Walled Gardens vs. Open Internet: How Best to Reach Omnichannel Consumers

Consumers spend hours online every day, searching for and engaging with content on different platforms and in various formats. How can advertisers effectively and efficiently reach customers and prospects online at the right time and in the right places? How should you think about your approach especially considering a cookieless future?

First, we must understand two distinct parts of the web: walled gardens and the open internet, and how they allow you to differently reach prospects and customers through paid media. Then, we will explore how to blend these two approaches to create a strategy for a cookieless future.

What Are Wall Gardens?

A walled garden is a closed platform or system where the provider fully controls content, applications, media, and/or access restrictions. In the context of the internet, it means a platform bound by technology, so the owner controls the data, hardware, information, and users’ access to content. The platform can collect data on all activities and keep access to insights within its ecosystem.

In online advertising, a walled garden requires advertisers to run their campaigns within the technology provider’s closed environment. Brands must use the provider’s user data for targeting and demand-side platform to buy ads. Examples of walled gardens include Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

The Pros and Cons of Walled Gardens

Walled gardens use data from logged-in users to track their interactions across devices. Since walled gardens use first-party data (i.e., data they gathered themselves) to inform audience segmentation, targeting accuracy is unaffected by the impending cookie apocalypse, which will render third-party cookies much less effective. Advertisers can use each platform’s data, functionalities, and analytic capabilities to reach their audiences effectively.

However, most of the tracking and targeting happens in a black box—partly due to data privacy concerns but mostly because the process by which each company handles their own data is considered proprietary. Also, most platforms only allow advertisers to see aggregated metrics, which leads to performance transparency issues when there is no reliable way to back up those metrics. Consequently, brands cannot develop a holistic view of their prospects and customers by referencing activities across different platforms due to this lack of granularity. Each walled garden might use a slightly different method of measurement for metrics such as “views” and “plays” which can lead to confusion when comparing metrics across multiple platforms.

What is the Open Internet?

People do not limit their online activity to platforms operated by the internet giants. They consume content from thousands of other online channels, including websites, apps, connected TV (CTV), and over-the-top video (OTT). They also stream music, play games, and listen to podcasts.

This virtual network of content is called the open internet, built on the concept of neutrality where all users can access information across the web without restrictions. Advertising here is handled by numerous independent ad exchanges (or ad tech companies,)such as the Trade Desk, DailyMotion or Taboola.

The Pros and Cons of Walled Gardens

Contrary to what many people think, consumers spend more time on the open internet than in walled gardens. Advertising on the open internet gives brands more visibility into measurement, attribution, revenue performance, and reporting data. Since there are several companies that are involved with passing data between the advertiser and the user, there are a series of checks and balances to ensure reporting is as accurate as possible.

Additionally, you can work with ad tech vendors to create a custom solution that meets your needs. Imaginuity partners with The Trade Desk to ensure we are aligning ourselves with industry leaders in the open internet while also getting access to the latest in emerging technologies.

However, most open internet advertising approaches depend on third-party cookies to inform tracking and targeting. The ad tech industry is not yet structured to operate effectively in a cookieless world. The size of third-party audiences may dwindle to the point where it can no longer effectively inform media buying activities, resulting in irrelevant targeting and low conversion rates.

A Blended Approach for a Cookieless Future

Brands cannot rely solely on third-party data to inform targeting in a cookieless world. Unfortunately, data from walled gardens is fragmented. It lacksthe granularity to inform impactful interactions with customers and prospects outside those platforms and deliver a truly omnichannel experience.

How can brands navigate the increasingly diverse media landscape with accurate targeting and effective personalization to build relationships and drive conversions?

To maximize your media spend and engage customers and prospects frequently and meaningfully, you need
a non-siloed media approach that includes activity within walled gardens and channels across the open internet. You should use a single source of customer truth, like a customer data platform (CDP) to inform interactions with customers through digital and in-real- life contexts, devices, and channels across the entire customer journey.

Your media strategy must incorporate first-, second-, and third-party data and use data-driven insights from a CDP, to create a holistic view of your customers and their path to purchase. Your approach should combine advertising opportunities from both walled garden platforms and open internet channels to reach today’s omnichannel consumer wherever they are.

Brands can no longer afford fragmented tactics and execution. All the pieces must work together efficiently while supported by a platform that can analyze customer data from all touchpoints and create 360-degree customer profiles to inform overall targeting and campaign optimization.

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For over 20 years, Imaginuity has been combining imaginative thinking and innovative technology to create transformative results for our clients, their customers, and our people. Our services and platforms manage complexity to improve marketing outcomes.