Jessica Goodfellow
May 5, 2021

Publishers most confident in their post-cookie outlook

Results from a comprehensive survey studying preparedness for a cookie-less, privacy-first industry reveal much higher levels of confidence among publishers versus agencies. Digital leaders at the BBC and SCMP give their thoughts.

Publishers most confident in their post-cookie outlook

As the online advertising industry remodels to put consumer privacy front-and-centre, publishers, as the gatekeepers of the customer relationship, are taking on a much larger role. Publishers are responsible for gaining user consent which powers a large portion of the new currency of online advertising, chiefly identity solutions. They also have troves of first party data they can cut into segments to provide targeting solutions for advertisers.

So it's perhaps not surprising that publishers are the most confident in their preparedness for a post-cookie world, according to the findings of a comprehensive survey into the privacy practices and attitudes of brands, publishers and agencies in Asia-Pacific, conducted by Campaign Asia-Pacific, Forrester and the World Federation of Advertisers.

The survey, revealed on Tuesday (May 4) at the ongoing Campaign360 2021 conference, found that nearly a third (29%) of publishers believe that they can provide their clients with everything they need to balance consumer privacy and personalised advertising, compared to only 11% of media agencies.


Campaign conducted qualitative research with major publishers the BBC and the South China Morning Post, to understand what might be fuelling publisher attitudes.

Ian Hocking, VP of digital at South China Morning Post, explains that publishers have more experience managing data on behalf of clients.

“Publishers have been at the front line of regulation for many years as data controllers and the owner of the user relationship, where historically, advertising agencies rarely held their clients’ first-party data, for privacy reasons,” he says. The survey revealed that 71% of advertisers’ first-party data is managed in-house.

Publishers who invest in first-party data enrichment and segmentation could profit from the demise of third-party cookies. Nearly half (47%) of publishers who participated in the survey said they had introduced more advertising options amidst the push to privacy and the demise of cookies. Nearly a third (29%) have incorporated a stricter registration wall to gather more audience data, and 18% have increased the price of CPMs now that they have richer audience data/targeting.

Hocking says: "There will be opportunities for scaled publishers with developed first-party identities and unique data segments to offer value-added services to clients that want to access audiences, match IDs or maintain measurement capabilities."

Neil Bowman, VP of advertising technology at BBC Global News, adds: "Publishers that adapt to the new audience-targeting landscape will be in charge of their own data and thus be best placed to offer solutions to advertisers. If third-party verification does not work, the challenge becomes how to offer efficiency to advertisers in a world where they cannot get their entire campaign performance across the web in one place."

It’s not all good news, Hocking warns. Publishers are expecting open-marketplace yield to decline, as advertisers find it harder to value audiences and create the kind of buying efficiencies they are used to.

Furthermore, not all publishers have the necessary resources to invest in such solutions. Lack of sufficient resources emerged as the top challenge for organisations when it comes to consumer data privacy, cited by 41% of total respondents. Publishers have an especially heavy burden, as they are responsible for managing a direct relationship with consumers and collecting consent on behalf of advertising partners.

“It can feel like a tall mountain to climb when you first set your sights on transitioning to a first-party data and identity path,” says Hocking.

Bowman advises: “To help resolve this issue, user privacy should be ingrained in a digital operation, just like user experience. If organisations become privacy first/forward, the operational burden becomes easier to solve.”

This is just a snapshot of the comprehensive survey. The full survey will be downloadable for attendees of Campaign360 2021, and will be available for Campaign Asia-Pacific members. If you haven't already registered for Campaign360, you can do so here. To get access to Campaign's member-only research, become a member here.

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