GrowthSeptember 07, 2022

Connected, by mParticle Episode 8: The death of the cookie with Sean Oakley

In this episode we sit down with Sean Oakley of NBCUniversal to discuss the history of online advertising.

On this episode of Connected, we sit down with Sean Oakley, Director of Data Product Management at NBCUniversal, for an enlightening conversation about the history of online advertising. We also discuss some of the major shifts taking place in the industry (hint: it's got something to do with cookies) and how organizations can drive high performance ad programs while also respecting consumer privacy.

Visit our Connected by mParticle hub to listen to all previous episodes and subscribe on the podcast platform of your choice.




Abhi: Sean, thank you so much for making the time to, to jump on the on the pod today. I know this is this is an episode that's not only timely, but you know, you're someone of want to want to get on for a while. So, so really appreciate your time. 

Thanks for having me. 

I mean, I guess maybe a, a good place to, to start would be to turn it over to you,  to give a little introduction about yourself and sort of what you, what you do. 

Sean: Sure.  so I'm Sean Oakland, I think, as you already said and I lead the ad tech practice at peacock NBC peacock streaming service for peacock,  interest.

I have a kind of interesting career trajectory where I came out of media buying. So I spent years in client and agency side buying media. And then I think over the years, I still transitioned into more of the ad tech side. And,  when people asked me why I think it was always kind of the same use case, I was always trying to build consumer journeys or build these interesting touch points.

And it always drove me back into the [00:01:00] tech to be able to have to do all that. And so over the years I just picked up a lot of the tech as I went.  and then as the industry evolved in general, I just, I ended up migrating fully into the ad tech side and I don't buy media anymore.  and then also coincidentally of few years back, I guess a little bit more than a few at this I started working at HBO, running their ad tech and their,  audience targeting.

And, and that was my first foray into the streaming world. And so since then, I've, I've got a good five years of experience in streaming too, which is a whole other interesting set of complexities when it comes to ad tech and, and using data in general. But I guess that would be my quick elevator pitch of a, of an intro.

Abhi: Sure, sure. Well, listen, I, I know yeah, I, I set you up for that. Cause I think there's a lot of meeting topics in in that sort of intro. So Sean, the, the reason I was so fascinated to have you on is because, you know, in your time, I think you've seen, and particularly when we talk about like a tech media buying,  [00:02:00] and really this just extends to like how a brand

like an HBO or, a peacock can, can really connect and reach out and engage with their customers. I mean, a big. Technical component of this is, of the cookie. Right. And I, I know, one of the things you were on record saying a couple years ago is, you know, the, the Cookie's dying

that there's sort of an another,  you know, that, that we gotta sort of figure this out and yeah, that this idea of having this, kind of free us and,  you know, third party, rich third party data set to actually engage and, and understand your users is probably something that's gonna gonna be harder and harder to come by.

I know I'm geeking out, we both work in this space, but. Can we just take, like for the thousand foot view of this, could you set the table a bit on, you know, what do we mean by a cookie?  a cookie going away and sort of, what is the overarching impact that has on, brands and advertising at large.

Sean: Sure. I was actually thinking about that in the shower this morning, [00:03:00] because I getting ready for, to speak with you.

I tend to a lot of times dive right into the technicals part and, and, and forget to kind of go through the bigger picture. But I guess what I take us back to is let's think about the world before digital, right? So if you think of like, Old school, linear advertising, where you would have target audiences that you wanted to reach and you would buy TV ads or radio ads or print.

Um, and you would kind of blast out those ads and hit everybody. And, and you're hoping that a portion of the people that you're targeting are within your, your segmented audience. You're you're target audiences that you're trying to reach.  there were two problems with that. Number one was measurement, right?

Like it was all very old school measurement in terms of, I should say old school, but it was more of the control exposed groups. And, and that's how you were really gazing measurement back in those days, or looking at reach numbers or so on and so forth. But it was really hard and, and a linear advertising world to be able to track an impression or an exposure down to a converse.

And,  and the second side was, there's a lot of waste, right? So as you're, [00:04:00] you know, let's say you were buying a specific TV slot, let's say the eight o'clock spot at, on Thursday nights on a certain show. Well, there's. You're targeting that slot because you're hitting people who are in your target audience, but there's also a lot of people who aren't in your target audience.

So it's it's waste, right? Mm-hmm so you're, you're spending a lot of money to hit like a portion of your audience, but you're also hitting a lot of people who aren't in your audience.  and then kind of tertiary on the third. I would say that you're also bugging a lot of people with ads that aren't relevant to them.

Right? Mm-hmm so that's old linear world. Well, as you go into digital, there was a lot of promises of digital, right?  a lot of this is that you get more relevant ads exposed to you.  measurement should be better because we should be able to track better. What you've, what, what ad impressions you've been exposed to, or, or have likely been exposed to, and then be able to track that to a, to an online conversion.

And as the industry progressed into, off on conversions too.  and then also when you get into like programmatic ad buying and you really have more, you're limiting some of that wasted [00:05:00] impressions because you're really only serving ads to the people who fall within your target audiences.  and really, if you think about it that way, like how the world evolved, the cookie was one of the core components of that.

