The nature of online advertising means that relevance is king. So important is the pursuit of relevance that I’ve heard of some instances where marketers now pay more to deliver their ads to the right audiences than they do for the advertising space itself.

This is astonishing when you consider that the targeting data advertisers buy is often far from accurate – and they often end up paying extra to reach users that might never be in-market for the products they’re trying to sell. Data is now everywhere, but much of it is nearly worthless. Cookie churn is a major issue. And discerning interests, despite what many privacy advocates would have you believe, is devilishly difficult, even with the oceans of data the web is producing.

First party data

First-party data is what every advertiser wants. It is unique to the advertiser or client, and tends to be the most efficient in terms of performance. 

Unfortunately, first party data is often limited in scale – it relies on organisations capturing customers’ personal data through onsite purchases or signing up to gated assets. As such it has historically required a large amount of consumer engagements or transactions to build up a sizeable dataset that is reflective of the wider audience. 

This kind of activity used to be the preserve of only the most popular of website destinations – invariably media companies with lots of content – but in a world where brands are becoming publishers the opportunity for building a large first party dataset that accurately reflects your audience is more possible than ever before.

Kraft’s content

Last year at Content Marketing World, Julie Fleischer (Head of Content, Data, and Media for Kraft Foods Group) stood up and said that their content marketing delivers “4x the ROI of their traditional advertising methods”.

Fleischer was able to proudly state this as the conclusion of an exhaustive project which saw the company create a content “learning engine” – having used metadata to tag 22,000 different attributes of Kraft’s web content and subsequently tracked the 100 million unique visitors to its web properties over the space of a year.

By tagging each piece of content, Kraft is able to build a first party dataset of the evolving interests of its audience. Kraft uses the dataset to power targeted programmatic ad buys. Julie projected that eventually all of Kraft’s ad budget will be programmatic, and therefore be able to use the data asset they are continually building. This means that Kraft can not only quickly identify new trends, but also target advertising to jump on the growth in interest that they have identified. As she put succinctly, if your content is worth creating, it is worth paying to promote.


Content marketing yields first party data that is yours and accurate (not based on extrapolated, external datasets). Mining content consumption data reveals the real-time insight to deliver content that matches audience needs and wants.

Third-party targeting data can certainly be effective but it’s often difficult to predict how it will perform or if it’s worth the additional investment. In light of this reality, when it comes to measurement and ROI, noone doubts that first party data trumps third party datasets. The next step is for organisations that are becoming brand publishers to take a leaf out of Kraft’s book and reap the first party rewards afforded by their own content marketing.