Samantha Jacobson, The Trade Desk: “The onus is on all of us”

“The onus is on all of us”

The advertising industry is at an important inflection point. The emergence of new channels such as Connected TV, retail media, audio, and gaming, combined with a global focus on consumer privacy means the industry needs to reinvent itself. But this is easier said than done, and will require action by everyone. Where can we look for inspiration? One company that is helping to lead the charge is The Trade Desk.

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum’s Chief Operating Officer, Lauren Wetzel, sat down with Samantha Jacobson, Chief Strategy Officer at The Trade Desk, to discuss the open internet, identity, first-party data, Connected TV, retail media, and more.

“I think we just have such an opportunity ahead of us to change the ecosystem. Advertising has been around for ages and ages and ages. I think that advertising layered with technology gives us the opportunity to make consumers' lives better and I think it's up to us to embrace that, to take risks, to reimagine what the world can look like and to lean into it collectively. Because no one company is going to be able to do it alone. So I think it takes that collaboration and that coalition. But I also hope we don't fuck it up.”

Music to our ears. On one hand, there has been considerable upheaval in the advertising industry driven predominately by rising privacy legislation and the sunsetting of third-party cookies. But on the flip side, the industry has been handed a golden ticket to a much better future, one that prioritizes consumer privacy, transparency, and trust. 

“The onus is on all of us. [...] I think we all need to feel a sense of responsibility because if we have a perspective of like it’s not my problem someone else is going to fix it for me I think that's when we'll run into trouble. [...] I think instead it needs to be a bigger picture of what is the most effective path forward for consumers. How can we build an ecosystem focused on transparency, focused on choice, focused on access, and I think if we start with those core tenants and build around it we'll end up in a much better place, but it will take participation and collaboration from everyone which may be more uncomfortable for some than others.”

We couldn’t agree more. Collectively as an industry, we need to hold ourselves responsible and take action to prioritize consumer needs and privacy. In addition, modern consumer behavior and the way in which they consume content has changed significantly over the last few years. The emergence of new channels such as streaming, audio, and gaming, require a different approach to data-driven advertising.

“Cookies are being used for a purpose that is different than what they were intended for. The reality is that consumer behavior has drastically evolved. [...] For the most part, it's streaming, different audio offerings, or playing on particular apps, or watching television, and none of those places have cookies present. So I think first and foremost it's how can we reimagine what the world should look like but [...] in order for that world to work, we need some sort of connective tissue to understand consumer identity.”

As the industry moves away from third-party cookies and other perishable identifiers, we need new solutions and approaches to identity, and there won’t be a silver bullet for everything.

“The open internet is kind of coalescing around the value and persistence of email addresses while still giving consumers transparency and choice. [...] But I also don't think it needs to be the only offering so we're big proponents of there is not going to be one solution to rule them all, and instead companies need to have interoperable technology. We recognize there's going to be a handful of IDs” 

The combination of identity, data, and technology is a powerful combination for marketers, leading to exciting new opportunities across data-rich channels. Take Connected TV for example, marketers now have a vast selection of targeting options at their disposal and can utilize data from multiple sources to deliver personalized ads that just aren’t possible with linear TV.

“With connected television when you can tailor your ad to that particular person across so many things beyond just demographics [...]. So the consumer experience is better because ads are cut down significantly, and the ads enrich their lifestyle”

With all this change it can be overwhelming for brands. Where can organizations start, what can they do now to prepare for the future?

“I really do just encourage them to start someplace right? So start now. [...] When you think about the silos of information that exist within many of these large companies, I always find it so surprising when they say “well we use four different cloud service providers and six different systems for operation” and that I think is a huge value add that InfoSum can provide to so many of these different companies in terms of let us help you pull your data into one place. [...] So I think this view of how do I as a company pull together my data? How do I do it in an organized manner so that I can understand what's there? How can I use my dialogue with my consumer to my advantage to explain what I'm doing to leverage and preserve the trust that they've put into me as a brand and then as I'm able to activate it, of course, how can I measure that performance.” 

As Samantha explains, the foundation of a robust data strategy is to first get your house in order, by bringing together disparate datasets internally and understanding the data you have today. From there you can build out your data network by identifying strategic partners that have access to the data you need for your use cases.

“What we see, and I'm sure you all see this as well, is that first-party data performs really, really well. I think there's a lot of other assets available when we look at the emergence of retail data or other offerings that also can complement that, but I see it as a tool in a brand's arsenal that they should use but that they need to protect because their consumer data is their crown jewel.”

Absolutely, while first-party data is an organization’s most prized asset, it’s through data collaboration that the true power of this data is unlocked. It’s clear to see with the explosion of retail media, where retailers have made their first-party shopper data available to brands. But it’s also vital organizations invest in technology to protect the privacy and commercial value of that data while collaborating.

“I am really excited about the role that retail data is playing in this evolution. I think that retailers have historically focused on their on-site business when they look at how to monetize their inventory or apply their data to very controlled pockets of inventory and now we're seeing that being unleashed. They recognize that buyers want to understand how consumers are behaving across all of these outlets. [...] I know that retail media is such a hot buzzword but I do think that the intersection of the scaled assets they have, the sophistication, and data capture, coupled with the consumer privacy and that direct consumer relationship for a more transparent engagement will be one of the most important levers as we think about offerings going forward.”

Thanks, Samantha, for the chat!