Brand Safety & Privacy Expert Scott Cunningham Talks Tech Disruption

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This is a podcast episode titled, Brand Safety & Privacy Expert Scott Cunningham Talks Tech Disruption. The summary for this episode is: <p>Scott Cunningham has too many titles and accolades to list here, but he's one of the most sought after brand safety, privacy and martech consults on the planet. He gives us the low down on what's really behind the privacy battles between Apple, Facebook and Google as well as his take on cookies, legislation and sound advice for global brands. Zero-party data also has a great section in this long form podcast a s well as saving journalism and how first party identifiers are crucial to local and advertsing.</p>
Who is Scott Cunningham?
01:42 MIN
Why Google Pushed Out The Cookie's Death Date
01:37 MIN
Will Marketers Meet The Cookie Deadline? Yes or No?
01:32 MIN
The AdTech "Identifier" Landscape Explained
05:09 MIN
Why The Value Exchange Works For Brands
04:45 MIN
How Legislation Will Play A Role
02:16 MIN
How Does The "Apple Mail" Decision Factor In?
03:06 MIN
Will ISP's Or Others Restrict Key Signals?
01:56 MIN
Why Value Exchange And The Basics Are The Key
02:12 MIN
The Threat To Brand Safety
03:24 MIN
Will Email & Other Channels Get Censored?
03:06 MIN
Build The Relationship, Cut Out The Middleman
02:03 MIN
Why Journalism Needs To Be Saved
05:33 MIN
1st Party Data & The Power Of Local
03:01 MIN
How To Find Scott Cunningham
01:15 MIN

Tim Glomb: Well, guys, we have a very special edition of Thinking Caps today because we have a guest in studio. We are throwing COVID to the wind and we're bringing in Scott Cunningham, who is a brand safety, privacy expert, advertising expert, all kinds of things. You're not going to want to miss this one. Let's begin right now. Okay. Scott, thank you for coming in.

Scott Cunningham: Yeah. Good to be here. Thanks for the invite.

Tim Glomb: It's great to have somebody in- person, face- to- face here, man. This is amazing. But before we dig in, I want to tell my audience, and I've got to read this because your accolades are long and deep, and this is only some of them, but here's why you want to watch this episode from right now all the way through the end. Scott is the author of Defining Brand Safety Series, which is by the Brand Safety Institute. He is the founder of the IAB tech lab, which is very important. We're going to talk about that, and we talk about that in some of our other webinars and why the IAB is very important to things we do at Cheetah. He's also the principal technology and program founder of the Trustworthy Accountability Group, the former head of product at Federated Media, the former president of Media Newsgroup Interactive. He was a pioneer in the development of But most recently you've probably seen him in the press. He's the architect of the News Pass ID, which is the new identifier and ad network to help support sustainable journalism in the United States. So, clearly an expert on brand safety, privacy, journalism, advertising, everything. Geez, man, we got a lot to cover.

Scott Cunningham: I'm excited. It's been an interesting last year, for sure.

Tim Glomb: It has been an interesting last year, but you know what? It's even been as late June 2021, it's an interesting week. Let's start with that. Google just said... We all know that cookies are going away. Right? Google slated them for execution, and third- party cookie and all this third- party data disruption is coming our way. But Google just said," We're going to push that back by a year or so." What are your thoughts on that? What's going on there?

Scott Cunningham: Well, I think there's a couple of things. First and foremost, I actually think let's address Google's response. I think Google, obviously, is faced with some headwinds over in Europe when it comes to getting regulators to bless this type of move, especially with flocks and how audiences get added to cohorts, which is what the proposal has been out there. That's number one. The second real part about this from Google's perspective I actually think is, think about it in terms of money. Google makes a lot of money off of advertising and marketers out there, and marketers are really afraid about how to do attribution in the future. They don't know what they're going to do when it comes to the loss of these cookies and buying audiences at scale. So, I actually think Google is taking a little bit of a leveraged role in this saying," Let's delay this because we don't want marketer spend to dry up on the open web. That's how we make our and a lot of other people make our money." So, I think there's a combination of things there. But for everybody else, especially marketers and publishers who have consumer relationships, it should not stop you from making sure that you're preparing for the future of first- party data, zero- party data, identifiers, you name it. You still need to maintain that.

