Power to the Publisher: Data Theft – Attribution as Well as Retargeting

A brilliant article in the blog Exchange Wire entitled “Cookie Directive: How To Kill Off European Publishers While Giving a Monster Monopoly a Competitive Advantage” recently made me think about a publisher’s data strategy having to plan not just for collection and targeting, but measurement and attribution.  A lot of conversations in the industry now are giving attention to the idea of data theft from publishers – at eXelate we’ve built a tool called DataShield to help publishers see what third-party tags are loading on their site.  DataShield keeps a log of these alerts – not just spot-checking for theft with tools like Fiddler or Firebug – and allows publishers to audit what partners are firing through their ad units, social media widgets, etc.

But potential collection of data for re-targeting is only one threat to the publisher’s business; another threat might be more alarming: in some cases, marketers are attributing results of their campaigns based on post-view conversion tracking.  During my time at Advertising.com, we saw a cannibalization of some CPA campaigns when publishers had hard-coded textlinks or 120×60 buttons that cookie those consumers with the same advertiser.  The consumer may have clicked on the 300×250 Vonage ad we served, but they may not have converted immediately…if they returned to Vonage later and signed up, the most recent pixel might have been the textlink in their web email service, even though the user didn’t look at or click on that placement.

Now that Google and Facebook tags are increasing on publisher pages, publishers are no longer asking visitors to login – “I don’t want to know anything about my visitors, but I want Facebook to know everything about them” – and the way that marketers are attributing results to a campaign are going to be skewed to the pixel rather than the environments that offered the best placements, ad formats and creative that drove meaningful interactions.

Publishers need to compete in the attribution battle, and ask the advertiser if they’re going to be evaluated on metrics like post-view conversions.  Publishers are spending a tremendous amount of time producing valuable content to draw visitors, offering high engagement ad units and highly targeted audience segments – in short, creating premium ad placements that should be measured with effectiveness studies like Nielsen NetEffect that dig deeper into online media consumption and offline purchases.  Are publishers asking themselves how their advertisers are measuring campaign effectiveness?

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