YouGov eyes media budgets as it launches advertising data platform

YouGov is launching an advertising data platform as the online polling firm seeks to tap into the media-buying supply chain for the first time.

YouGov CEO Shakespeare: 'We want to be inside the process of delivering ads'
YouGov CEO Shakespeare: 'We want to be inside the process of delivering ads'

YouGov says its ad platform, YouGov Direct, will allow advertisers to use its audience data to target consumers more accurately and transparently.

It claims to be compliant with the European Union's new, tougher GDPR and ePrivacy regulations and will use blockchain technology to "verify" the data exchange between advertiser and consumer to prevent bots and other fake ad views.

YouGov has made its name with political polling at general elections and selling data and analytics to brands but has had little direct involvement in advertising until now.

Stephan Shakespare, the chief executive, said he hopes YouGov Direct means it can become "part of the media supply chain for the first time".

He said: "We are already supplying data to that supply chain. This will put the data in a more concrete role in that process. We want to be inside the process of delivering ads."

YouGov Direct will launch in several stages. First, consumers need to give permission for their data to be used by advertisers.

Then, YouGov plans to work with publishers, who will be able to identify consumers on a granular but anonymised basis when it comes to serving ads.

Shakespeare said: "This is good not only for citizens and advertisers but also publishers."

He said the idea for YouGov Direct "has come out of a desire to treat GDPR and e-Privacy as a huge opportunity" as the company has to update its privacy policies.

GDPR comes into force in May 2018 and the hundreds of thousands of people who belong to YouGov’s online panel will get greater control over their data under the new rules.

The panelists will also be able to choose to make personal information available on a selective basis to third parties such as advertisers.

"For example, a user might decide to share information about favourite hobbies and withhold data related to health history," YouGov said. "In exchange for sharing their data, users will earn additional rewards."

Typically, YouGov panelists earn small cash sums for each survey and get paid when they have earned £50.

YouGov is planning to use blockchain technology, an online ledger which records transactions digitally, because it should help to track the data that is used to target advertising.

"What the blockchain methodology gives is an indelible record, so it’s transparent and accountable," Shakespeare explained.

Shakespeare believes YouGov Direct will give publishers greater control over the ads that appear on their sites.

"It’s good for publishers because they spend a lot of effort creating great content and designing their platforms but they don’t actually control great swathes of the platform," he said, referring to how ads can be served programmatically via an ad exchange.

"It will allow them [publishers] to get much more specific with their audiences."

Ultimately, he said "the dream" is to serve advertising that consumers will welcome, instead of being "sprayed" with messages that they "didn’t necessarily want to receive".

Shakespeare maintained that YouGov will take all the requisite steps to comply with privacy regulations if publishers use data to help advertisers target consumers.

"We are GDPR complaint because we have paid them [consumers] for the data under a formal contract," he said. "The publishers can collect [their own] data if they have permission from audiences.

"The use of our data mashed up with their data involves a transference of PII [personally identifiable information]. That requires the granular permission that the blockchain system will provide."

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