Tim Glomb: It's interesting you say that because in the ad age white paper that we co- authored that was released last week, titled Zero Party Data: An Optimal Path of Personalization, there was a survey question in there, and I believe 78% of marketers said that they were looking to get off of third- party cookies, get off of third- party data, and look for a new way. However, I think it was also over 70% said," Well, cookies are working quite fine right now, so we're going to continue to use them." And that was before this new extension. So, do you think brands in general are going to continue to kick the can down the lane and go," Oh, we bought it another year. We'll worry about that later. We'll have our ad agency or our data brokers figured this out for us"? Do you think there's going to be complacency that continues?

Scott Cunningham: I think some will. I think that it's inherent in our human nature. Those of us who did undergrad learned how to do our best work at the last minute, and I do think that that's probably going to happen for a number of companies. At the same time, I do think that there's going to be an initiative based on... commercialization in the private sector of identifiers that's going to help continue to push brands and publishers who do have those consumer relationships, to continue to push them into the right direction. So, I do think that, yeah, there's going to be some brands out there like," I'll worry about this now at the end of 2022. My forecast will be stamped in then." Others are going to say," No, you know what? It's time for me to get on board with this now."

Tim Glomb: Okay. Well, look, and IAB who you're obviously well familiar with, early in March of this year released a report, the 2021 digital ad ecosystem, said," A Value exchange is what to do, long- term relationships are what you need." And they literally said the word lethal when it said failing to adopt new practices that get off the old legacy ad tech, and they inferred that that's third- party data in there, could be lethal. So, I think some marketers are going to lose their job if they don't get ahead of this. But before we dig into that, you mentioned a key word that we're going to talk about, and I'm sure it's going to come up, identifiers. For those out there that right now, maybe they're in the marketing function, but they're not the actual practitioners making these matches and targeting people, can you give the 101 of what the identifier is and how it works in a high level of advertising and targeting?

Scott Cunningham: Yeah. Actually, this is a great opportunity to bring up that I am on the advisory board for the identifier series for the Modern Marketing Association, MMA, and I'm evaluating for the marketers and those customers there at the MMA. All the identifiers are coming through. And that includes what's publicly out there, the identifiers that include the Dentsu, the Merkels, the Axioms, you name it, LiveRamps, and these kinds of things. So, you have to think about an identifier is your ability to capture first- party data at the, what I would just call, mid consumer funnel. At the bottom of that funnel is that zero- party data that we've been talking about, so that you need to be able to append into that. But that identifier in itself is identity, but also anonymized signals. So, when we think of an identifier, it is your ability to understand your customer's IP addresses, anything that may not be explicit deterministic data, like an email. Right? So, we do want to make sure that we are appropriately assigning the term identifier as this kind of an umbrella term for a lot of first- party data signals all the way down to, yes, email addresses and phone numbers. And how do we say," Okay, now Scott has an identifier, and here all the attributes assigned to that"?

Tim Glomb: Okay. And these identifiers, part of the disruption here, the mess is that there's different identifiers on different media companies and different browsers, different everything. Right? Can you kind of explain that landscape at a high level?

Scott Cunningham: So, I mean, obviously, when I set up the IAB tech lab being a standards organization, we obviously, and I've always advocated for standards and interoperability for global scale of advertising and marketing.

Tim Glomb: Of anything. I mean, we crosstalk use the same... Well, we have metric and we have English, but other than that, you need a commonality crosstalk.

Scott Cunningham: You need some common language, sometimes it's a common technical specification, which is what we have a programmatic and open RTB around those things, and video, for example. Now, what's happened, though, is that the market has decided it wants to compete, before a standard, and sometimes standard takes some time. So, the market's decided it wants to compete, so this is why you have all these identifiers that have come out of the woodwork. And even the one I'm building, I'm doing it, though, in terms of the news industry and journalism, and I'm white labeling the tech. So, I'm actually taking a nuance approach saying," This identifiers for the local journalism industry in the US," versus a," Here's the private sector tech company," for example. And so, I am trying to separate those two. But when the marketplace wants to compete against something, you're going to have a lot of venture capital money, a lot of startup money coming through these things, and what happens is now as a vendor, you are trying to pitch to a customer and that customer is your marketer, or it's a publisher, anybody with a business to consumer relationship. And as a marketer, you're going," All right, I got 25 knocking on my door, which one's the best? Which one's the match rate? Which one's the element inaudible?" So, I think that's been kind of overwhelming for some marketers and understanding, what am I paying for? What am I getting? Now, what's interesting here, too, is we need to separate, to your point, of what that IAB paper was spelling out. There's a difference, and let's go back to the basics, there's a difference here between being a marketer and marketing and advertising. And so, in order to really effectively get to advertising, you need to be really good at marketing. And I think we've missed out on some of those opportunities in programmatic advertising. And that we just said," Hey, look, all they need to do is get reach and scale, and maybe the nuance of my message, or just sending it pay and spray out there was my ability to push a button or pay somebody else to push a button to go at scale." But did we really develop those relationships as a marketer with those consumers? And I think this is where the opportunity is. It's also how we got into trouble, because consumers are like," You have all this data on me? I don't have a relationship with you. How did that happen?"

