If advertisers thought they heard about retail media a lot last year, they need to prepare for what’s to come. The momentum continues to grow around retail media, in large part because retail data is entirely first-party sourced, giving it the power to help advertisers reach the right consumers regardless of policy changes that continue to disrupt the landscape.

For all of the attention around retail media, the nomenclature may leave some under the impression that it is only for retailers. That is entirely not the case. The driver behind retail media is the application of first-party data to non-owned inventory. For that reason, retail media is important across nearly all verticals and is actually a bellwether for an even larger more inclusive trend: Curation.

Fortunately for the ad industry, brands across all verticals can leverage their or others’ first-party data, as part of a curation strategy to drive revenue and efficiently reach audiences. This approach will improve performance today and will continue to perform even when the third-party cookies disappear.

How ad data buyers can break from unnecessary complexity
While choice is certainly good, it breeds complexity, which makes it difficult for marketing organizations to quickly and efficiently find the tools they need.

The case for curation

Brands across verticals have valuable, opted-in data that allows them to tap into the curation strategies that combine audience with inventory and make retail media so successful.

Finance, travel, entertainment, music, consumer electronics, health & beauty, and DIY businesses can apply the same retail media playbook that is driving the most successful retail media solutions in-market today to curate data and inventory. Any brand with a relationship with consumers can either curate its own data with the right media, tap into external advertising solutions that harness curation, or both.

In the face of larger challenges that are destabilizing traditional media buying practices, the ability to deliver ad performance remains critical. Third-party cookie deprecation has been delayed, but is still coming.

The depreciation of other third-party identifiers has already had a massive impact on the ecosystem. Browser changes limit attribution tracking and we are all watching new laws and rulings that affect the collection and use of data.

These changes, both from the public and private sectors all lead back to the case for curation and retail media. Curation represents a way to future-proof media buying and selling strategies that can continue to reach desired audiences, deliver addressability and bring in revenue.

How does curation work?

Curation is the simple act of pairing data to inventory in order to drive the absolute best results for the advertiser. Traditional open-exchange programmatic media buying utilizes a shotgun approach, chasing a targeted audience across the web regardless of inventory.

Curation filters premium “hand-picked” data and media, packages it together, and makes it available for activation much earlier in the digital supply chain.

This removes the complexity created by too many supply chain intermediaries. The typical supply chain has a buyer bringing audience segments from a DMP into a DSP to buy the media. The DSP connects to an SSP, and on the other side of that is the publisher. Further complications arise when multiple SSPs and supply aggregators get in between the publisher and the buyers’ bidding software.

All of these middle layers obscure transparency, bloat the process, and undermine efficiency. Curation connects ad inventory and audience data on the supply side, removing many of the inefficient layers and creating a smooth digital supply path. By applying a curation strategy, brands can more precisely target consumers at key points in their buyer journey and drive the most value for their media dollar at scale.

Advanced curation practices

There are two additional key elements in curation that help brands expand the reach of their consumer relationships. The first is packaging data with the aid of technology that brands use to buy media, like DSPs.

The second is in marketing their own data and orchestrating their own curation deals. Brands own their customer relationships, so those that orchestrate curation deals to leverage those consumer insights will improve their programmatic campaigns.

Sophisticated brands can then go one step further and create their own marketplaces based on insights, KPIs, and data.

2023 Marketing trends & predictions
At the CMO Alliance Summit, Francesco Federico joined Michael Robin to discuss their Marketing trends and predictions for 2023.

The future of curation

As cookie support wanes, the addressability of open exchange programmatic inventory will plummet. Curation offers a solution. The industry is already showing interest in scaled multi-publisher private marketplaces that combine third- and first-party data with supply partners. These solutions can deliver curated media without the need for cookies, a critical need this year and beyond.

Similar to retailers, publishers and brands with close consumer relationships are well positioned for the future thanks to strong first-party data assets. Curating these assets with premium media makes them even more desirable to ad buyers.

As brands and publishers get more sophisticated with layering their first-party data alongside other third-party data options, they’ll continue to build value in their segments. When done without the use of cookies, that helps everyone: brands, publishers, and consumers. That’s the promise of the retail media playbook, and it’s something that the industry needs to copy as it navigates this pivotal year.

Are you utilizing your first-party data effectively? Find out if there are ways you can improve, or share advice on your best practices with a global network of CMOs and marketing leaders on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.