And so, you know, we focus a lot on cookies, but really what ad tech or what tech does in the digital world is try to leverage our first party data to inform better media buying,  across the stack, our, into the ad platforms. Yep. So with the co and the cookies were really a foundational piece of that, right?

So you have these anonymous cookies. A pixel, when you, when you see an ad on a site that pixel's firing off and creating a cookie in your browser, and then whenever you go and you complete a conversion accent on a website that floodlight isn't interacting with the cookie in your browser, and that's, you're, you're tying the pieces together, right?

That's from a measurement perspective. And then from a targeting perspective, inside of the exchange between the SP and the DS P there's information being sent back from the publisher side about what, what demographics, or what type of audience [00:06:00] segments you fall into,  when that impression bid comes up, and then on the advertiser side, the demand side, you have advertisers who have already set up line items.

You go after certain target demographics or target audiences.  and it let to know whether or not you fall into that. And so a lot of that is all the cookie. That's how that was all structured. 

Abhi: Well, and Sean, I guess that's one. And, you know, I mean, just for my own clarification to make sure we're on the same, same page on this, when we're talking about cookies in, in the context of what you just said there, I think the key is, is sort of digital evolved, right?

And we were sort of in, you could argue if we're still in the heyday, but you know, sort of the heyday of, of, of digital and programmatic ad buying, I think a lot of the power, right. In being able to make sure that the relevant ad and the absolute right target groups are being hit, you know, sort of on a, ideally a sort of a, a person to person basis, fundamentally the way that worked.

Right. And this is I think, where, and we can get into this, but the distinction between like a third party [00:07:00] cookie, and you know what we're talking about in terms of first party data and cookies, what a third party cookie allowed, you know, a, a brand or an advertiser to do is see. That user's journey, not only across like properties and sites and things they own, but also kind of what they were doing largely across the web.

Right. And so the idea, and am I right there, I wanted you to sort of expand upon sort of that difference. 

Sean: So there's a lot of different varieties of third party cookies out there.  some are just data collectors and are doing exactly what you're talking about. Yep. But you're really the third party cookies.

When we talk about what Chrome's announced and what's gonna happen next year, Chrome is I think the easiest way to explain it would be let's look at retargeting for example. Right. So I go to, let's just take any, I recently bought a house, so I go to home Depot a lot to the website a lot.

So I go to home Depot. I start looking at drills. I don't purchase anything at that moment. There's a cookie being stored in, in, in my [00:08:00] browser.  and it's typically going to be a third party cookie,  that home depots put on their site tags for let's say like a CRI CRI is a great example, cause they're a huge retargeting yep.

Platform. And that cookie has stored in my browser that I was looking at drill, therefore when go out other sites. You, and, and I think a lot of listeners will know this experience, right? It's an experience. You go to other sites or you go to Facebook and then all of a sudden you're being hit with ads of all these four or five drills that you were looking at, trying to get you to come back in and buy them.

Um, and that's the classic example with third party cookie.  and again, in this case, I'm just using CRI as an example, cuz they're one of the most prolific retargeting platforms out there.  but that's how that all works. Right? So that cookie is firing off. When you, when you're, when a tag is firing off, when you're on the home Depot site and you didn't check out and then there's a cookie that has that information stored in your browser.

And then when you go out into other pub, so let's say I go to ESPN.  and I guess I see an ad for a bunch of, [00:09:00] to try to encourage me to come back and buy them. That's how. The publisher side on ESPN. That's how they know it's not really ESPN. It knows that it's a bid slot. It's that CRI knows that they know that I was looking at drills and, and how to serve me something.

Right. So the, the challenges, and I think one core distinction that we should make it between first party and third party cookies. And first party cookies are a cookies that have the, the, the host domain. Right? So if, if I'm on home And I, I, I actually don't know if they use GA or Adobe analytics, but analytics platforms, whether analytics platform they're using that Cookie's being generated off of the home URL.

So that's how that's, that's a first party cookie, right? A third party cookie is gonna have a Euro URL. That's different than what the domain you're on. So like a retarding cookie, a CRI for example.  and by the way, just full disclosure, I don't know if they've used cardio, obviously these as pure of 

Abhi: course, of course.

Yeah. Yeah. We're just, we're using, you know, common tools and, and technologies[00:10:00] for these examples. 

Sean: great.  so that cookie or that tag that's firing that cookie would have a third. It's not gonna be a home you all, it's gonna an advertising URL for the advertising platform, right.

And those third party cookies that they're talking about.  it's also worth noting. We're already in this world for anyone who's familiar with ITP 2.0, and what happened safari? I think that was like three years ago. You know, they started blocking third party cookies a while ago.  

Abhi: and well, Sean, where, where I wanna get.

And, and I think this is, you know, to me, this is like a, a pivotal, like, I'm I'm thinking about the time spent of the years and where we are now and where we were to the use case you just presented. There is just so powerful because, you know, in CRI or any other kind of,  retargeting platform, what you could effectively do in, in partnering with someone like this is, I may not have a direct right.

