be a really interesting space as it emerges.”

The industry listening to and focusing more on the consumers and their needs is something we would really love to see. And there are already lots of technologies and companies doing exactly that. The consumer will be an integral part of shaping how companies operate in the future, and they’re already impacting companies today. Not only when it comes to privacy, but also other issues such as sustainability which is such an important thing to consider. The Ozone Project is one of these companies already working on resolving that issue.

“I think that as an industry, we've woken up quite recently to our impact on the climate crisis. I've learned a huge amount in the last six months. I'm responsible for sustainability and our strategy in that space at Ozone, so I've had to quite quickly learn things and you know, ideas and concepts that I simply just didn't know enough about before. [...] We've launched something called Ecozone. Ecozone is a measurement tool that we've launched already for advertisers which shows the carbon impact of any given campaign so we provide that data as part of a post-campaign report back to advertisers and agencies.”

This is amazing to hear, and even better to see that it is actually helping reduce the carbon footprint of campaigns. 

“We're focused on reducing carbon at a per-bid request level. So we've seen a year-on-year decline in carbon of 68% from 2021 through to 2022, and we're focused on the same thing on achieving even more gains if we can this year, so a lot of work is happening. We’re individually responsible and all collectively responsible. And we should do it transparently and collaboratively. That's my view; that's how we do it as an industry. Together.”

We can all work on shaping a better future, and what better way to do that than together. 

Thanks, Dora, for the chat!