Q&A with ID5: Piano

  • Posted by Valbona Gjini
  • On May 30, 2022

In this issue of ID5’s Partner Q&A series, we sit down with Piano’s Chief Growth Officer, Joanna Catalano to ask her seven questions surrounding some of the latest trends and figures in identity.

What is the series all about? The Q&A with ID5 series invites its publisher, advertiser, and platform partners to share their insights on the hot topics and big questions circulating the digital media industry today. Tune in each month for new editions featuring thought leaders and experts from across the space.

Read the full Q&A with Piano below:

Tell us about yourself and Piano, including its audience?

Over the last 20 years, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to lead businesses, launch new products and brands, and drive significant, scaled revenue growth, working across geographies and cultures as a ‘global citizen.’ I’ve been able to gather a holistic view of B2C and B2B business, including time at established consumer brands (American Express and Starwood Hotels); Google; and prior to joining Piano, as the CEO of iProspect Asia Pacific.

At Piano, we have developed the tools that companies need to understand their customers through digital analytics, then activate those insights for targeting and personalized user experiences—all through a single integrated platform. Since I joined the company in 2020, my focus has been on driving a growth strategy rooted in product, vertical and partnership expansion. The opportunity for the next phase of Piano expansion is an exciting challenge for our leadership team.

How do you view the deprecation of traditional identification methods such as third-party cookies and MAIDs?

The deprecation of third-party cookies is a real paradigm shift happening in the industry. And it’s a welcome shift  — consumers are increasingly suspicious of being tracked around the internet and want more control over their data. Regulators are intervening to protect consumer privacy. As third-party cookies are phased out, the digital marketing and advertising ecosystems are being redesigned around privacy, consent and user control. Encouraging users to engage and volunteer personal data will be essential for marketers moving forward.

Adopting a first-party data strategy can be additive to investment in the current ecosystem — marketers can still use third-party data, cookie-matching and other technologies, as long as they still exist. But in the meantime, known users with zero- and first-party data are even more valuable.

As a digital experience platform, what steps have you taken to ensure the continued support of your clients in the cookieless future?

As many of our clients began to explore and implement identity solutions, we immediately recognized the need to integrate our platform with these tools, including ID5, to make things easier for our clients. This set-up gives our clients the choice and flexibility to use their data for on-site personalization and targeting, content monetization or advertising in the lead-up to third-party cookie deprecation.

When it comes to collecting first-party data, we’re also increasingly in conversation with our clients about enabling a data wall, where in exchange for some piece of personal data, they get increased access or improved experience on the website. The most obvious example of this is simply a registration wall, where in exchange for an email address, the user gets access to some level of content short of becoming a full paid subscriber. This still requires being smart and thoughtful about when to ask that question and what you request the user share in exchange for getting access or some personalization
, which is where our platform and our services arm excel to help organizations develop and test their strategies.

During your session at Identity 2022, one of your publisher panel guests claimed that ‘universal identifiers are definitely a key element of the stack still today’ when discussing publisher priorities. How is this developing in 2022?

When we think about the tech required to achieve a comprehensive first-party data strategy, there are five key categories that most publishers should be looking at. First, organizations need an identity management system that’s connected with audience addressability solutions. That’s why we’ve partnered to integrate Piano’s identity management system with leading providers for deterministic and probabilistic IDs and data clean rooms.

With this baseline, publishers will also need a way to target audience segments at the right time with the right message to collect declared data. Then, they’ll need a DMP to define the audience segments that are most valuable to advertisers and expand them with lookalike modeling. Brands will then need connections into the full advertising ecosystem to activate those segments, even after third-party cookies are gone.

Outside of advertising, publishers can invoke the value exchange of first-party data to provide a more personalized experience on their websites. Publishers will need activation tools, like Piano’s drag-and-drop customer journey management tool, Composer, to analyze data and serve the right experience to the right user in real time.

The number of solutions on the market to solve for cookie deprecation can be overwhelming, but breaking it down into the individual components and how they fit into the big picture helps publishing leaders wrap their heads around the question and how they might mitigate execution challenges.

The digital media industry is constantly changing and evolving. What recent development has surprised you the most over the past 12 months, and what do you predict for the next 12?

One of the biggest surprises of the last year has been Google’s hesitance to commit to a post-cookie system. After delaying the end of their support for third-party cookies, they backpedaled on FLoC and introduced Topics as its new interest-based targeting system—but initial communications have left more questions than answers about the road ahead. Until now, advertisers and publishers alike have had the privilege of time to explore and experiment with different solutions. But in the next 12 months, a prevailing system for the next generation of digital advertising will have to emerge. Companies looking to target users on browsers other than Chrome would be wise to look outside of Google’s walled garden for their solution.

In a recent report published by the tech company, Twilio, it was found that ‘81% of companies are completely or substantially reliant on third-party cookies’ still today. What more needs to be done to break down the barrier when it comes to adopting cookieless technologies?

Every industry is resistant to change, but as third-party cookies are phased out, companies will be forced to adopt new strategies and technologies. Whereas a programmatic strategy was often based on a broad, shallow pool of users, the end of third-party cookies means that general, unsegmented audience will no longer be as valuable.

From early data we have on ad engagement, the most valuable users are the ones who are more engaged and account for more page views — these users drive the bulk of ad revenue for publishers, not fly-by occasional readers. This cross-over between the loyal, engaged users who drive both advertising and subscription revenue will align strategies on audience development to not only bring in new users, but also to encourage them to be more and more engaged. For organizations following the numbers, this will be the way to produce healthier brands built on valuable relationships and differentiated content.

With privacy protection laws constantly changing, and consumers becoming increasingly interested in how their data is being used, what moves should the industry make to establish lasting consumer trust?

At Piano, we believe that consumers deserve transparency, choice and control about how their data is collected and used. With the evolution of the GDPR as the leading resource and other governance that’s continuing to develop around the world, organizations have a real opportunity ahead to demonstrate their values when it comes to data protection.

Adhering to privacy standards that are legally required is protocol; more interesting is how to build relationships by being up front about why you’re asking consumers  for certain pieces of their data. Many organizations quickly implemented solutions to follow the GDPR’s cookie consent rules with defaults from consent management platforms, which left them with a lot of generic language that isn’t understandable for your average consumer. There’s a big knowledge gap for most consumers that publishers can start to fill by explaining this value exchange in more honest, conversational language instead of hiding behind buttons or legal jargon.