To going back to your example of ESPN and know anything about this user that's landing on my page. [00:11:00] However, because, and, and I think this is where the cookie is so powerful that cookie basically gives me a window into. Things that might be interesting outside of, any content I serve, a user that lands directly on my page,  to ultimately be able to, to tie back or use some of my,  my display right.

To advertise to them effectively. And I think that only happens because there is fundamentally this technology that is a third party cookie.  that's able to know right. That I was on home Depot, looking at drills, which has nothing to necessarily do with, with, you know, what I'm going to ESPN for.

Sean: Yeah. Precisely. I mean, being the geek that I am and a huge comic comic book geek, I always think of cookies as spider tracers.  mm-hmm, there just, there's just, there's something that keeps some of your behavior inside of your browser and then other whenever you go to publishers like that, information's accessible so that a relevant ad can be served to you based on [00:12:00] your past viewing behavior.


Abhi: Awesome. Awesome. No, and thank you. And, and I'm, I know we're really taking baby steps here and looking at a thousand foot due, but I think that was such a core critical part of how a multi multibillion dollar industry basically, you know, still does, but you know, really used to, to function right.

And to function effectively. And,  as you said, there were, you know, lots of organizations and, and, advertising technologies and things that sort of came up in this era that, that utilized this.  

Sean: well, I think it's also relevant. So the other use case that's really important too. And we, we can't lose sight of as a measurement side of it.

Mm. Right. And the measurement's really important. Right. And the way the measurement works is and this is where you get into like post click post view.  but let's say I see an I'm served. I never click on it. The moment that that ad is served to me, that, that, that pixel tag inside that ad is putting information into my browsers in a form of cookie.[00:13:00] 

And then let's say two weeks later, I go and purchase something from a website that, that ad had been shown to me before two weeks earlier.  and then there's a flood light and that checkout page. And when I hit go through that checkout confirmation, connecting with the information and my browser and that cookie and saying, okay, this per, you know, Sean was served an ad two weeks ago and saw that.

And that's how they're connecting the dots from a post view world where, where you're not actually interacting with ads. And we're trying to, trying to gauge exposures against conversions. And that's a really important piece of it too.  sure. And that's probably actually more, I, I mean, there are solutions and there's a lot of solutions being pitched by a lot of different platforms out there, but I, the measurement is, is a really big I just say vulnerability when cookies completely go away.

Abhi: Sure. Sure. And obviously measurement's important because, you know, if you're throwing, millions and millions of dollars into growing your audience, reengaging your existing audience, I mean, the, the first question with anything, right. When you, when you're testing something out is like, is what [00:14:00] I'm doing or what I'm spending money on actually effective.

Like what's my ROI for my investment. And, you can't do that without measurement.  okay. So Sean, this is great. So established,  you know, how this technology, dramatically changed and sort of built you know, a whole industry was sort of built around it, I guess.

And, and I promise we're gonna move all off of third party cookies in a bit. I, I wanna get to first party data, but and you hit on this a little bit, but. What's what's changed and maybe I'll have you pontificate a little bit of, of why. Why is the cookie dying, I guess is my question. 

Sean: So a few years back one of my good friends who did not go into advertising, he went into, into law. He's a lawyer. We're talking on the phone one day and he starts telling me, and this is why I actually brought up hem Depot. Cause it's it's.

I always remember this conversation and he's complaining to me that he had looked to a drill with him Depot and then all of a sudden he's getting all these ads and his [00:15:00] Facebook feed,  of drills that he should buy.  and he was really creeped out by it. And I think that was old to what drove this was that there was a, you know, there's, there's a bit of a misunderstanding from the consumer side about what is actually being collected.

What's not all they know is that they're seeing ads for something they were looking at at a separate site on Facebook. And it's a little bit creepy. And I think that was kind of the impetus for it. Mm-hmm  and really drove us down this road of more consumer privacy. And where is your data being shared?

Who's collecting your data, who's you leveraging your data?  because, and I get it. I mean, I look, I'm, I'm a geek, I'm completely in the weeds of this, so I understand the technology in and out, but if I wasn't in this industry and I'm just. Casually looking for drills one day on home Depot. And then all of a sudden I see a bunch of ads on all these different websites that are targeting me with these drills that I was looking at.

I can completely understand how that's creepy.  yeah, I'm sure you could too. It, it makes it feel like all my browsing behavior is just out there for anyone to collect and see and do with it. They want with it. [00:16:00]  so I think that was really the impetu of it. It, and I think there's more consumer awareness of where their data's being shared and, and who's collecting their data and, and what is their data being used for?

Um, so think that, that was the beginning of it. And then I think that we've seen this kind of re pivot where, you know, 10, 15 years ago when we were still in ad networks and really before the really mainstream adoption of DSPs, SPS and exchange is,  the world is pretty solid digital. So, and what I mean by that is.

If I bought, let's say, I, I served you an ad from, you know, across three different ad networks that I was buying inventory through. Yep. It would be hard for me to connect the dots between the three and say, okay, you know, you saw these three different impressions and then you purchased, what would typically happen is you would, each of the different ad networks would take credit for that conversion because they're, they're siloed.

