Backing the Right Horse – Why We’re Betting on Identity

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The world of programmatic advertising is a high stakes game (not unlike a horse race). Throughout our industry’s history, its players have experienced great success as well as tough losses — skyrocketing in value one day, shuttering operations and laying off teams the next.

There are a number of forces driving this cycle, and the fact that programmatic advertising is incredibly young, competitive, and fast-paced is chief among them. As such, it can be difficult to predict which latest and greatest development — which up-and-coming jockey, if you will — to put your money on (and manpower behind) as an ad tech provider. Is pivoting to video the answer? Perfecting unified auctions in app-based environments? Investing in new markets and singing programmatic’s praise in uncharted territories? Yes, to all of the above. But the strongest, safest bet we can make in 2019 — the jockey that’s sure to deliver — is Identity.

Before I address the full impact Identity will have on programmatic, however, I should start by explaining exactly what Identity is.

In ad tech, the term “Identity” can refer to two distinct solutions. One aims to solve the cookie sync inefficiencies we see today by creating common identifiers, designed to be collected and shared in an optimized fashion (think: The Trade Desk’s Unified ID or IAB Tech Lab’s DigiTrust ID). The second aims to bring people-based identifiers to the open market, allowing those on both the buy and sell side of our ecosystem to leverage people-based marketing (i.e. LiveRamp’s IdentityLink).

Collectively, these solutions have the capacity to bring greater efficiency, efficacy, and monetisation opportunities to our ecosystem.

First and foremost, cookie-based Identity tools are helping address the shortcomings of the current cookie sync system, reducing latency and giving both publishers and buyers greater access and control. To that end, they can also strengthen match rates, delivering greater ROI on brands’ and agencies’ investments in data, segmentation, and analytics.

Further, people-based identifiers are bringing brand new monetisation opportunities to the open web. They’re allowing brands to activate media directly against their CRM (customer relationship management) files — driving greater engagement for all parties, and ultimately boosting publishers’ revenue flow.

Following last year’s story in The New York Times, words like “Identity” and “people-based marketing” have started to set off alarm bells for internet users; justifiably so. Behemoth companies throughout the tech space don’t have the greatest track record for protecting users’ personal details and privacy, as last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal (and the aforementioned exposé) made clear. As a result, users have started to navigate the web with an even greater sense of mistrust.

To be clear, the Identity solutions we are working to create don’t aim to snatch this information from users (or from the walled gardens). Instead, we’re looking to mix and meld the anonymised details we — as independent tech vendors, publishers, etc. — already have, in order to paint a fuller picture of the user, deliver aptly tailored content, and ultimately level the industry-wide playing field (or race track).

Identity is our greatest shot to do so, our industry’s sure bet.

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