Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The Trade Desk: “Unified ID puts you in the driver’s seat”

Over the course of the pandemic, the industry has had to not only deal with COVID, but also been faced with several challenges around digital advertising and identity. The industry has had to prepare for Google following in the footsteps of Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox in scrapping third-party cookies, and had to respond to Apple’s several updates to identifiers across iOS 14 and 15.

In response to these changes, we’ve seen a number of companies launch solutions that are meant to answer at least some of the questions around the future of identity. One such solution is Unified ID 2.0 (UID2).

“The transition to cookieless will have a big impact on the advertising industry as a whole. But we look at it as a big opportunity,” says Phil Duffield, VP, UK at The Trade Desk. “Cookies are a fairly archaic solution that the industry was trying to retrofit and make suitable for the internet ecosystem. We now have the opportunity to press the reset button and create something better. And that’s what we think Unified ID 2.0 is – it’s an upgrade of identity for the industry.”

What’s the solution?

UID2 is a product that was developed by The Trade Desk but is now open source and independently audited. It works by asking for the consumer’s email address and then turning that into an anonymous identifier which can be used across all websites to provide targeted advertising. The identifier doesn’t contain any personal information and is simply a string of numbers and letters.

It enables the consumer to set preferences on how they would like their data to be shared and what advertising they would like to receive as a result.

“Unified ID serves as an alternative to cookies, but it also preserves the value of the exchange on the internet, putting consumers in the driver’s seat for the first time,” says Duffield. “What we don’t want to see is a tonne more walled gardens or people having to login and sign in everywhere.

“We did a research piece earlier this year that showed 85% of Brits get annoyed when they are asked to pay for a subscription to website content. That just shows you that Unified ID is a solution that the industry wants to ensure that the open internet is still accessible for everyone. And that’s why we believe it’s going to be extremely empowering, extremely popular,” Duffield continues.

“We’re not necessarily saying that Unified ID is going to be the only source out there. There’s going to be other identity solutions that partners are going to use. At The Trade Desk, we will make sure we’re interoperable with all those solutions. But we think Unified ID will be a big part of that.”

Duffield admits that the industry hasn’t done a very good job of explaining the value exchange to consumers in the past, but feels that people are starting to understand the role that advertising plays in keeping the internet open and accessible.

As such, he believes that UID2 goes along way toward helping consumers to understand the value exchange, while further making them more comfortable about that by putting them in control of their experience.

“We believe that Unified ID puts you in the driver’s seat. You control that experience. We’re not going to be sharing any of your data. It’s completely encrypted,” Duffield explains. “When you jump online and visit websites, you can control that advertising experience and only see the brands and advertising that is relevant to you, while still enjoying that free content you’ve always enjoyed.”

Early days

Other than promoting the benefits of UID2 externally, Duffield has been very busy within The Trade Desk, working on the ad tech company’s relationships in his first six months in the role.

The focus has been on “reinforcing and growing our agency partnerships” and “helping The Trade Desk become a must-discuss destination for brands”.

“The industry is really at a turning point with everything that’s happening, and advertisers are looking at their technology partners. I think The Trade Desk is one of those partners that advertisers are looking at and thinking ‘I really must work with these guys’, because we’re proving that we have a very big part to play in the programmatic evolution of the next five to 10 years,” says Duffield.

“I don’t want brands just talking about Adobe, Salesforce, and Google, I want them talking at The Trade Desk and how The Trade Desk is integral for digital transformation and their in-housing needs. To do that, we’ve got to make sure that we’re talking to all the brands and we’re working with all the consultancies. The consultancies understand what The Trade Desk offers. So, I spend a lot of time making sure that we are front of mind for both brands and consultancies, and showing them the power of The Trade Desk and the benefits our platform can bring.”

Sky’s the limit

Part of Duffield’s early Trade Desk work involved overseeing a programmatic partnership deal with Sky.

Under this partnership, advertisers using The Trade Desk’s technology are able to reach audiences across Sky Media – Sky’s advertising sales arm – through the broadcaster’s over-the-top streaming service, connected TV, and mobile offerings. It’s the first time that Sky Media’s video-on-demand inventory has been made available programmatically and means that The Trade Desk now partners with two of the UK’s three biggest broadcasters – the other partner being Channel 4.

“It’s something people have been asking for for a long time. So, it’s hugely powerful for us and really important for Sky to show their appetite for programmatic activities is growing as well,” says Duffield.

“It gives us a real opportunity to be a leader in the CTV space, which is something The Trade Desk is any way, and we’re proving that with our partnerships with Sky and Channel 4. The Sky announcement has given us some great momentum in the market and people are noticing the power of The Trade Desk connected television proposition. It’s something we’re very proud of. And the fact it was first-to-market is another feather in the cap. Now, we just need to start educating and ensuring buyers on the opportunity we have across CTV.”

Looking ahead, Duffield wants to continue with his work of bringing The Trade Desk to the front of mind for brands. For digital advertising as a whole, he hopes that the industry continues to work together to build a better ecosystem which is transparent and puts the consumer first.

“I’d love to see brands really understanding The Trade Desk and what we can truly bring from a digital transformation and in-house perspective,” explains Duffield. “If I could see that brands were talking about The Trade Desk, and seeing that we are an integral part of their enterprise stack solutions, that would be a big tick for me.

“For the industry, we have to do a great job of showing the consumers what a good future of identity looks like, and show them the power of the open internet, and what it means to have access to this, and why advertising is so important to fund the open internet. If we do a good job of that, I’d be pretty happy,” Duffield concludes.