Right? That's what the term are siloed. Over the years, we saw kind of a breakdown of those walls and we started to see some more [00:17:00] data merge in between the different as we got into programmatic. And,  we were able to track more of that consumer journey so that instead of giving. Credit to each exposure.

We were able to look at all the three exposures that happened at the same time or along the journey before you purchase and then start to give credit. Okay. Which exposure was it that really drove you to, to purchase? Right.  and this is all about measurement and driving.  what we've seen at least what I've seen actually before everybody, what I've seen is more of a siloing again.

Um, I have a lot of, I have a lot of theories and why,  you know, the classic examples that we run into almost every day are let's take Facebook and Google. They're very solid ecosystems.  so I'll give you an example. Let's say someone sees a YouTube video and they see a Facebook app and then they purchase well, true.

YouTube is gonna take credit for that conversion and Facebook's gonna take credit for that conversion. Cause they're not talking to one another from a data perspective. Right. And so what ends up happening is I'm giving [00:18:00] credit to two different ad exposures for, for one conversion. Right? Right. I don't have two conversions to only have one.

Um, Now the vest in interest, obviously, what is it on the ad side? You always, as an ad platform, you're always trying to take full credit as much as you can for the ads that you're serving. Cause as you just noted earlier, you wanna drive ROI and show ROI and have people buy more advertising through your network.

So it's almost like a, it's almost like a, and again, it's is all just my theories. I don't have anything to prove that totally altruistic, but right, right, right, right. That's an interest to silo your data so that you take maximum credit for your impressions and people spend more money on your ad platforms.

Abhi: Right? Right. Listen, maybe I, you know, we, we do a part two of this episode where we talk about multi-touch and last click attribution and you know that that's a whole you know, a whole separate window, but  okay. This all makes sense.

And I agree with you, [00:19:00] I think honestly, like going back to your example, I think it's as simple as it's just consumer behavior and consumer awareness of what was going on,  to your point. Yeah. I think part of that was misunder, like, look, before I got into this world of sort of MarTech and AEC, like I had no idea.

Yeah. Like it was absolutely magic to me, how, you know going back to the home Depot, how I could go on ESPN and, you know, I'm seeing something I, I clicked on. 

Sean:  well, you call it magic, but what did you, what was your really gut feeling when you saw that? Like, did you feel creeped out when you saw those ads?

Abhi: You know what it was for me, wasn't creepy just because I was like, okay, I see ads, right. And I imagine somebody gets to make money off of this if I click on it and do something. But in exchange, I could read about my favorite player and, and what have you.  I wasn't creeped out, but I, I think it's in like, and again, I I'm no expert.

Right. I'm, I'm just, you know, these are just my personal thoughts, feelings on it, but it's, [00:20:00] I think it very like first it's it's awareness, right? Like it was awareness of, this is, I'm being serve these personalized ads. And then I think second it's like, it, it just, it, it caught steam right.

More and more people became aware of it. I think, you know, regulatory bodies became aware of it, right. This was, largely, probably with any new technology, right. Something that wasn't super regulated you know, when the technology was available,  or made available all those years ago.  and I guess, I don't know, like, is there, part of this too, that, you know, some of this was taken too far, right?

Like where there's just certain, you know, overzealous,  that, that competitive force, right. Of all these, these players trying to drive the maximum ROI and trying to drive the maximum exposure, was it sort of over exhausted, right. Did programmatics sort of stretch too far to the point where, you know, maybe that, that changed consumer expectations.

Sean:  it's a good question. 

Abhi: I'm, it's hard to say, right? I mean, [00:21:00] I'm just, you know, IMing, 

Sean: what is too far, right? Like that's a, that's a, that subjective term. I will say. I, I, I, I do, I would always encourage and do think that it's good, that consumers have more awareness of where their data is being tracked and, and what's happening with their data.

Um, I do think that's very important. I think as you know, outside of advertising, the internet in general has evolved so much and it's more and more of our lives happen on the internet, or just become the internet, basically. Like you should know where your data is being tracked. I, I, I do. I think that's a very strong, it's good for consumers to have that awareness.

I mean, cuz again, when I'm talking cookies, I'm talking. It's another funny thing about cookies is it's really a desktop, it's a desktop browser thing, right. And mobile apps. But if you think of how the internet has changed so much over the past 20 years, where we have these smart phones on our hip all the time.

Um, and, and that's another thing that's interesting about cookies is that, you know, if you think of a desktop computer or a laptop multiple people in a household might be using that laptop. And so that brow, [00:22:00] it's not specific, it's not one to one because right. You know, if multiple people are logging that browser, well, the cookies are being stored in the browser.

And so you have different behaviors, all being lumped into one collection of cookies on a browsers being shared by multiple people. When you get to the mobile phones, that's much more one to one of cuz typically speaking, you don't, there's not other, other people using your smart device. Right. I'm assuming, I don't know if you have an iPhone or you have a droid, whichever one you have.

Right.  I'm assuming it's not typical for you to let other people start browsing around on your phone. Right. Everyone else, it's much more one to one from a behavioral perspective. And I think that's where it's very important for consumers to be aware of what data's being collected. 

