This month, Andrea Ghibaudi sits down with Jonathan von Abo at MetaRouter, to discuss all things first-party data and privacy.

In recent years, marketers have become familiar with the phrase “death of the cookie” which has played a vital role in the industry ‘movement’ towards a better future centered around privacy and data management. This ‘movement’ is a direct response from the ever-increasing data privacy regulations and ongoing consumer backlash and has gained slow, yet steady momentum among enterprise businesses.

With many clients now searching for ways to improve their processes, look after their consumers, and provide better marketing and advertising solutions for their customers, the focus always comes down to one core asset: data. First-party data has long been crowned ‘king’ throughout the (m)adtech industry, but what does it truly mean to be able to deliver a powerful first-party data strategy?

To help explore the challenges and opportunities faced by many today, we invited Jonathan von Abo, Vice President of Partners and Alliances (EMEA) at MetaRouter, who sat down with our very own Andrea Ghibaudi in our latest DataTalks Interview!

Take it away guys:

A: Thank you for joining us today, Jonathan! Before we dive into the topic of first-party data for marketing, let’s give the readers a little overview of yourself, as well as the MetaRouter business.

J: Thank you so much for having me Andrea, always a pleasure speaking to you and continue our evolution – from BlueKai (DMP), to Treasure Data (CDP) – and now, MetaRouter, where we really focus on the infrastructure that drives customer data!

A little about me – I have spent my career firstly managing infrastructure, then moved into designing solutions and finally landed running alliance functions which has ultimately allowed me to combine my passions of building solutions and nurturing relationships. Yet, what’s more interesting to me, is the data landscape and its constant evolution.

Over the past (almost 10 years), we have journeyed through this minefield together and I think we are at a really cool inflection point where regulatory and technological changes are moving the landscape. Here at MetaRouter, feel that we are a key component in this new approach focusing on data ownership, compliance, sovereignty and probably wouldn’t be here talking to you now if you didn’t feel the same!

A: Thanks JvA. First-party data has long been touted as the ‘gold dust’ of our industry and has held onto its royal crown in recent years throughout the increased regulations from governing bodies. Yet, implementing a first-party data strategy is no easy feat. From your perspective, what is the first thing a client should do in order to build a robust, first-party data strategy?

J: Like every new buzzword it’s important to do your homework. Seemingly overnight, almost every bit of technology that touched customer data became a CDP – and so too has every tag magically become “first party”. The reason ‘first-party data’ is tricky to navigate, is because there aren’t so many loopholes. It requires thought and planning (just ask anyone in the midst of a GA4 migration and they will tell you) and a dedicated infrastructure.

Thankfully legislation and the third-party cookie deprecation is now making this change ‘mandatory’ for all, with significant fines being a very good driver for change. So in short – my answer would be “to commit”.

The longer you delay the further behind your competitors you are going to be when the inevitable change happens.

A: On that topic, many still sit on the fence when it comes to the third-party cookie deprecation; some want to ‘wait and see’ what the future will bring, and others feel it will be impossible to survive without them. What is your view on the ‘cookieless future’, and what advice would you give to those who still aren’t sure what the future holds?

J: If I may just get something off my chest whilst I have this opportunity as this really bugs me every time I hear it – there is no such thing as “death of the cookie”.

Cookies are not going away, without cookies 95% of the websites today would not work. Functional cookies drive site functionality. When we say “death of the cookie” what we really mean is cookies that collect all kinds of customer data and ship that data off to ‘who knows where’ to do ‘who knows what’! This is what is dying, and rightfully so!

Personally, I think the “wait and see” time has passed, not only because the deprecation date has now been set but also because this is so much bigger than just the loss of functionality. Just look at the fines being issued, Meta $1.2Billion, Amazon $746 Million (I can go on) – this is no longer just some trivial technical bump in the road. Businesses face serious consequences by not ensuring their customers are protected and the only way of truly ensuring this is by owning the data collection and managing the compliance and distribution of it, which happens to be the essence of what we are enabling at MetaRouter.