Tim Glomb: Yeah, exactly.

Scott Cunningham: So, now here's the opportunity to reestablish that as well, and that's the marketing funnel, I think, that most brands really need to start focusing on.

Tim Glomb: So, let me ask this. Might put you on the spot because we haven't talked about this one. So, let's say we've convinced brands as Cheetah Digital, we go out and we help people acquire first and zero- party data at scale. Right? Discovery communications, got 100 million people to enter a sweepstakes to win a home, and they learn five to six pieces of psychographic information on them. Through that transfer, there was a very clear value exchange and also very clear terms of use. Right? They said," Hey, we're going to use this. We're going to keep your data. We're not going to sell it or share it. But we will give you offers on behalf of our partners." Maybe that's Home Depot or Lowe's because they have a lot of home improvement shows. And now you get emails or ads from discovery that say," Hey, do you want to get a spring 30% off spring cleaning or spring gardening coupon from Lowe's or something?" But when it comes to the identifiers, if we can convince a brand to go out and start collecting all that data at scale, how does that tie to the identifiers for advertising? Are we not there yet? Is it an email? Is it a mobile number? What should the brands be collecting so that they can, if they choose one of these identifiers, or if a common identifier were adopted, how does that match happen now?

Scott Cunningham: So, it's interesting. It's a great topic here in that I do believe that as a brand, you should be offering up something to your customer in exchange for this information: email, phone number, but it can't be a," Here's a window dialog box. Please give me your email so we can target you for better ads." It's not going to... No.

Tim Glomb: Yeah. No consumer has ever asked for a better ad. Better experience, better product, but never a better ad.

Scott Cunningham: Right. And so, this is where we ran into some of this with Apple, and there's a lot of real- time trial and error right now happening with Apple's privacy moves. And so, what's interesting here is that the marketer has an opportunity to collect this information, but once they do, the question becomes, how do you target consumers who've opted in from an addressability perspective on the publisher side? And let's just talk about the publisher side and the marketer side. Both have consumer information, both have consumer relationships. Everybody else, and the marketers should think through this, everybody else is an intermediary, everybody else.

Tim Glomb: They're just a middleman.

Scott Cunningham: Just a middleman. Including your agency inaudible, including ad tech, you name it. Everybody does not have that customer relationship that you have.

Tim Glomb: Even Cheetah Digital, we just have technology. We can facilitate messages and data, but you the brand and John or Jane Doe, you're the ones that have the relationship. We're just an intermediary,.

Scott Cunningham: Just an intermediary. And so, what is interesting here is I actually think the marketers and the publishers of the sellers here have a better opportunity to come back to the conversation together on how to trade and transact. And the reason why that's important is because programmatic has led to a lot of transparency issues, a lot of obfuscation, and often times it's because the buyer and the seller, they don't talk anymore. And so, now we can actually sit down and we can discuss what is the appropriate signal or variable: email, phone number, IP, household IP if it's CTV, that we do want it to be able to trade on? And this has been really healthy, I think, in this conversation. Now, standards do help facilitate scale, and obviously the IAB tech lab, my old team, and a bunch of new folks over there are working with our members, everyone's been watching a monitoring. And the W3C has been working through this with Google, and these flocks are trying to figure out exactly what is the appropriate way for us to transmit advertising, again, in a permission consented world. Email has been thrown out there a lot when it comes to UID2. The problem here is a lot of brands, and a lot of publishers, they don't collect email, and so everything on the open web has been free. It's been kind of open, freemium, you name it, but there's not a lot of collection of email.

Tim Glomb: Sorry, you're saying like a media publisher has great content that you love, they're collecting some data on you, but they're not explicitly asking you to log in or give them an email address.

Scott Cunningham: That's exactly it. Yeah. Even in Europe, if you look at the cookie consent dialog box for GDPR, you're clicking okay, but you're not giving over an email. It's your cookie still. It's your first- party cookie. Right? And I think this is important because up until now, nobody's really talking about," Are first- party cookies going away?" And the answer is no.

Tim Glomb: No.

Scott Cunningham: Right. They're not. Well, we'll see what Apple does on Safari, but Apple's been interesting in their crosstalk.

Tim Glomb: We'll talk about that. I want to dig into that, for sure.