Abhi: Yeah. Yeah. And I I'd say, like, I, I think that's a, that's a absolutely safe assumption.

When you, when you talk about the shared device on a desktop, you know, always think back to like my old like high school computer lab or something, you know, and it's like, what's the, , what's the, what, what does that say about me as a user? You know? But anyway, I mean, okay, thank you so much for staying on the, on [00:23:00] the, the, the topic of just cookies at large and third parties, I guess now I wanna get into more of your world now and sort of, you know, and let's, let's talk about industry trends in this context.

Um, okay. We've established what third party cookies are. Why they're, you know, powerful, right? Like what purpose they served and why they're going away. And so I guess the natural, next question I have for you is,  how do brands continue to reach their target audience and make relevant connections, get their brand and image out to relevant users, in a world where yeah, you don't have, you know, necessarily that access to to third party data as easily.

Sean: So there's a lot of different schools of fault here.  some of 'em are actually going old school and some of 'em are going more kind of next stage or futuristic.  you actually touched on one earlier, right? So contextual targeting. Is one of your safer ones, right? Like if I'm, if I'm on ESPN, you want [00:24:00] to serve ads that are around sports on ESPN, because the thought being that if I'm interested and that's the content I'm consuming, if the ad is relevant to the content I'm consuming, then I would be, I would be into the ad as well.

Right.  and that's, I mean, contextual Target's been around for a and con I've used it a lot in the past, and that's an interesting perspective because it doesn't really require collection of data because what you're doing is the consumer's raising their hand by going to that site, that's specific to something niche of content and then you're serving ads.

Abhi: Right. So, yeah. And that's not so different than linear, right? Like, I mean, going back to the, yeah, it's like pre digital. 

Sean: The difference is that with linear, you were hitting, there was no way to buy a single impression, right? So you, you could do contextual targeting,  on a single page or on a single site where linear was a little bit, a little bit wider.

So I think there's more ways in there.  but yeah, so that, that that's one way around there. There's been a lot of talk and I hear a lot of people talking about that as well. All,  the other way [00:25:00] is leveraging first party data,  and leveraging first party data. And this is where it gets really Ad tech, if we really think of what, what is, what is ad tech?

What is a point of ad tech? The point of ADEC is how do we take our first party data and leverage it. To inform our media buying and to reach the right audiences.  very high level description of that. What I mean by that is, so let's go back to the cookie conversation. So if I, if we're using Adobe analytics or Google analytics, those are first party cookies that we're collecting the behavior when you're on our site.

So that's all first party data that we're collecting on you. So yep. You come to Acme site, then we sell Acme, widgets, and you're browsing around and I'm collecting all that data on you.  as you interact with my my, my product site. Yep. How do I then take that and be able to match that out into these third party, other publishers or other areas that you're out on the internet and be able to use my [00:26:00] first party data.

To serve you relevant a to decide whether or not I wanna serve you a ad. And if I do serve you an ad, what, what creative do I serve you?  and that's really where a tech comes in. And so what it's doing is a lot of, you know, and I should say cookies are part of a tech too, but I think where the industry's evolved is that with the, the coming demise of third party cookies, how else can we match across different platforms?

Exactly. Yep. So if your user a, on my site and your user B and Facebook, how do I connect those dots? So that I know if I, if I can, if I, if I know that user a and my system is user B and Facebook, now I can use my first party data to say, okay, this is what you did on my site. You might want to see an ad about X and then be able to serve it to you on Facebook.

Um, and that's a lot of where the industry is now. And a lot of it is done today through identity mapping.  right. And, and there's a lot of different varieties of this.  but the basic, the most basic one would be, and [00:27:00] I'm sure anyone who's ever operated inside of advertising at Facebook, you can upload custom lists into Facebook.

So you would take you know, people who sign up for an email newsletter on your website. You could take all those emails, load them into Facebook. And then Facebook will use that data to match against emails that they've collected on their side. When they make a connection, they're able to flag that person as in this custom audience, and then you can serve ads against that custom audience.

Um, right. And that's not exclusive to Facebook. Google does it a lot. Most of the ad platforms, Snapchat does it, Twitter. They all do it at now. Right.  but that's kind of like your, your backbone where it gets more advance is when you get outside of your emails, we get the maids when you get into, and which is also the I 14 thing that just happened and all the.

All that, which that's probably a topic for whole in our show, but, and then we get into IDs and how do IDs work? And there's a lot. This is where a lot of the industry has been focusing on the past few years is how do I, how can I stitch together this person across different publishers so that we [00:28:00] can serve them ads, but also doing a privacy safe way so that I don't, you know, when I send that list to Facebook, they're not keeping that data.

They're simply using that email to say, this is a, another common misconception too, of people or consumers, I think is Uhhuh. . If you've signed up as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 on my site, and then you, your account, Facebook is 1, 2, 3, 4, Well, when I send that, that custom list up to Facebook, they're gonna scan it and they're gonna see, okay, they they've seen this email before, so they're gonna flag it.

