Digital Industry Moves Aggressively to Privacy-by-Design, According to IAB’s Annual State of Data Report

Closed ecosystems benefit; smaller publishers face daunting, costly challenges

New York – March 14, 2024 – Today, IAB released its annual report, “State of Data 2024: How the Digital Ad Industry is Adapting to the Privacy-by-Design Ecosystem.

The study, conducted by IAB in partnership with BWG Strategy, surveyed over 500 advertising and data experts at brands, agencies, and publishers. It reveals the substantial operational and financial adjustments being undertaken by the digital ecosystem as it moves towards a privacy-by design architecture.

“The meaningful investments being made are proof positive of the industry’s commitment to a privacy-first orientation,” said David Cohen, Chief Executive Officer, IAB. “Executives are taking notice and funding the right initiatives for the next stage of industry growth”.

Key findings from the study include:

Nearly all (95%) advertising and data decision-makers at brands, agencies, and publishers expect continued signal loss and/or privacy legislation in 2024 and beyond.

The industry is investing in hiring new subject matter experts (SMEs), updating training for their staff, creating dedicated teams, expanding their legal expertise, leveraging new technology, and increasing first-party data efforts.

82% of the respondents said the makeup and structure of their organizations have been impacted by legislation and signal loss. Nearly 80% are training or planning to train their staff directly in data/privacy-related topics, while half of companies are creating or planning to create dedicated teams/departments (49%) and hiring or planning to hire external SMEs (48%).

Respondents believe the new paradigm will challenge targeting, personalization, and measurement. 

More than half expect it to be harder to track conversions overall (55%), post-view conversions (52%), attribute campaign/channel performance (55%), measure ROI (55%), make optimizations (50%), and measure frequency (50%) and reach (47%). Nearly nine-in-ten ad buyers report shifts in personalization tactics, ad spend, and their mix of first, second, and third-party data. Over three-in-four cite selection changes in media channels and KPIs, along with more seller-direct deals.

To improve data quality, brands, agencies, and publishers are turning to first-party data and data-enrichment tools. 

The study found that 71% of brands, agencies, and publishers are currently or planning to grow their first-party datasets, nearly twice the rate of just two years ago (41%).

“To tackle data quality challenges, it’s crucial for brands, agencies, and publishers to continue to adopt innovative analytical methods including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and media mix modeling that are less dependent on tracking signals and third-party cookies,” said Angelina Eng, VP Measurement, Addressability & Data Center, IAB.

The shift to privacy-by-design is transforming media planning and buying. 

Ad spend that taps first-party data and engages audiences at scale are being prioritized. Nearly nine-in-ten ad buyers report a shift in message personalization strategies (89%), ad investment costs (87%), and over three-in-four cite selection changes in media channels (81%) and KPIs (79%), along with more seller-direct deals.

Ad buyers are shifting budgets to Connected TV, retail media, search, and social networks which rely less on cookies, provide access to valuable first-party data and precise targeting, and contain embedded measurement.

Overhauling and reinventing data processes is a costly sea change that will hurt small and medium-sized publishers and favor giants.

Large companies are investing more in identity anonymization training (79%) than small companies (64%). They are also investing more in training in privacy-preserving technologies (62%) — which can cost over $2 million annually — than small companies (44%). Signal loss is already pushing advertising budgets toward closed ecosystems at a moment when independent publishers can least afford to lose revenue.

“The industry’s embrace of privacy-by-design is the right thing for the industry and consumers alike,” Eng continued. “But if small independent publishers aren’t protected, the vibrant, independent open web that consumers love is at serious risk.”

The study, State of Data 2024: How the Digital Ad Industry is Adapting to the Privacy-by-Design Ecosystem can be downloaded here.

About IAB
The Interactive Advertising Bureau empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership comprises more than 700 leading media companies, brands, agencies, and the technology firms responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. IAB is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the trade association advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, IAB is headquartered in New York City.

About BWG Strategy
Established in 2013, BWG Strategy is a primary research firm with an unwavering commitment to data quality. Our journey began with hosting live in-person events featuring industry thought leaders in New York City. These events have established BWG as a trusted thought partner to the buyside community.​ As BWG’s reputation for investment-grade insights grew, so did the strong client following. Today, BWG’s research is leveraged by 300+ investment firms managing over $6T in assets. BWG supports multi-strategy funds, private equity and venture capital investors, as well as corporate decision makers in finding answers to their most challenging questions.​ BWG Custom Research, the firm’s fastest growing segment, delivers meticulously tailored custom research projects to help clients in their research and decision making. BWG Custom Research team is proud to serve a diverse client portfolio that spans the top private equity and management consulting firms, and Fortune 500 corporations. BWG Custom Research offers solutions for a wide array of use cases, including product marketing, mergers and acquisitions, customer and competitor studies and thought leadership. This dynamic evolution underscores BWG Strategy’s commitment to providing innovative, tailored research solutions that empower its clients to excel in an ever-changing business landscape.

IAB Media Contacts
Brittany Tibaldi / Michael Vaughan
347-487-6794 / 813-210-1706
[email protected]/[email protected]

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