Scott Cunningham: But what's interesting here is to the point of, is there one signal by which we're going to trade? And the answer is going to be no. It's not going to be inaudible. Because the platforms and the browsers are all taking their unfortunate, non- standardized approach to things, and so what's going to happen is buyers and sellers are going to have to come up with this equation and then the intermediaries are going to have to respond to that based on various signals at this point. Yeah.

Tim Glomb: Wow. What a mess. I mean, it's like, back in my TV days, I remember HD, DVD, and Blu- ray, and it was like," Who's going to win here?" You love one. Which also is another thing in privacy law. We don't have to go too deep into this because this has been beat up. But how about the privacy end of this of collecting and having to comply with local legislation? There's no real federal legislation in the US yet that's meaningful. You got GDPR, you got CCPA, you got Virginia. Colorado, where we sit, just passed a law, what, three weeks ago. That's another disruption. How is that going to factor in, in your opinion, in the future of all this data brokering?

Scott Cunningham: If you have some extra cash laying around, buy stock and consent management platforms now, is my response to that.

Tim Glomb: There you go. You get stock tip crosstalk.

Scott Cunningham: I mean, because I'm not a lawyer, but obviously from a technologist and an entrepreneur perspective as my consultancy, I would argue that, really, the CMPs are really going to end up being at the center of this. Because what's going to happen here is a marketer and/ or a publisher, a publisher holding company, or marketer who's got brands across various states, let's just focus here on the US, you've got a patchwork of localized or regionalized regulation that's going to come out. Right? There is no federal privacy law yet. And what's interesting here is, is that when I talk to brands and we talk about California, even in California, you're going through a metamorphosis from CCPA to CPRA. Right? And so, that's even changing over there. So, your technology vendors in a CNP are the only ways that you're going to be able to flag who you're able to target and then, frankly, store within your own identifier, your own data store. This is critical because if you're not doing this right, that's a brand safety issue. It will come back to hurt you because what's going to happen is consumers will find out, somebody is going to call you out on Twitter. You name it. This is a brand safety issue, and this isn't just the marketing group now. Your CFO, your CEO, is going to be like," Whoa, wait a minute. How did we get into this mess?" So, you do need to care for this type of relationship. And quite honestly, it's just good customer experience and good customer relationships inaudible do this right and handle it right.

Tim Glomb: Yep. Use data for good, be ethical, don't beat around the box. But yeah, it's a lot of disruption, it's a lot of tech, it's a lot of costs, it's a lot of energy, but you have to do it. You mentioned the Apple news. A couple of weeks ago, we did a podcast on this, and we sent out a note to all of our clients, because our clients need to know, what is the disruption of this Apple mail sending back false positives? Every Apple mail that's received through the app could potentially give back an open signal, whether the email is open or not. And with Safari blocking IP address, there's major geo... I was quoted, or at least I talked to the journalist in the Financial Times who covers Apple, who didn't understand," Oh, wait a second. There's content on the web that is geo- fence. So I'm not supposed to be watching that soccer match on NBC in America because it's licensed to maybe ESPN and vice versa." Can you talk a little bit about the disruption from Apple's announcement at the developer conference?

Scott Cunningham: So, Apple, we all like to think that some of the platform moves they actually have well thought out intentions. I actually think that what actually happens is they... It's the 80/ 20 rule. They probably thought through 80% of the use cases, then they said," This isn't in the best interest of our company and our customers, so we're going to go do." And then the 20%, which is more than edge cases, it's still a large portion, they're kind of," Oh, shit." Can I say that? What do we do now?

Tim Glomb: You just did.

Scott Cunningham: Yeah.

Tim Glomb: So, of course you can.

Scott Cunningham: So, it is one of those situations where geo becomes really intriguing. It has nothing to do with advertising either. It has everything to do with how the open web can function like licensing models and content and distribution.

Tim Glomb: So, it goes beyond like," Okay, we're going to use your IP address to tell you what the weather is in this email you're opening up because we know you're in California or Denver," whatever. It's literally affecting license rights, rights management.

Scott Cunningham: Everything across the board when you think about it because geo and your zip code and everything you've subscribed to is everything if you think about it. So, addressability isn't just advertising, it is subscription, it's on that front. So, if Apple takes the move that it's going to, what I'll just say is masquerade these things in the name of privacy, that's going to create some problems. And I do think that Apple is going to have to find a way, that even if it wants to be privacy friendly, against making sure that customers' datasets are not exposed in a way, it will have to expose things in a generic way like geo. It's going to have to find a way to expose that for consumers, for example, who would be maybe subscribers, the English Premier League over here in the US, but on their platform in their apple device. Right? How does Apple know that the they're in the US? How does the English Premier League know, or whoever the broadcast rights holders are know? So, these are crosstalk.

