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3 Key Learnings from ATS London 2021

by James Kirwan | 16.11.2021

ATS London 2021 set out to discuss the future of ad tech and incorporated agencies, tech, publishers and data providers all sharing their opinions. Here are highlights of the three recurring themes and discussion points from the panels that will be most important to the industry in 2022.

Privacy and Data Collection

Privacy was naturally at the forefront of all conversations that took place. The deprecation of the cookie, taking place in 2023, provides a pivotal opportunity for the industry to reset, and rebuild trust between advertisers and the consumer. It’s imperative that privacy is the first and most important step in any media planning moving forward as it was not only the collection of data that broke the consumers’ trust, but how it was used for advertising.

A privacy-first future focuses on educating the consumer on what data is collected and how it will be used. LiveRamp highlighted the importance of showing the consumer the value exchange in order to build a better ecosystem. The cookie was focused on reach whilst new opportunities focus on authenticated data. It is yet to be fully determined on who authenticates this, with the current approach sitting with the publishers as consumers visit the site.

Furthermore, we as advertisers need to understand the level of the first-party data being harnessed and apply context to it; did the user sign up for a newsletter, where they logged in, did they make a purchase, and from there, understand what medium to use and how often to reach them, in order to not abuse their trust again.

Context led future

Context is key, was the main message at ATS London. Contextual advertising has advanced far beyond the use of simple keyword lists. We are now able to target context with intent through understanding the signals of a user; conversion, information collection, general consumption. Captify is a big player in this space and when asked about life without the cookie, they responded saying they have seen a 30% uplift without the cookie being used.

Although this is less of an individual solution to First-Party Data, many companies and advertisers believe that 1:1 personalisation is still possible through the context for the above reasons, we are able to reach a user as the signal takes place, not when their data was originally collected or through a simple keyword list.

Rising Channels

CTV and ecommerce were heavily discussed with the advantage they have as the landscape of advertising changes. 

Firstly for CTV, the existing walled gardens are not dominant here, the barrier for entry has been lowered with the likes of Sky AdSmart, and with consumership on the rise, more in-depth data is being collected making the channel more addressable and scalable to the likes of standard linear TV. CTV has been given an opportunity to correct previous privacy issues that exist across other channels, by providing quality content to signed-in users.

The biggest issue that CTV is facing is fragmentation, activation needs to be across multiple players, all of which use different methods of measurement, and ultimately leads to the inability to frequency cap effectively.

Fragmentation was highlighted throughout all the talks, the majority of the time referencing its negative impact, until it came to the discussion of Commerce media.

Commerce media is on the rise both within CTV (such as add to basket product placement and check-out without disrupting the user’s content) and outside of the CTV space. The gap between ad and conversion shortening to a single click, accelerated by the pandemic where in-store spending shifted online. Once again, context is key for this, knowing when to promote the right product to the right user when they are in the conversion intent phase.

Fragmentation, unlike other channels, might benefit commerce. It would allow for more players to enter the marketplace and could make commerce more addressable as publishers themselves are able to implement a marketplace harnessing the rich first-party data they have collected.


There is obviously a lot of change taking place in the industry, but the narrative is often negative, especially with the deprecation of the cookie. In reality, this change is actually innovation, and proves to be an exciting time for existing and emerging channels, whilst there are still barriers to overcome such as privacy, user perception, and fragmentation.