Therran Oliphant, EssenceMediacom: “Go the farthest we can”

“Go the farthest we can”

For the last few years, we’ve faced significant changes and challenges. However, one thing has been a constant topic throughout this transition: Third-party cookies. Looking towards 2024, cookies will finally (hopefully) be sunset, and the industry can focus its full attention on creating a better future for the first-party data era, when finally, consumer privacy will be a priority - as it always should have been. 

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum's VP, Corporate Marketing, Ben Cicchetti, sat down with Therran Oliphant, SVP, Head of Data & Technology NA at EssenceMediacom, to discuss privacy, first-party data, interoperability, and more.

“What you do have to do is understand what is your guiding principle, what is your footprint, and then I would say do something that will allow you to take control of your own data. Too many companies have continued to seed control over to other organizations. [...] Talking to the brands today, make sure that you're implementing things like server-side technologies, the data collection and storage mechanisms that allow you to control and don't just let someone stick some Javascript on your site and pull all your data and take the value of your consumers from you. That is the big impetus behind getting rid of third-party cookies.”

Understanding and coming to terms with your guiding principles is one of the major first steps towards a cookieless future. To build a robust first-party data strategy, you need to figure out what data you have today, what data you’ll need tomorrow, and how this data will power your marketing strategies, including insight, planning, activation, and measurement. 

“If you can't properly measure your marketing, then you're already behind. So, we want to make sure that we're collecting the conversions that are marketing-driven and making decisions off of that. Collect your data and store it in a location but someplace that will allow you to categorize that information. And put customers into some sort of understandable segmentation or at least buckets that the marketer can use and then finally partner with organizations like clean rooms to be able to interact with the ecosystem.”

That’s great advice. However, there are still organizations out there that fully rely on third-party cookies. It is hard to let go of something that has lasted this long if it makes life easier. Unfortunately, the organizations operating within this comfort zone will only cause more significant headaches for themselves further down the line.

“The industry is almost like a macrocosm of the individual in that oftentimes when there's a level of comfortability, there has to be some sort of push. And there also needs to be clear value that comes from making a change, and until people see that value, i.e., businesses in this context, they will not make that change, right. [...] I truly believe that showing the performance capabilities of privacy-enhancing technologies will move us much faster. There will be some velocity finally to moving toward getting off of third-party cookies or the broader value-add of respecting privacy while still utilizing consumer data to drive marketing.”

That's so true, and it's a change we've seen in the market, talking about the need for greater privacy protection and greater security, which is foundational to who we are as a company. But it’s also about the performance data clean rooms and privacy-enhancement technology can deliver - of which now there is plenty of evidence to show that first-party data performs exceptionally well.

“That’s a great point. [...] If I put a technology in front of one of my brands, they could care less how cool it is. Their first question is, will this beat my benchmarks? Will this meet the KPIs I have set? Can this help me extend the objectives of this particular campaign or larger marketing capability that I'm trying to drive? And we oftentimes will have to try to figure out how to communicate that. But if it comes as part of the package, it's not just the technology, it's not just the coolness of the wiz-bang, but it's also the capability to meet the business needs of our marketing partners.”

So true. We need to look at it from both sides - performance and ethics. And speaking of ethics, I think we can all agree that how data-driven advertising has worked up until now has been flawed. And it is up to each and every one of us to rebuild the foundation of digital advertising to create a better future.

Suppose we can all work together and work collectively to rebuild the industry. In that case, we will all see success as technology providers, marketers, media owners and agencies, and everyone in between. And one important component to accomplish this is trust.

“There's got to be trust. Ultimately, trust is the big thing that clean rooms provide because you are an agnostic technology that enables collaboration. And collaboration still has a certain level of obfuscation that we can enjoy the use of that data without giving up the trust of somebody taking advantage of our uniqueness.”

That makes total sense, and trust is a pivotal topic in the industry. Another one that comes up is interoperability. 

“Interoperability means we figure out a way to speak the same language whether it's the fact that we do speak the same language, we use a rosetta stone, we use math as the language. Whatever it is. We have to figure out how to translate your understanding of the world to my understanding of the world. [...] All of us need to be willing to figure out how we will create a level of interoperability that allows the full chain to work because the old saying goes, ‘your chain is as strong as your weakest link,’ and we can't have anybody in that chain be weak. When it comes to the collaboration that's required and also the support for utilizing data at every level to build up data-driven advertising is a capability.”

Another discussion that’s come up over the past few years, not just for data clean rooms but also for measurement, retail media, and others, is standards, which is easier said than done.

“That means you have to get organizations with competing priorities regarding what they want included in those standards to agree on something, and that requires a lot of intentional conversation and also the ability to be conciliatory and say, you know in this area, you've got a better solution, in that area I've got a better solution and we all figure out how to go forward together.”

We could not agree more. It all comes down to working together.

“I think, as the old proverb goes, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. And I think we need to be very intentional about that, that we have to figure out a way to come together to go the farthest that we can go and I think we will, but we have to get over this idea of control begets ah profitability or um, me reaching my goals better. You may reach them faster, but you won't reach them better. You won't go farther.” 

So true. Thanks, Therran, for the chat!