What Are the Prospects of the IAB’s ‘Great Collab’?

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Last week, the IAB played host to the industry’s largest gathering since Google time-called on third-party cookies in its market-leading Chrome web browser.

In conference rooms at the luxurious JW Marriott hotel in sunny Palm Desert, the IAB and IAB Tech Lab outlined proposals for the industry to pursue whereby they could seek alternatives to aid online ad targeting in a post-cookie world.

As the industry is about to pull the old blow-in-the-cartridge Nintendo trick to restart itself, there has been some degree of confusion, debate and dissent as to what this reboot looks like. With a 2022 deadline, what is clear is that there is much more work to be done ahead of then.

The way forward?

Dubbed ‘Project Rearc,’ the trade org called for industrywide collaboration to offer media buyers a first-party data-based alternative to the walled gardens. This reportedly involves the trade org seeking the support of the Association of National Advertisers and 4A’s as well as an attempt to educate the public on the mechanics of online advertising.

The proposals discussed included the potential of using consumer-provided identifiers, such as hashed email addresses obtained by a brand or a publisher, which cannot be reverse-engineered to reveal PII and clearly indicates a users’ privacy preferences. This identifier can then only be accessed by verified third parties which have signed up to a code of conduct and are open to external audit, for the purposes of addressable advertising.

Uncertainty remains

The fate of these proposals remains unclear. The fact that a multitude of parties whose interests and philosophies may not necessarily be aligned brings with it some difficulties that have to be traversed. For example, voices in the publishing industry were quick to raise concerns that the proposed industry standards may favor ad-tech vendors to the detriment of the publishers.

Meanwhile, Google is mooting its Privacy Sandbox initiative, an attempt to solve the post-cookie issue in its Chrome browser, but equally few details of that scheme are currently clear. Many fear its proposals will favor Google’s own ad stack, despite its protestations; hence the online advertising industry’s major trade and tech standards body is calling for “the great collab,” which will require global participation with publishers as a linchpin to the success of the initiative.

Better together?

U.S. publishers and ad-tech companies have collaborated to counter the seemingly inevitable rise of walled gardens in the past. For instance, DCN-owned TrustX is the result of a collaboration between the outfit and Iponweb.

However, although the prospect of combining the contextual quality and mass-market reach in a publisher alliance may sound ideal for media buyers, such initiatives have a checkered history. Concerns over the potential for data leakage plus historical rivalries between publishers that have competed for ad dollars, cover sales and editorial content have caused complications for years.

Despite this, operations like these now appear to be gaining traction in the market. Take the European netID Foundation in Germany, Gravity Alliance in France and The Ozone Project in the U.K. for example.

According to industry experts, the increasing dominance of walled gardens has led to a renewed willingness among publishers to embrace a collective approach, especially in the balkanized markets of Europe and APAC.

Fabien Magalon, managing director of Gravity Alliance, told Adweek, “The concept is now well understood, but of course the devil is in the detail. … Some publishers will always be selective in their alliances, but the mentality has changed because of the increased pressures of the market.”

Trusted partners?

Maintaining the integrity and security of publisher data, as well as consumer privacy preferences, is crucial to any future great collaboration.

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