Tim Glomb: Or yeah, they say you're in the middle, when actually crosstalk.

Scott Cunningham: They're going to have to resolved these issues as they go forward. There is a saying that I do think that some of it was very much of a ready, fire, aim versus a ready, aim, fire.

Tim Glomb: Got it. All right. That's a good way to put it. Well, we'll continue to watch what happens there. But what's scary about that to me is this is Apple. Right? I think Apple is just trying to win over the consumer. I mean, look at their ads that are going right into the home. Like prime time TV ad is all about privacy and people... poof, the people tracking you evaporate when you flip a switch, which we know is not the case. They want you to think that. But what if everyone else adopts that? What if internet service providers adopt that? What if Android and Google... This throws everything into just a total chaos tornado.

Scott Cunningham: Well, if you think about it, we've been walking down this path now for a few years, and we keep hearing the term walled gardens. And I actually think what we're seeing on these moves is we're actually, the hardening of the walls in these platforms is really what's occurring. So, I absolutely think that Google is going to take some more privacy- friendly approaches. Clearly that they're going to have to. The customers out there, the consumers out there expect that when they're transacting in digital. But the question becomes, are they doing it and ensuring that there's fair market competition, interoperability across these things? And I think that's the part we're going to have to watch. Because you can make an argument with Apple that they're in closing the system in the name of privacy, and that's always bothered me. We've hijacked privacy for anti- competition law, and we need to separate those two. And I know it's hard, but you look at it and it's like," You say you're doing this in the name of privacy, but are you doing this in the name of-

Tim Glomb: Beating up on Google, beating up on Facebook.

Scott Cunningham: Or standing up harder walls around these things, and letting these to beat up on each other. And then now we've got Amazon. Right? So, are we walking down a world where we only have four or five major power brokers because they use privacy as the crosstalk to go do this?

Tim Glomb: Waving the privacy flag, but really just beating up on the competitors differentiating. Okay. Interesting, interesting space. Your days at the IAB, we talk a lot with brands that do a lot of advertising, and I do want to touch and get your take on that 2021 digital ad ecosystem report specific to the value exchange. You mentioned the value of change. Do you see that as... and I should say value exchange for first and zero- party data? Do you really see that as the path forward? Is that the number one nugget you would put your... Is that the Bitcoin you would bet on, or are there other avenues that brands should be considering to get around the third- party cookie conundrum?

Scott Cunningham: Well, I do think that some brands that I've talked to and work with have said things such as Google's flock are going to be okay for them for lookalikes. Right? So, there's going to be elements out there where contextual and audience building is still going to happen, and brands are okay targeting on that for their lookalike type modeling. But if that is what their go to market strategy is going to be in the new world, they're going to fail because they're not developing that consumer relationship that they need to. And when I say that, I ain't even talking about CPG or other types of brands out there who may not tradition... The candy bar maker who sits in the grocery store may not have a relationship with Tim or Scott, but what a great opportunity to start that process now? Right? Rewards programs, loyalty programs, anything that you can start establishing those relationships is really how you're going to make sure that you are addressable, advertising is functioning appropriately in the future. And if you're not doing that marketing funnel, well, honestly, to be honest with you, shame on you. You're not developing a relationship with your customer, and your customer inaudible accordingly to that, too. So, I actually think that that IAB report touched on something that was really critical. It is getting back to the basics of marketing and working with your customer, versus thinking in terms of where's my ad spend going?

Tim Glomb: Yeah. Totally agree. We've said it and we've said it in articles, we've been quoted saying," Look, we got fat and lazy on the cookie. We leaned back, we put one hand in her pants and one hand on the remote and just hung around while ad tech did all of our work, programmatic," et cetera. You have to be creative, you have to understand your audience, and you have to react to that. From a brand safety perspective, what other listening should brands be doing? We've talked a bit about Facebook and their problems curating or suppressing hate speech and things like that, but are there other threats from a brand safety perspective that you're seeing that brands really need to be aware of and take seriously?

