Why should publishers care about data clean rooms?

Are data clean rooms (DCRs) a fad or a significant factor in the cookieless future? Optable’s chief strategy officer, Vlad Stesin, says that it’s the latter, but that DCRs offer so much more.

By Vlad Stesin

Why should publishers care about data clean rooms?
Photograph: Phil on Unsplash.

Any significant new technology goes through the same cycle – the early hype, the initial misconceptions, the debates around readiness and maturity, the all-important question of timing. But while some new technologies attempt to give us something we didn’t realise we wanted, with the aim of slicing into a market that was jogging along fine without them, others have the advantage of answering a pressing need.

That is why media eyes have lately turned, with great curiosity and heightened expectation, towards data clean rooms. As brands and media owners contemplate a looming world of first-party data, without third-party cookies to guide their insights, their targeting, campaign activation, measurement and trading, they know they need a new technological solution for data collaboration, and data clean rooms look like they might be it.

Of course they have questions to ask: does this technology bring real value? Is it simply a fad? Is it in fact the right solution at just the right moment?

Let’s take a look at why the timing is right for this technology:

  • We are in the midst of the gradual (and eventually sudden) deprecation of public identifiers such as third-party cookies and MAIDs. We all know this by now, just as we know that, alongside undoubted opportunities, it leaves glaring holes in the execution of digital marketing. Marketers need a cookieless, privacy-centric means to generate insights, onboard audience data and activate and measure campaigns with media partners. Media owners need to assemble insights and audiences and help brand partners address those audiences in a privacy-compliant fashion.
  • To further complicate matters, digital marketers and publishers are confronted with a legislative Rubik’s Cube that now requires traceability, a purpose-driven approach and software that can guarantee privacy, security and trust. When the loss of any one of those is a catastrophic event, this is no place for inferior solutions.
  • In response to these events, forward-looking publishers increasingly see themselves as aspiring walled gardens. Initially, Big Tech walled gardens such as Google and Facebook cornered the market in data clean room offerings, but publishers, the guardians of the web’s quality content, have gradually recognised that they have much to contribute. They have the ability to develop valuable first-party data strategies, but as we mentioned above, they need ways to safely, securely, ‘privacy-consciously’ make this data usable for advertising.

Good data clean rooms answer these needs and address the complex issues around them, offering security, privacy, audience assembly, first-party identity resolution and frictionless, open-source collaboration. But it would also be a mistake to regard data clean rooms as simply a means to mend broken processes, when in fact they offer numerous upgrades to what was there before, both in terms of consumer privacy and genuine utility.

Under the regime of the third-party cookie, digital marketing became an auction of an increasingly expensive kind. But in reality, most brands are not interested in out-bidding their competitors for leads - they want to create a competitive advantage of their own. Since all marketers get access to the same “stuff” in their buying platforms, what can publishers do to differentiate themselves?

A full-stack data clean room is built for marketers above all, and offers a real-world solution to marketers’ problems. Using data clean rooms, publishers can now offer brands discovery and access to secure operations for planning, activation and measurement around consented audience data.

In our world, data clean rooms are not just for data onboarding, or finding new routes to the old solutions. Yes, data clean rooms can help to fix the problem of the disintegrating cookie-based system, and in that sense, they are a new technology that answers a burning need. But in the process they also offer solutions to nagging, less-discussed problems for marketers and media owners alike.

So, while some will tell you that data clean rooms are here to build a work-around in the cookieless ecosystem, we think DCRs exist to amplify the value of first-party data by turning this data into a competitive advantage for brands. That’s the opportunity this new technology offers. And when you look at it like that, maybe data clean rooms aren’t exactly what you’ve been told they were.

DCRs exist to amplify the value of first-party data by turning this data into a competitive advantage.

About us

Optable is a SaaS data collaboration platform that is optimised for the modern day marketer. Data sovereignty is a priority for today’s brands and publishers alike, Optable addresses the need for a new generation of privacy-preserving data connectivity software. Created by a trio of ad-tech industry veterans, Optable is built on a decentralised architecture and uses advanced cryptography and differential privacy to enable all parties to match audience data in a way that is safe, secure and compliant. Optable clients can collaborate with their partners to plan, execute and analyse digital marketing campaigns.