Right. But if they haven't seen that email, it's not like they're gonna retain that, that email, they, they wipe that out and scrape it. So we're only using that point of PII simply to make that connection to say, this is the same person across book platforms. 

Abhi: Wow. I, I didn't realize that. I thought that was sort of part of the, the, the value trade.

When you work with an ad network, it's like, Hey, send us all the data you have on your users. You know, obviously we'll target and reach the ones that we match on, but, you know, we're sort of, you [00:29:00] know, we're, we're sort of gonna keep,  yeah, whatever to sort of our identity and I'm not like, so maybe there's technologies there, but at least largely right when we're talking about like the Facebooks of the world,  it really is just to find a match.

Right. And, and it's that match on, you know, in this example, it's an email

Sean: now, let me be clear. So Facebook says they don't keep that data. I I oh, sure, sure, 

Abhi: sure, sure, sure. 

Sean: Yeah. Yeah. And then number two is with the ad platforms, Google or Facebook, correct?

That's they're, they're not keeping that data, but there are other onboarders and there are other identity providers that we do leverage,  which that's a whole other kind of avenue that do keep that data and they are building identities for lines of their own as well. But so it does happen, but not typically a Facebook Google, like those type of ad platforms, aren't keeping that data.

Abhi: Sure, sure. Fair enough. And, and I guess, you know, where I wanna go with that is like that's a really interesting paradigm shift, right? Because now. You know, with browsers and, device manufacturers, right. Sort of making that third party tracking [00:30:00] either it's gonna go away entirely.

Right. Or we're gonna see a far more limited , use of, of third party tracking.  it really is sort of now a a matching game, right. It's like, Hey, like what pieces of information about, you know, a user? Do you have your user a, and is there a link between my user B? And if there is, you know, then, then there there's something we can do collaboratively, right.

There, there is some way to,  To sort of engage this user and serve them something relevant and, for brands, right. Continue to get their message and their product and experience out to the most relevant people. And it sort of allows that the industry at large to sort of continue, right.

But it's that shift between sort of one technology into more of, I think what you just described, which is sort of a, you know, more of an identity resolution,  use case under the hood. 

Sean: Yeah. I mean, I think again, if we were to go back to measurement, I think that's probably one of the easiest ways to [00:31:00] describe this is when you're on my website and you buy a, you submit your email through the checkout process.

So I know your email and I know that you bought our product. It's all my first part data. And then on Facebook, you were, we served you five ads, but we don't know. We don't know that cuz Facebook's not sharing it with us. Right. But on Facebook's side they have an email tied to a profile and they know their profile.

Cause that's their first party data. They know what ads that they've served to you because you're on their site. So how do you make that connection? Because what I wanna know is which ad where you exposed to you before you bought something off of my site so that I can attribute those exposures back to that conversion.

And that informs my media buying going forward and where should I allocate my media budgets to, to be most effective.  and it's that handshake in the middle?  that, that a lot of what I work, a lot of the industry, that's what we're working on. What's that handshake to be able to cross those two sets of first party data,  again, in a privacy compliant way so that we can [00:32:00] really just attribute where we're spending media.

And, and is it working or is it not 

Abhi: right? Right.  that, that makes all the sense in the world.  and I think that's key too. The point about privacy, I think should be underlined here. I think the idea is right, like as Brands. That have, and, and sort of are building more direct one-to-one relationships. Wanna actually get to know who their consumers are, you know, sort of from the first interaction, which may be, you know, an ad, a display, a that you get exposed all the way through, you know, the 15th purchase or the 200th video you view in a service it's like, you know, brands wanna make sure they cater and, and, you know, really Understand, right.

Like who their customer is and, and be able to tailor and personalize experiences and ultimately do what sort of on a one-to-one basis that user sort of wants out of a particular experience.  but we wanna do that in a privacy compliant way. So things like, you know, honoring a user's, request [00:33:00] to say, Hey, like, I don't want my data that you're collecting to be used for, for marketing. And then being able to control that and having brands be able to sort of honor and be advertising industry, right. That, that handshake, if you will, is done with the assumption that, Hey, we've sort of, there's this notion of consent here, right? Like we've, we've understood our consumers and we're own doing this with our consumers.

Um, you know, that ultimately said yes, like I'm okay with this. 

Sean: Well, I think it's one of the biggest challenge. I, I think another big challenge we have coming is the different legislations across the different states. Sure. You know, CCPA was one of the first out California. I, I, I dealt a lot with GDPR over in EU.

Um, but I think there's a lot of other states that are moving forward with other types of legislation that are a little bit different in terms of how they view privacy and what are the restrictions on privacy? So, you know, years ago I used to work with, with a alcohol,  distributor or alcohol store.

And one of the problems with liquor is that each state has different laws. And so it becomes really, really hard when you're marketing, because you have to [00:34:00] basically have campaigns at a state level, cuz each one has different restrictions and different kinda laws you have to abide by.  and as privacy becomes something that the state legislatures continue to pass new laws around will now it becomes more complex because everything you're doing for, from, from really a privacy compliance standpoint has to be at the state level and you're right, National campaign. So it becomes much more fragmented and a lot harder to manage. 

