Required Viewing: Exploiting Publishers, Strip Mining Data
We recently came across this discussion from the OMMA Behavioral Conference earlier this year. Our friend Chris Hart at The New York Times (NYT.com) shared it with us, and we encourage everyone to watch it.
The full video runs a bit under an hour and contains a wide-ranging discussion of behavioral targeting and data collection practices, but one exchange is particularly important. Excerpts from that exchange are outlined below, and the full video is embedded at the end of this post.
Forward to 26:20 to hear Mike Venables, a group director at Neo@Ogilvy, explain how his company is collecting publisher data for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost. In an unusually candid moment, an agency shares exactly how they prey upon publishers and website operators to gather critical consumer data for their own benefit without transparency or fair compensation.
"Publishers out there might want to go earmuffs on this one [Mike puts his hands over his ears]… If you're going direct to a publisher for a content buy and you're seeing great results, well, how do you leverage that audience? Maybe you buy the homepage for a day, put a retargeting pixel on the creative, and then all of a sudden you've got a bucket of that site's users to go after for ten cents on the dollar in your retargeting pools… That may come to a head, but that's having a major effect on how we're making our publishing buys at this point."
This quote perfectly illustrates the brazen attitude of many agencies, DSPs, trading desks, and market middlemen. It also perfectly underscores the importance of data protection for any publisher or website operator who relies on advertising and data dollars to keep the lights on. Simply put, one cannot monetize an asset that is not under full control. And one cannot control an asset that is being skimmed and stolen a speckle at a time. (Incidentally, It was for just this reason that Data Sentry was the first platform module Krux released as we rolled out our CIDM platform last year.)
Now forward to 40:42, where Chris Hart at The New York Times (NYT.com) asks Mike a pointed question:
"[A publisher's] greatest asset is the audience, an audience that's attracted to the content that they're producing… Are you being transparent with [the publisher] at the start of the buy… about what that homepage is going to do for you, and are you compensating the publisher for the data being collected, not just the ad space that they're selling?…"
Chris then makes a remark about whether or not agencies are “biting the hand that feeds…”
Specifically, listen on for Mike's candid response about how his agency was feeling no pressure from clients to disclose how their data is being leveraged. Further, only when directly challenged were they transparent about those practices. Kudos to Mike for being so forthright, but it’s worrisome to see how matter-of-fact his disclosure is.
Today, publishers need to remove the “earmuffs.” These data skimming practices are commonplace, and the underlying value of first party media and data is being eroded with every day that passes. The risk posed to P&Ls is real, through price erosion, smaller budgets, and missed RFPs. Further, the publishers' consumer relationships are also put at risk given the growing global focus on internet privacy. Krux research from September 2010 went long on this topic, viewable here.
The good news is that simple steps can go a long way, such as introducing firm data riders into media buy Ts & Cs, and then giving those terms 'teeth' by monitoring data collection (and, in the case of Data Sentry adopters, actually blocking unwanted activity as it happens).
But what's important is that publishers and website operators do something before it's too late. The time is now to rise up, change the dialogue, and exert greater control. We’re in Chris’ corner, to be sure. Will you join us?