Ad Technology

Is a Consortium the Universal ID Solution?

By: Keith Petri

Earlier this week AppNexus led the announcement of a new consortium organized to enable people-based media buying for programmatic advertising. Screen6 applauds both Brian O’Kelley and Travis May for taking the initiative to put together this open, industry-standard identity framework.

The consortium’s goal is not a new concept, but it is the first time a group of vendors – including direct competitors – has united towards achieving a shared goal. The most notable prior-work within this area is from Jordan Mitchell, ex-VP of Product at The Rubicon Project, and now CEO of DigiTrust. With 20 leading programmatic platforms as founding members, including AppNexus, Mitchell is determined to address the inefficiency of cookie matching, improve user experience, optimize match rates, and most importantly, monetize the majority of website visits which are from mobile web.

While well intentioned, I can foresee a number of challenges with both DigiTrust and the newly announced consortium.

At this time the consortium has not shared any of the detailed means by which they plan on sharing data between entities, addressing the growing dependency on cookie-syncs between vendors, establishing a persistent ID across channels and devices, or protecting consumer privacy with the inclusion of Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

A few of the challenges include, but are not limited to:

  • Cookie Matching: A single request for a page load typically ends up in a dozen scripts that follow enabling the sync of various third-party identifiers causing slow load speeds and audience loss.
  • User Experience: Having analyzed 40 premium publishers, Mitchell shared with AdExchanger his observations: “37 trackers loaded on each page, making 85 third-party requests and slowing down load time by 6.1 seconds.”
  • Match Rates: Individual browsers are strained by additional server calls, creating a bottleneck. A standard cookie-sync will lose between 25-50% of its coverage. The aggregate match rate between vendors only depreciates further when there is more than one sync in the process.
  • Mobile Web Cookies: All cookies, even first-party, on a single device are siloed between each browser and app. iOS Safari does not allow third-party cookies at all. Mobile Safari accounts for over 50% of market share for mobile data (source).
  • Mobile Web Monetization: Publishers are experiencing nominal CPMs on mobile web inventory due to the inability to sync audiences between the demand and supply side.

Diving deeper into the ability for any common identity framework – the identities would be constrained to activities within a single browser. This does not solve for intra-device connectivity on mobile smartphones and tablets. Nor does it begin to attempt to connect a single person across multiple devices – not with deterministic data, nor probabilistic methodologies.

Deterministic matching for cross-device is viewed as the holy grail. Regardless of the fallacies many have pointed out, the lack of scale of deterministic datasets already limit its feasibility in market. The siloed nature of IDs between browsers on the same device means that these deterministic datasets will need to be that much larger. A PII datapoint will need to be associated with each ID in every browser and native application’s mobile web view on a single device to properly de-duplicate all IDs on that said device.

Current standardizations of RFI Templates to evaluate cross-device technology providers focus on the client being required to sync its data with a centralized master graph to sync its cookies with the identifiers in the commoditized dataset. To do so requires you to piggyback a pixel of one of the cross-device vendors to generate a cookie-sync table to match your cookie-pool to the cross-device vendor’s pre-existing dataset. This process alone defeats the purpose of an open, industry-standard identity framework.

In conclusion, it is a nice change of pace to see so many leading companies bonding together to address an industry-wide problem which cannot and will not be solved without collaboration and mutual understanding of goals. However, this approach fails to address the core issue plaguing the adtech space for over a decade.

Between the regulatory environment in the EU and the market issues created by the duopoly of Internet giants, larger entities are creating huge challenges for all of us. There will be a need for us both domestically as well as abroad to tackle the issues head on, in a cohesive fashion. So while this is a nice start, what DigiTrust, the consortium, and the industry as a whole really needs is intra-device connectivity without the use of third-party cookies on mobile, cross-device identification without relying 100% on deterministic data, and a privacy compliant manner to collect, normalize, and share this data locally and abroad.

Screen6 is looking forward to being involved and tackling these challenges with open-minded companies.

Keith Petri is the Chief Strategy Officer for Screen6 based in New York City. Screen6 is the company creating the industry standard for building cross-device identities. Follow Keith on Twitter at @KeithEPetri.

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