Abhi: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, and like you said, that's exactly the, the data chaos that creates and, you know, what, what challenge does that present to a brand to be able to actually track and honor and properly execute that is, you know, we'll, we'll save that for, for part two, but, uh  but it's interesting, right?

I mean, it is, it is a shift in, you know, I think both like all parties is involved, right? The, the consumer, the brand, and then sort of the, you know, advertising MarTech, adtech ecosystem at large are sort of, I mean, this is playing out as we speak. Right.

Sean: we'll, well, you have the privacy piece and the other piece, and I'll go back to this appointment earlier, too.

It's a little bit [00:35:00] again, I, I wanna be careful here cause I'm not. This is one of my own theories. But think about that example, I just gave you of like how we know that you've purchased something on our site and that's our first party data. Facebook knows that it serves five impressions,  to that profile.

Right. Right. And now let's say Google serves five impressions to that profile. And then we, we also serve five impressions across trade desks to that, to that user. Yeah. Well, those three different ad platforms all want credit fat conversion. 

You're gonna end up with three conversions being attributed when you only have one conversion actually happen.

And that becomes very obfuscated measurement becomes very, very, very hard in the side of the world.  and there's a lot of solutions, you know, Google's come out with,  cuz they're the ones kind of tu behind the crew, which the reason third party cookies is such a big deal now and why it was so big of a safari.

Was it some far is just not the dominant browser on the laptop desktop world where cookies really work Chrome is. And so when Chrome deprecates third party cookies, that's a huge, I don't know the exact numbers. I was gonna make it up, [00:36:00] but I'm not gonna make it up. But it's it's well, over 50% of the marketplace is Chrome adoption.

Sure. And so you're really knocking out third party cookies.

Abhi: this has been a masterclass so far, I've already learned so much, and I'm probably gonna go back and, and listen to this a couple of times, but, taking a few steps back I guess. Sure. We talked a lot about this shift and sort of this idea that, Hey, yeah.

As, as a brand, like I maybe so more interested and I'm look taking a more granular view at like who my users are and like what they're doing on my, my properties and,  You've been around, you know, the block a couple of times been through your fair share of digital transformations at, at organizations.

Sean: I'm not that old who's made me feel very old. No, 

Abhi: I mean, , no, I mean, look in, in tech years, right? I, I think you are right. I think, you know, a, a year in tech is probably, set seven years of life, especially in ad tech. So yeah, no, no offense on real biological aids. This is, this is [00:37:00] strictly, tech age I'm talking about.

Um, no, but, but seriously, Sean, I mean, in, in terms of like the evolution of like first party data, right. And, and brand sort of understanding their users better any sort of,  advice that you have to, you know, maybe someone in your shoes at another organization that traditionally did rely a lot or does continue to rely a lot on third party partners to ultimately reach their customers.

Like how can. Brands that you know, are, are kind of reliant on more outsource and third party, um outreach to their customers build more of that first party data strategy.

Sean: I mean, first party data strategy to me is all out of relationship with a customer. You have to build a relationship with the customer and we're seeing this right.

A lot of the CPG brands that historically have not collected a lot of this first part data are, are building strategies to collect that, that first part data,  you know, for me being in the streaming world and there's, it's a subscription [00:38:00] base, right? So you, you sign up, there's a, there's already a relationship there, but with a CPG brand or some of these other brands that don't have the subscription models there, isn't an inherent relationship built with that touch point.

Right. But they're starting to figure out ways to build those relationships.  you'll see a lot of, um a lot of these publishers on that side, on the publisher side who have multiple different websites are building single signons so that we, you know, you, you sign out with the email one site, you can use that email and that, and that, that the sign in, across multiple different sites.

Well, that's great. Cause when you're doing that, What you're doing is you're showing them, okay, you're the same person across these different, these sites. So you can leverage that journey and they know who you are across different publisher sites on the brand side. It's about building reasons for them to, to engage you.

Right? So some of this is you'll see us more. Now, when you ever notice how, when you go to do any type of online check got, now there's always options to create an account [00:39:00] to save us. You don't have to check in, check out as a guest the next time, those are obviously strategies trying to build that relationship with you so they can start to collect some of that information.

And, and I wouldn't even say collect it cuz they're collecting it, but they're, they're building a spiral of which they can append that information so that they know that you're the same user coming across every single time.  That's it's strategies like that.  and to be fair, I am definitely not the expert.

I'm building these relationships from a brand perspective to, to create first part, cuz most of my life I've been working inside of these either subscription or they're just businesses that, that lend themselves to already having a relationship with a customer. It's about leveraging that data though.

But I think no in general having that relationship is gonna be key going forward.  it's really important. And obviously in any type of relationship you have to, you have to, you kind of hit the nail on the head earlier in a slightly different way, but you have to show some type of value. Why would a consumer give you their data?

Right? There has to be an value exchange. [00:40:00] 

Abhi: Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, going back to and trust as well. Right. And saying like, Hey, if, if I'm gonna give you my email or my address, or tell you more about myself, like I sort of trust you to be a steward of that data and use, use that data in, in service of, of things I want.

