Self-serve ads, new data tracking options help media ad teams regain control

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


Hello and greetings from London, England.

In this newsletter, I want to talk about considering the possibility of (self-serve) automation as far as our advertising sales teams go — for the smaller client accounts that may not merit a huge amount of time spent on them.

Then, as an extension to the above, I will cover why taking back control of our ad sales environment is crucial, especially via first-party data and as the cookie apocalypse draws nearer.

It’s all interlinked.

We need to be in the driving seat going forward, be it due to lack of cookies on the negative side, the availability of first-party data insights on the positive side, or truly understanding the advertiser environment.

Why self-serve advertising helps us better serve all clients

For news publishers, now is the time to understand and focus on who their best customers are and reduce the time and resource on the rest.

Maybe self-serve is the answer for those smaller accounts?

Cross-channel partnerships naturally take longer to build, are resource and time intensive, and use different skills. More solutions-based sales teams need client and agency relationships, from planning managers to trading directors to deal with a lot of people for the bigger deals.

Self-serve advertising can be a time-saving answer to serve small accounts.
Self-serve advertising can be a time-saving answer to serve small accounts.

Technical competency on details, at a transactional level, across different platforms is also needed. Campaigns across multiple channels with different creative, objectives, and performance metrics are more complex and rely on clients also having the same operational infrastructure and understanding, maybe with our guidance.

And with that guidance, advertisers and agencies will see this as an opportunity for an extended pre-sales process. Even if ideas aren’t accepted or sold immediately, it plants the seed that the media company is creative, trustworthy, adaptable, present, and has the pulse of the targeted audiences. 

An extended pre-sales period means news publishers are getting more prospective clients and more case studies as the inbound leads are looking more like requests for ideas rather than pitches.

With this in mind, it could be argued that publishers should see the need to really beef up the client team, and what they know about their top say 50 clients. Do you immerse your sales process into that level of detail?

Tightening up those sales roles to really develop those relationships on a different level is going to be important. As a consequence, how sales teams are going to be shaped will change. Most publishers won’t have 100% of staff in the office ever again, for instance. What are the pros and cons and impact of that?

Media companies that have a true focus on trying to solve client challenges will be able to proactively approach said clients with unique solutions for unique times. The simple truth is most publishers — however premium, unique, or valued — are not differentiated enough to do so.

If you’re interested to know more about the opportunities automation offers, then why not join our INMA Digital Advertising Master Class in April? We have four modules, spread over two weeks of programming. Module 1 specifically covers this very topic of automation. See the agenda here.

Taking back cookie control

Historically, advertiser brands have analysed their consumers by creating profiles based on various demographics or through the use of cookies.

However, significant changes are, of course, now hitting the industry, pushing brands to rethink how they find and connect with customers.

Since Google announced it was ending support for third-party cookies by the end of this year, advertisers have had their hands forced in looking for new ways to reach their audiences. As the world moves forward, understanding audiences will be crucial to communicating effectively in a world where privacy is at the top of every news and advertising agenda. 

Cookie tracking statistics from Adobe.
Cookie tracking statistics from Adobe.

Adobe says that, as far as Web sites generally out there go, 77% of Web sites and 82% of digital ads currently use tracking cookies. What are you doing about that?

The decline of cookies is challenging businesses to source new, effective, and compliant ways of reaching their audiences without invading their privacy. Understandably, this will prove to be a significant adjustment. Third-party cookies were a heavily relied upon means of achieving these goals, albeit expensive and labour-intensive. New solutions are required.

Imagine a future where no-one can change your business overnight in an algorithm amendment.

One of the solutions is contextual advertising — a form of targeted advertising where site content and keywords are analysed in real time to determine their suitability for a brand's message.

Contextual targeting does not use search or browsing history or cookies, therefore, respecting privacy.

Prioritising privacy and trust

The ad tech landscape has changed significantly over the last few years, with privacy and public trust contributing significantly toward this shift. Data collection and cookies naturally have poor public perception, often being viewed as encroaching on private information and stealing data, with ads following consumers around the Internet.

As digital advertising continues to battle with negative consumer perceptions, the onus is on advertisers to find ways in which they can recover trust. They need to serve engaging ads that fit seamlessly into publisher pages, enhancing the user experience.

The industry is adapting. While contextual targeting has become one reliable alternative to cookies, marketers have seen a number of other new solutions enter the fray over the past few years.

Many brands are turning to consent-based, zero-party, or first-party data collection (zero-party, of course, from polls, surveys, etc. and first-party from Web activity that requires analysis). Consumers may sign up for a newsletter and share their personal information, such as names and e-mail addresses on a Web registration (first-party) or marketing preferences (zero-party). This then, of course, allows for better targeting of individual prospects or existing customers to convert or retain them. Then we can start to take back control.

The cookie fallout

The fallout from the death of the cookie scenario creates an interesting outlook for the next few years. A number of brands and advertisers will be forced to rethink their strategies, and the industry will go through a transition period.

A wide range of new solutions will be tried and tested, and there will certainly be winners and losers. However, no one will win more than the consumer as advertisers place a higher focus on the user experience in an attempt to deliver better results without the use of cookies — more creativity, more insights, more tech focus. More thinking out of their comfort zone.

The phrase “getting ahead of the curve” gets bandied around a lot, but it’s never as easy as it sounds. It requires a granular understanding of the industry with great creativity and foresight to predict its next turn before it is made. However, whilst it is a challenge, the right resources can help any brand get that all-important step ahead.

The industry and consumers will see a human-first, research-led data experience, and brands will need to develop trust with an increasingly skeptical consumer society. Those that build a strong bond through accurate targeting and greater customer engagement will come out on top during this transition period.

In a cut-throat and viciously competitive market, pioneering new technology can have a major impact on the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Any slow, delayed, or ineffective decision can lead to brands falling behind in the fight to attract customers, and importantly, sales.

The sooner businesses look toward the future, the quicker they’ll be seen by the right people at the right time, reaping the benefits across the board.

Deeper relationships with key partners are critically important for media businesses, especially now. We should be trying to extract, manipulate, and exploit as much first-party data and insights for clients as we can.

But perhaps above all, we need to take control of the still coming cookie situation and share insights with our advertisers via our sales teams. 

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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