Scott Cunningham: Well, I think there's two areas. One obviously on the, you just brought it up, the platforms, on the social platforms. I work a lot on, clearly, the avoidance category scenarios that the four As put out to help supplement in the IAB taxonomy of avoidance categories. Right? So, there's clearly elements of hate speech on social platforms. These are really important issues that I would hope more and more brands would get their arms around, versus delegating this to their intermediary agency, which is important. Your relationship there is important, but you need to also take ownership of this. So, the brand safety institute, we have a organization I advise, a nonprofit, they have a brand safety officer certification. They are trying to train more and more marketers to take account for these things in their buying and ask the right questions. We're trying to educate the marketers out there on these channels, social in particular. We also hope, and this is where my passion project is from the local journalism in the US, is I want to bring more marketing brands back to verified fact- based content, which is journalism. And we know that journalism played such a huge role in our election processes, COVID, pandemic times, and right now they're struggling and they're closing doors. So, how do we bring that back? So, from the brand safety of content, yes, we still got a problem there, and I would love to see more marketers get involved. The other element of brand safety is going forward when it comes to identifiers and privacy. If you are targeting ads or marketing messages to somebody who has not given you permission, or if you're in a regulatory environment and you now could be flirted with the law, think about this. The law is the floor of this. Your consumer's perception is where you need to start focusing on these things. So, I would argue brand safety should be appearing. If you achieve this or shoot for this, you've easily satisfied the regulatory environment on that front. You shouldn't be like thinking in terms of," Well, how does my message get around this law, or this..." Think in terms of what is it your customer might want. You can still segment out those customers, understand who they are. With zero- party data, it's a perfect opportunity to do that. And then make sure you're targeting those messages to them in a brand safe way. And if they are opting out, can you make sure that those opt- outs are current, they're fresh, and that therefore you're not... have a long life cycle of continuing to target them because, honestly, that could come back to hurt you. That's a brand safety issue, and your other executives in your orgs outside the market department are not going to be happy about that either.

Tim Glomb: And those fines can get expensive, like per instance, per person. Sending the wrong SMS to somebody can get expensive depending on the state and what you did. Yeah. And it's funny because a lot of marketers will make sure that their marketing ops and their tech gets new customers into their Facebook ads and Google ads funnels very quickly, but those that have opted out, maybe they're not getting opted out or suppressed as quickly. Take that seriously. I want to ask you about the email channel. We're big into the email channel. We have a messaging platform, and SMS as well. Do you see any potential further disruptions from a regulatory standpoint, primarily, but really any disruption, into those channels? Right now I would argue that an ISP is not looking at your subject lines. Right? If I'm into guns or I'm into something that maybe somebody else isn't, nobody's really suppressing my emails or reading my emails and saying," You know what? Your deliverability is not going to go because we don't like guns. We're yahoo. com or gmail. com, and we don't like guns." Do you have any fears there about regulation and censorship in an email or SMS channel?

Scott Cunningham: Well, I think we already have rules out there, right? And there's CAN- SPAM rules. There's a lot of other regulatory elements that have already been addressed on this. So, I do think that an email on your phone, and coming from a brand or a publisher, is probably one of the most personal transactions that any private sector company could have with a customer, is email on your mobile device. Right? And I question why we would need ISPs, just like a browser inaudible, why do we need another layer of filtration or disintermediation of that very private conversation and dialogue? And so, what are we really trying to offer? Right. We have a saying. The ad tech inaudible email is a perfect example of this. It has gone from the current state of ad tech the last few years, it has gone from, I would argue, level of priority: advertiser, intermediary, publisher, consumer. And what I would like to see, and I think most marketers would agree, that this needs to go from consumer to the marketer, publisher, depending on who owns that relationship, to the intermediary. And what's happened here is it's now, if you watch the platforms and the ISPs out there, they're going," No, it's consumer, platform, advertiser, publisher, intermediary." So, at what point, do anybody who has a conversation or a relationship with a customer say," This is my customer, not yours"? And I think this is where the argument is. This is where the fight is. Why is it that, if you think about it, when we had television, the relationship with the broadcasters or the marketers was with them. Right? Or you can make an argument the advertiser had to go through the publisher, but not the TV box.

Tim Glomb: Yeah. Not the set top box.

Scott Cunningham: Right? So, how is it now that the technology viewport, or the ISP in this case, is now the owner of this relationship? You are a part of that, but you are also the plumbing. You're not the one who's synthesizing the quality of the water here on that front. So, how does that relationship play out? And I actually would love to see marketers and publishers work better closer together in making sure that they are saying," I'm sorry, but these are our customers here, and therefore, the value exchange that we're going to offer them as an ISP, you must respect." And that's being lost in this conversation. You're having a lot of power grabs going on right now.

