Insights from the Buy-Side: Jessica Lough at Digitas NA

By OpenX in Brands & Agencies|March 29, 2021

As digital media prepares for a world without cookies, many brands are turning to their agencies to help them navigate this shift. 

In this edition of Insights from the Buy Side we spoke with Jessica Lough, a VP of Precision Media at Digitas NA, and got her thoughts on the future of digital advertising and how she and her team are helping their clients in this fast changing landscape. Check out Jessica’s thoughts on new and emerging identity solutions, recovering from the pandemic and more.

Jessica Lough
VP Precision Media at Digitas NA

Jessica is a VP of Precision Media at Digitas NA, where she currently oversees the programmatic strategy and activation for Sephora. Jessica has been with Publicis Media for 9 years driving digital & programmatic best practices for brands across a wide spectrum of categories including Retail, CPG, Financial Services, and more. Jessica lives in Denver and during her free time likes to take advantage of all Colorado has to offer – hiking, snowboarding, backpacking and of course, the breweries.

OpenX: How are you anticipating recovery/growth for 2021 across the brands you oversee?

Jessica Lough: No doubt every brand has been impacted over the past year, and for some brands and categories, the impact has been greater than others. While many of the brands we work with have started to see degrees of return to normalcy, we’re also anticipating – and cautioning – that the expectation can’t be a full return to what ‘normal’ was pre-pandemic. Consumer behaviors have shifted over the last year, and in some ways we have to assume that these shifts will be permanent. 

However, where there’s challenges, there’s also opportunities for new approaches and new ways of connecting with our brand’s audience. Our recommendation is to take the learnings from the past year to focus on the areas where we’ve seen growth and opportunity, and to be as nimble as possible amidst the evolving landscape.

OpenX: Has 2020 taught you anything you didn’t know, good or bad, about programmatic’s capabilities? 

Jessica Lough: 2020 was a whirlwind of a year for a lot of reasons. Continued changes to customer privacy, evolving expectations from consumers of how they interact & engage with brands, and then throw in a global pandemic to top it off and you have a year filled with disruptions and a clear need for evolution. 

I’ve learned that the programmatic ecosystem can be resilient, but we have to leave behind our expectations for how things have worked in the past, to form a new future forward approach to how we partner together as publishers, brands, agencies and ad tech. 

The good news is that the industry supports change, as seen by the regularity with which we embrace the opportunity to invest & incorporate new channels (audio, OOH, CTV, DTS), new methods of buying (PG, PMP, OX), and new partners in the space. 

We’ve embraced the opportunities to expand the definition of ‘programmatic’ and have evolved our understanding of how programmatic can and should be used to drive growth for our brands. The bad news is that we’ve spent too long being reliant on unstable and inherently challenged identifiers, and it’s taken years to come to the full realization that the death of the cookie (and IDFA along with it) is here and now, and with it comes a need for alternative approaches to addressability and reaching our brand’s consumers.

OpenX: How are you approaching audience and identity targeting, and are you thinking about the death of the cookie? 

Jessica Lough: Not a week goes by where we don’t have an internal, partner-based, or client facing discussion regarding the death of the cookie and upcoming challenges to identity resolution with the loss of IDFA! This topic is hot on everyone’s mind.

The first step for us is to understand and identify the impact to our brands, which will vary greatly depending on factors like a brand’s reliance on third party data, availability and richness of 1st party customer data, and current adoption of more persistent tactics like contextual targeting and partnerships with publishers. We’ve been working to develop impact assessments on behalf of our clients and level-set on expectations for how the loss of third party cookies and upcoming changes to IDFA will impact our ability to both target and measure conversions on a brand-by-brand basis. This sets up the framework for some challenging but necessary conversations with our client teams.

From there we’re taking the approach that there’s no single solution to replace cookies or IDFA, so we need to establish a process that includes continually vetting, testing and analyzing the impact of the various identity resolution & targeting opportunities within the marketplace. We know that emerging solutions will not fully replicate or replace the expected loss in addressability from cookies/IDFAs, so it is just as important to continue to establish partnerships with key publishers and look for ways that contextual targeting can help to provide new outlets for reaching our customers.

OpenX: What emerging trend or piece of technology are you most excited about today?

Jessica Lough: New open source & emerging identity solutions! 

I’m excited to hear more on how solutions like UID 2.0, LiveRamp’s IDL/ATS, and Google’s proposal for FloC will continue to evolve and provide new opportunities for reaching our brand’s customers. Additionally I’m excited about new opportunities with contextual solutions that can read for sentiment/true context to give us a better understanding of the content before determining if it’s the right place to reach our audiences. Again, knowing that we will lose some of our ability to reach addressable audiences in the coming year, new contextual based solutions that can help fill the gaps will be of interest.