B2B Audience Targeting in the Privacy Era

Vincent Pelaske, Senior Programmatic Trader

In May 2018, the European Unions’ General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became a disturbance to the data marketplace. Data providers, both big and small, experienced a drastic decline in available cookies. While GDPR was not the death-knell of audience targeting in Europe, which is now slowly on the incline, it was certainly a blow to the data industry as brands divested of third-party data to invest in their own first-party, consent-first data. As marketers in the United States, you will face a similar situation in 2020 when California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) takes effect. During this potentially turbulent transition, as US-based tech stacks come into compliance with CCPA, there are precautionary measures that programmatic traders and media strategists should consider in an effort to mitigate troughs in campaign performance: contextual alignment, knowing where your data is coming from, and anticipating the future of data.

Perhaps the most drastic option is to, at least temporarily, abandon third-party data targeting in favor of contextual targeting. The IAB Tech lab provides a guideline for self-declared contextual categories that is used for consistency across the industry. These self-declared categories are targetable in leading DSPs and allow you to reach audiences’ browsing content that aligns with their messages or products. While this may work for many B2C brands, especially for products that are quickly consumed such as beverages, this “off the shelf” targeting for B2B brands may prove too inaccurate as the categories are rather broad and do not dig deep into niche topics of interest.

For brands with niche markets, you will find that some data partners have already made inroads into contextual targeting. Partners such as Grapeshot, now part of the Oracle Data Cloud, offer highly-customizable contextual categories for targeting based on in-page content. These custom taxonomies allow you to target the most relevant content from blog posts- to new trends- to breaking news. Even custom contextual taxonomies may not have the precision needed for certain brands, post-CCPA.

B2B marketers like you may find that broad content alignment is simply not accurate enough; the legal quagmire of CCPA-compliant data is difficult to navigate. In order to err on the side of caution with third-party data, you should look to two different categories of data providers: incentivized data, and GDPR-compliant data. Between these two categories, the latter has been established and will have experience dealing with privacy regulations while the former will be a developing market to watch as the Internet transitions to a privacy-first state.

Data partners who are already GDPR-compliant will also likely be some of the first certified as CCPA-compliant due to the similarities in regulations. IAB Europe has developed a transparency and consent framework (TCF) to enable data as well as inventory partners to ensure all user information is kept compliant. Due to the vast marketshare belonging to California, you can expect a similar framework in the United States in 2020, and should also be aware of which partners are compliant with the framework.

Programmatic media and real-time bidding are in a state of flux. With ever-increasing pressure from governmental bodies to regulate the industry and protect users’ privacy, brands and marketers must stay vigilant by continually vetting partners to ensure compliance. Before using any data, it is critical that the B2B buyer knows where the data is sourced, how the data is sourced and verifies that the data provider is compliant with the local regulatory body. If the B2B buyer opts for contextual alignment instead, the buyer must look to develop contextual strategies that go beyond the broad categories offered to all buyers, and seek to customize a niche audience.