Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

A people-first approach is the next step for identity

By Joseph Merhej, Senior Manager, Solutions Consulting, Xandr

The upcoming deprecation of third-party cookies has signalled a watershed moment for the ad tech industry. It is clear that passive identifiers that are enabled and exposed to ad tech vendors by default are not the future.

The ad tech industry as a result is rightfully moving away from passive identifiers that empower cross-domain tracking by default, and instead progressing towards a better system that allows for the use of active, privacy-by-default identifiers, whereby users are crucially not tracked, and are fully in control over how deep their relationship goes with each publisher or content owner they visit or engage with. Many publishers who have close relationships with their users and/or the ability to activate upon their own data are well placed to benefit from this shift to a privacy-by-default system.

In simple terms, we’re moving away from the opt-out model where users must actually search for the “anti-track button”, towards an opt-in model where users get to willingly choose the degree to which they partake in the publisher’s advertising efforts.

Opting in vs opting out

This is where people-based identity solutions have come to the fore to empower this new method of engagement. Innovations in this space are not aiming to recreate the tracked-by-default approach, quite the opposite actually: these identifiers only ever exist if users are willingly authenticating with their favourite publishers. This authentication, typically using one’s email address, allows users to engage in a deeper relationship with content owners and receive value in return such as more tailored experiences or simply more content. Some users might not want to authenticate, and as a result may receive less value, content, or a simpler experience.

What does this mean for publishers and marketers? Evidently, not all users will want to authenticate on every publisher. And that’s okay and expected. There shouldn’t be an expectation that people-based IDs are going to be ‘universal’ addressable identifiers that will give marketers and tech platforms the ability to track users everywhere. That said, where available, people-based IDs along with the segments and measurement capabilities they empower will allow for on-par if not superior performance and return on ad spend in comparison to what is seen today via third party trackers.

The deployment of various activation tactics, some which may rely on presence of a people-based ID, and others that don’t, will be crucial for both sides of the ad tech pipes. For example, contextual segments yield the most scale, but possibly less accuracy nor the ability to measure as effectively as other tactics. Elsewhere, using publisher first-party segment-based approaches may provide high accuracy and considerable scale, but by themselves might not allow a buyer to fully measure their campaign’s performance end-to-end.

Taking the next steps

Looking ahead, publishers (and buyers) alike should aim to familiarise themselves more with the various ID-based and non-ID based alternatives available today, and test deployment of a combination of tactics to be ready to achieve success in the post third-party cookie environment. With that said, the people-based ID solutions should be one of the most important parts of a buyer and seller’s multipronged approach, as they enable the most accuracy, measurement potential, and learnings for how advanced advertising can work in the privacy-by-default model we will soon take part in.

*Xandr is a client of Bluestripe Communications, owned by Bluestripe Group, owner of NDA