A: There have been many headlines over the years referring to ‘cookie fatigue’ and ‘consent fatigue’ regarding the processes in place to secure compliant data from consumers online, with many businesses relying on a third-party’s compliance standards. How does MetaRouter solve for this problem, and what are your visions for the future of compliance?

J: I’m not sure about cookie fatigue, but can see how “consent fatigue” is a certainly thing. Pop-up boxes on every single site asking a range of questions every time you visit are generally being ignored now (by just clicking accept) but are a necessary evil.

The way I see it, is that if you really cared then you have the opportunity to opt out, if you don’t then you can’t really complain. For us at MetaRouter, it’s reframing how we look at it; instead of a consent management tool, see it more as consent enforcement for your data pipelines. There are plenty of consent management tools out there, and so we don’t try to play in this space. Consent in its current form its very binary – its either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, on or ‘off’!

What we enable is a more granular approach – for example: If you have told a brand that you don’t wish for them to market or advertise to you we can do two things;

  1. Ensure, in an auditable way, that the information never leaves your organisation into any marketing or advertising channels, and;
  2. Deliver that data into a data warehouse, analytics or BI platform in a compliant format so that you still have the metrics required to shape your business for success.

Compliance – like everything else – will continue to evolve, and so our focus is on providing our clients with maximum flexibility and governance on customer requests.

A: Businesses across the globe are recognising that putting the customer at the centre of their thinking delivers better engagement, higher retention, and greater customer lifetime value – all resulting in smarter business outcomes and ultimately, better ROI. Have you got any examples of businesses that are ‘doing it well’ in terms of customer-centric data strategies?

J: We have been chasing this ‘Nirvana’ ever since I have been in this space which is almost 20 years now!

First with CRM, then DMP and now CDP. And the truth is, there is no single magic tool that will get you there, as the goalpost will keep moving. In reality, technology fads will come and go, and the only way of really getting close is by having a solid data strategy and investing in the ‘not so sexy stuff’ – the plumbing, the data collection, the infrastructure, the strategy. Like many successful projects, it’s not always the shiny thing that create success, but the execution itself.

I feel “Customer Centric” is another one of those buzzwords that everyone flaunts around, however very rarely holds much clout. There are very few brands that are truly committed to make this a reality. One such company is Patagonia, and this is because they have a strong and strategic ethos that runs throughout the entire business. People identify with this maniacal type of approach and is a big driver of their success.

A: Let’s go for one more question if that’s ok! MetaRouter are paving the way for the ‘DMP 2.0’ (the next-gen data management technology) that works alongside the CDP and acts as the perfect complement to the wider MarTech stack. Can you explain to our readers what this means for marketers who are looking to build a stronger first-party data strategy?

J: We have been very fortunate at MetaRouter, mainly down to our incredible founders and their fierce determination to enable change – but also down our loyal customers who have helped us build a solution that can truly move the needle.

Having spent 3 years at a CDP, I am well aware if its strengths but also it’s limitations. CDP’s have addressed a big proportion of the current market needs when it comes to engaging known customers with PII but with the deprecation of the third-party cookie – and the sunsetting of most DMP’s – there is new gaping hole in how brands can engage.

The good news is that whist MetaRouter is able to help clients own and govern all of their customer browser data, it can also provide them with a mechanism to address the anonymous audiences in the preferred walled garden because of the proprietary relationships we have been able to build with external vendors in a first-party way. In essence, this means that your CDP can allow businesses to address both known and unknown is a safe and compliant way – all based on your own, compliant first-party data.

A: It sounds pretty exciting, and we are so delighted to be strategic partners with MetaRouter. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. If people want to find you to discuss any of these topics further, how can they reach out?

Please do get in touch, I would love that. Simply drop me a message via LinkedIn:

Jonathan von Abo on LinkedIn