Right. And, and, and what I wanna see out of you know, out of this relationship. So that's a whole separate topic as well. It sort of, you know, how do we, those flows, but I, that's a key point that you, a good point that you make to Sean. It's like, it's so industry specific, right. Independent and you're right.

Like in certain cases like streaming, there isn't really a notion of being able to interact with you unless you identify yourself. Right. Like I sort of have to have,  or by and large have to have sort of a subscription and, and, you know, preferences and all of that stuff set in to even be able to interact with, you know, a, a streaming service.

So,  good point different strategies for different organizations, but the fundamental crux of this is [00:41:00] it's really being able to engage your direct consumers and giving them a meaningful reason to engage back right. To, to share that information. 

Sean: That's, that's the key is a meaningful cause if you go back to my example, you know, is that convenience of not having to, you know, having going to an e-comm site and giving my information so I can just more simply check out next time.

Is that convenience enough for me to give away my information 

Abhi: and maybe it's a loyalty program right. Which is where, you know, that whole category of yeah. Right. Um I realize we're, we're at the top of the hour, but I had, you know, the next two questions are relatively rapid fire and we're gonna take a, a, I'd say I'll take the under on five minutes, any chance you can hang out for yeah, of course. Okay. Awesome. Awesome. Okay. So we're, we're gonna wrap with these and these are fun right

 So my first question for you, and I ask, I ask every guest this, but,  as a consumer, what's your favorite brand or experience and why?

Sean: As an interesting one?  I used to [00:42:00] love red bull when I was younger.  okay. I, I, I love the branding. I love the whole, I, I just love the whole kind of story that they told. I'm trying to think of a, a brand. I really love now that's a hard question, cause I don't necessarily have affinity brands like that.

Abhi: or an experience like is there something, something you do You know, that, that you sort of enjoy and listen, that could be digitally. That could be,  

Sean: all right. I'm again, I'm gonna geek out a little bit here. I, I absolutely love REI.  okay. I, I, I'm a big outdoors person.

Okay.  and just the whole REI membership program and the way I think their customer services is beyond anything I've ever seen.  I'm I'm obviously an R I member. And,  you know, the ability to kind of return things if they're not working or just, I remember one time, years ago I had bought a tent there and I took it out to Yellowstone and I had broken one of the tent poles and I went into an REI and I was, I was trying to see if I could just [00:43:00] buy the replacement tent pole and said, literally, so, you know what, we'll just, you here just take a new tent.

And they literally just gave me a new tent and they replaced the whole thing.  and I think, you know, that obviously drove me to buy a lot more things REI going forward because I had that experience. And I think. It just says a lot about that experience and why I hold that brand to tie theme,  in my head and it, at times might be a little more expensive, but I'll always buy from REI when I can, because of that experience.

Cause of other experience I've had with them. So I think just having that customer service and,  just that passion, they, every time I've ever gone to REI, they have passion for outdoors too. I think that's, it's just a great experience all around 

Abhi: and food for thought, in terms of, you know, turning, you know, customers into true ambassadors and champions, but  you know, shout out to REI that's.

That's awesome.  all right, so the next five questions, Sean, they're all rapid fire, right? They're either, you know, they're, they're largely yeses and nos or, or, or pick in between two options. So, [00:44:00]  this is, this is the game show part of the podcast and, and everyone's gotta play. I can't let you go without playing.

So listen, you could take it wherever you want. You could, you could expand on it if you want to, but I'm just gonna power right through these,  Pineapple on pizza? Yes or no? No. Okay. All right. Fair enough. 

Sean:  I feel like it doesn't need an explanation. I'm just, I know on that 

Abhi: you and I are on the same page, but but you'll see that in the description of every episode, actually, you know, I, I keep a tally of this, so you'd be surprised there there's some folks that are, that are okay with this,  winter or summer sports.

Sean: Ooh, that's a hard one.  I would say summer sports, just cause I love the outdoors. I love camping so much. I do love the ski, but  I don't think there's anything better than being in a tent out underneath the stars. So obviously summer 

Abhi: two for two in my book. Okay.  all right. Do just cause, and I, I don't know.

I mean, maybe [00:45:00] this is, you know, this is more of a pop, I don't know how big of a, of a basketball guy you are, but,  LeBron or MJ. MJ. Yeah. All right.  frozen yogurt or ice cream ice cream. Fair enough. Fair enough. and final, final question.  you know, before I let you go, I'm a huge foodie.  you know, I'm hoping in, in a world where, you know, the pandemic's kind of moving by, we could actually go and, and, and, and share a meal together.

But you know, now that you're in St. Pete, I'll ask you this favorite restaurant in St. Petersburg. 

Sean:  there is a restaurant in Gulfport, which is Southeast St. Pete called Paz and it's Italian food, and it is magnificent 

Abhi: Paz, shout out to Paz. All right, Sean. Well, listen,  Yumi Lee and, and you know, some of the UN particle crew we're, we're gonna come down and Paz is on my own time.

Awesome, man.  seriously, can't thank you enough for, [00:46:00] for being a part of this. 

Sean: Thanks for having me.

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