In the absence of a direct-to-consumer business, Hershey’s is going directly to retailers to get the data needed to see whether its ads encourage people to buy its chocolate bars.

The candy maker is pitching a “clean room” to retailers that will store their loyalty card data alongside its ad exposure data to eliminate the risk of data leakage, said Vincent Rinaldi, head of addressable media at Hershey’s. Discussions are ongoing, Rinaldi said, with progress predicated on whether Hershey’s can convince retailers to share the same data many of them hope will eventually form the nub of their own walled gardens. Like Procter & Gamble, Hershey’s hopes to use its commercial clout as a wholesaler to grocery stores to win them round.

“The pushback we get when we talk to big retailers is because they want to share data in a closed loop within their own ecosystem,” said Rinaldi. “We need to think about why the ‘clean room’ could be an intriguing idea to retailers. It’s a concept we need to be careful with because media isn’t as valuable to the retail industry as trade and distribution, so we need to look at how we can apply both those points into a holistic relationship about data sharing.”

The most important issue could be the most divisive. The data will need to be processed and anonymized by a third party. Google could be that middleman, said Rinaldi, before admitting that the search giant’s presence might not be welcome by everyone.

“There are many retailers using some part of Google’s tech, so we need to be mindful of whether they’re willing to trust a company like that with more of their data,” he said.

The chocolate brand’s predicament highlights the hazards of buying addressable media without a DTC business. Whenever it wants access to data it has to go through an intermediary, which is often costly. Furthermore, it can’t sell on Amazon because its product doesn’t ship very well. “By the time our bars get to consumers, they would’ve melted,” said Rinaldi.

There are workarounds, however, which Hershey’s is currently exploring.

Hershey’s is one of the founding advertisers behind the ‘Truth in Measurement’ initiative led by ad tech firm Thunder Experience Cloud, a model that will allow advertisers, media owners and ad tech vendors to support a transparent measurement of ad data across platforms.

While nothing concrete has been drawn up yet — a summit will be held in the U.S. later this year between the initiative’s backers to find one — Rinaldi said it would focus on measurement like verification and attribution data, rather than targeting data. The approach is similar to the cross-platform measurement model Unilever is testing in several markets now. It’s more likely that online media owners will back initiatives like ‘Truth in Measurement’ and Unilever’s alternative when they don’t insist on them having to part with the valuable targeting performance data that serves as the backbone of their commercial strategies.

“We want to create community gardens not walled ones,” said Victor Wong, CEO at Thunder Experience Cloud. “The initiative we’re working on will be a technical standard that any advertiser or platform can follow to share data. First, we have to figure out what data at a minimum to get ad transparency into what they buy and then we need to work out what the media owners are willing to share so they’re not compromising the privacy of their users or their own business models.”

One useful application for ‘Truth in Measurement’ could be to use the data to see how many people are being repeatedly served the same Hershey’s ad, said Rinaldi. Over-targeting is a big concern for advertisers this year it seems, with Unilever and insurance firm Direct Line talking publicly about the issue last month.

“Advertisers are wasting money over-serving ads because there isn’t the framework and measurement in place to recognize when you’re doing it,” said Direct Line Group marketing director Mark Evans at an event hosted by the Advertising Association in London last week. “If we can put better measurement in place and serve the right number of ads, then it’s win-win for everyone in the ecosystem.”

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