Tim Glomb: You're right. And it's been over a decade where even when some of these content producers, a television network created their own OTT, so now," Okay, we can go direct to the consumer." But that didn't really happen until recently because you had to be authenticated through your NSO or your cable network provider. And now you're starting to see that the Disney + s, the behemoths be able to go direct to consumer without authenticating someone in the middle. I mean, I got rid of cable TV years ago, and I've been in the television business for 10 years of my life. So, that is interesting to see, and it would be great to see that hierarchy shuffled, that deck shuffled.

Scott Cunningham: It would be fantastic because right now, it's one of those," I'm getting these emails as a customer, I'm getting them because I did something, I did something to transact with that brand, and so I do have the..." If you look at my Gmail account, there's actually a reason why there's a sponsored tab and other tabs. Right? Because I have relationships and they've helped me understand these are my private communications, these are the relationships I have with brands, and as a customer, I kind of like that because I actually get it broken out and say," I want to know what deals I'm being offered now." I like that. But what's happening here with Apple is that, no. Frankly, we're going to allow the customer to just shut all that off, and it's like," Well, but the customer has already articulated that I'm okay with that value exchange."

Tim Glomb: Yeah. That's really frustrating. It's incredibly frustrating. Unless, like right now, you can still add, you can load your own audiences with an IP... or sorry, with an email identifier to Google. Right? They'll let you pay all day long if you want to bring your own cachet of data and say," Hey, here are the customers I want to reach. I don't need your filtering. I don't need your ad audience. I just need you to make the match." But it is interesting in that the director relationship, consumer relationship, and the messages are sometimes filtered there. It's an interesting one, Apple. Apple's always in the inaudible. Well, you mentioned journalism. I want to learn more about what you have going on in journalism. You have the News Pass ID. Maybe explain a little bit about what you're doing in that field, because journalism is important. Right? We talk about brand safety, and brands out there, we need real journalism. If we do not have democratized journalism, if we have, and I'm not going to name names, these giant conglomerates filtering your news everyday in whatever channel or medium you have, that's bad, that's not the American way, in my opinion. So, tell us what you're doing there and trying to achieve.

Scott Cunningham: Yeah. So, at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, there was a lot of conversation around keyword blocking of COVID news information. I was on one of your podcasts, actually, we just started this conversation, so what we decided to do was not just to educate marketers and buyers against why blocking these keywords wasn't great and how they were developing their, what we're calling now, inclusion list, was we're excluding local journalism in the US. So, I developed a list with the local media consortium, which is an organization that stood up for all local news, publisher holding companies in the United States, and they've got about 5, 000 domains and publishers there. So, I developed this list alongside them, and when I gave it to the agency holding companies, the feedback was," Wow, we are not buying on these anymore. We just added 3, 000 domains to this list." Well, the question was, how can you not be buying on them? And the answer was, well, programmatic, we stopped asking questions about what the content or context we were buying. We were looking at audiences at scale, hence back to the identifier conversation and scale. And so, the question was, well, if you're just buying audiences, that means you're probably buying a social platform, too, and there's your brand safety issue. So, how do we bring you back to fact- based quality journalism? And that was our first foray into it. So, we established a program at the local media consortium that developed a product called News Pass ID. And right now, we are in the pilot phases of running this program and inaudible the architect of it, I've got working groups of first- party data for the local publishers across the US and an ad network. And what we're doing is we're working with them to set the identifier across all of their network so that marketers can feel confident that the combined local journalism at scale against first- party data. That's the goal. But what we've seen also in the last 10, 20 years is newspapers are starting to shut doors. We call them news desert. So, you have a lot of local communities in the US who don't have local journalism synthesizing not just what's happening there, but society has also, in these local communities, gathered their information from cable news. And so, now their view of the world is skewed to how maybe they're political leaning. And so, even our politics are impacted by not having local journalism on the ground for people to be able to synthesize what is that national voice saying that means to me?

Tim Glomb: Yeah. In the context of where I live crosstalk.

Scott Cunningham: And the context crosstalk without that local journalist either in the newspaper, now we're seeing in local television. So, our program is local, it doesn't discriminate between newspaper or television. The local media consortium's membership is both in radio, actually. And so, what we're trying to do is make sure that we're developing this path of this first- party identifier, the ad network model on one hand, so that they can get off the third- party cookie, which is how they made it. And you have to think in terms of not just brand marketers, local news outlets are the agency for small, medium businesses in the US. A lot of people don't recognize that small, medium businesses, they advertise online just like big brand marketers, but the local publisher is the one facilitating that for them across multiple channels, not just their publications or their network. So, what's fascinating here is how do we get local media to be that sustainable model for not just small businesses to advertise, but so that brand marketers can reach those localized audiences at scale? Which has been kind of missing and why so many are going out of business. So, that's where my heart has been the last 18 months. It will be for the foreseeable future until I can get them over this next phase on that front. But it is something I think that here in the US we should take really seriously. The brand marketers I've spoken to have been exceptionally supportive saying," Scott, the title of the journalism entity doesn't matter as much. Right? The title of the masthead of the newspaper. But local professionally produced journalism does. You bring us the new front door, we will show up and buy on that door." So, I'm building that front door for them in the new inaudible. That's what I'm working on.

Tim Glomb: That is incredibly important because, you're right, and I'm glad you made the point that local is important to not only the small, medium business. But I'm going to make a prediction here because I believe in personalization. Been championing that for years, even before the technology was available, even with Mark Cuban over 10 years ago was collecting zero- party data, and before the term was coined, to get people things that they want. Right? That could be you like the color red, the color blue, you like mountains or sand. I predict that as personalization hit scale and as larger brands, PNG, Marc Pritchard is one of these champions, are getting more zero- party data, what they're going to also want to build into that blend is the context of your geo. So, to your point, I get it, Tom's pizza place or the local Ford dealer, that's where they go to spend their dollars, local journalism, the local channel seven website news feed, in- social promotions. But as personalization hits scale, not only will the Googles and the Amazons and these giant walled gardens and publishers be able to get the right message to the right person, obviously everything we talked about, identifiers, privacy has to be respected there, I believe large enterprise businesses will be tapping into these local markets, and they'll take them seriously because there will be scale, there will be a first- party identifier, and then they will be able to bring the context of geo, especially if they're asking people explicitly," Where do you live? Give us your zip code. All right, maybe the IP's gone, but if we know you live in Denver, Tim, even though you might be traveling today..." I was in New York yesterday. Cool, we can give you relevant stuff in your relevant news because I read the Denver Post. And I welcome any large brand that wants my money, a 47 year old White man in Denver making good money, please advertise to me in the local Denver Post site and where I spend my time. So, stitch that together. Well, Scott, we went almost 40 minutes. What did we miss? What are the key takeaways? Is there anything we missed here that we got to get out for our audience in where we're experts?

Scott Cunningham: Well, dovetailing from the local journalism to what you just discussed with zero- party data and first- party data, publishers and brand marketers are going through the exact same exercise now, which is how do I establish that consumer funnel and value exchange conversation? It's amazing, actually. If you take a look at the MarTech stacks that brand marketers have and what publishers need, it's the same. There's to everything, clearly, but it comes back to one thing. How do we better communicate with customers digitally? It really just comes back to that. And that's where my consultancy has been. I do a lot with CTV on other fronts, as well, but my consultancy, cunningham. tech, that's where I put myself a little bit in my own little shingle of the world and helping out local journalism, but also helping help brand marketers and others on that front.

Tim Glomb: Look, you're going to have to learn to scale yourself because people need your services. If you want to catch up on Scott, you want to follow what's going on, he said, cunningham. tech. Hire him. Get a consultancy. Just get in there and get his ear. Also, Google the defining brand safety series, that's by the Brand Safety Institute. You need to go look at that. Putting out great stuff. Scott, we'd love to have you back. You contributed to our webinar. If you haven't seen it, The Path to Personalization is a webinar that's available on demand here @ at cheetahdigital. com, where we really dig into all things zero- party data, how to collect it, why you need it. We go over a white paper that we co- published with Ad Age. We have some other client mentions in there, so some great stuff. Scott, always great to have you. It was good to see you in- person. I'm glad that the world's getting back to normal. You're local, so we should have you in more frequently.

Scott Cunningham: Yes, absolutely. Get your vaccine. We can all come into these offices and hang out and inaudible with you also. There you go.

Tim Glomb: Get your vaccine, get traveling, get back to normal and start getting creative. Stop relying on cookies. Stop relying on ad tech to solve your problems. Start on leaning forward and get to understand your consumers. All right, we'll see you next time. It's been great. Long episode of Thinking Caps. See you around.


Scott Cunningham has too many titles and accolades to list here, but he's one of the most sought after brand safety, privacy and martech consults on the planet. He gives us the low down on what's really behind the privacy battles between Apple, Facebook and Google as well as his take on cookies, legislation and sound advice for global brands. Zero-party data also has a great section in this long form podcast a s well as saving journalism and how first party identifiers are crucial to local and advertsing.

Today's Host

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Tim Glomb

|VP Content & Data at Cheetah Digital

Today's Guests

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Scott Cunningham

|Privacy, Safety & Technology Consultant, Cunningham.Tech