Countdown to Cookieless: Five Criteria to Evaluate Today’s Identity Solutions

After an unprecedented 2020, this year has already seen a series of announcements around the impending end of third-party cookies, restrictions on mobile IDs and potential solutions.

As the ad ecosystem evolves rapidly, it’s clear there is an immediate need for identity solutions that restore consumer trust, are durable and scalable – and perform better than the tools and solutions they will replace. It’s important to remember that as an industry, we’re in this situation because we lost the trust of the consumer and failed to explain the value exchange between the consumer and the publisher. We must do better. The open internet, modern digital marketing, publisher revenues, and a competitive ad tech industry depend on it.  

Now isn’t the time for quick fixes or unsustainable identity solutions – though many have emerged this past year (think: fingerprinting or “universal” IDs). Ultimately, these “workarounds” have an expiration date too, as they are equally as flawed as the third-party cookie they intend to replace. They won’t restore consumer trust, they’re not secure and many aren’t even commercially available.

The good news is that there is emerging consensus, industry-wide, about what identity and addressability should look like in the future. Based on recent discussions with leading brands, agencies, platforms, and publishers, we’ve developed a “checklist” – five criteria to help you evaluate the strength of your identity approach in 2021 and beyond:

  • Comprehensive and omnichannel people-based identity: Building a connected view of the consumer requires interoperable, people-based technology that can translate fragmented identity – including, but not limited to email – across channels. This is the only way to truly personalize experiences and measure the consumer journey.
  • Compliance and safety are front and center: Solutions that bypass direct consent are no better than third-party cookies, and likely won’t satisfy privacy standards or evolving regulation. Translation: fingerprinting and signal-based targeting are not the answer. Protect your brand’s reputation with solutions that directly connect a customer's identity with their method of authentication.
  • Neutral and interoperable: Solutions must be inherently unbiased, independent of media-buying platforms and scalable. They must have a supporting infrastructure widely adopted by publishers, and thus be interoperable across the ecosystem.
  • Global reach: Global commerce requires marketers to reach consumers around the world in order to maximize key business outcomes. Marketers already have enough to do without worrying about managing a patchwork of regional solutions. If a solution cannot scale globally, move on and find a stronger alternative that can.
  • Measures of real performance: Authenticated identity, especially identity that doesn’t rely on third-party cookies or mobile ad IDs (MAIDs), generates far better results across key advertising metrics like ROAS. It’s also reassuring if the solution you’re considering has been in-market, tested and proven against these results.

The Time is Now

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve got months before you need to make a change. Now is the time for action. Last quarter, LiveRamp saw over 100 campaigns launch bidding on people-based identity. Additionally, 40% of experiences on the internet are already cookieless and now these people can be reached. Remember: if you aren’t reaching them, your competitors are. If you’re a marketer and you haven’t bought on people-based identity, what are you waiting for?

Liane Nadeau, SVP, head of investments and precision media, Digitas North America, agrees, adding, “If 2020 was the year of education on this topic, 2021 is the year of testing. Brands should aim to get some tests under their belt in Q1, and aim to have a plan in place by Fall, to work out the kinks before the holiday hits. We are encouraging clients to begin testing now, to give a full year to learn and refine before the end of the year.”

And if you’re a publisher, why not deploy a solution that adds addressability to your logged-in traffic? Even if your login rate is 5%, that’s 5% more Safari/Firefox inventory today that can be reinvested back into your business.

Jeff Nienaber, senior director, global audience ads at Microsoft Advertising, underscored the importance of coalescing addressability and authentications, adding: “Our goal is to increase trust and accountability, so our approach is to first focus on authenticated experiences that deliver real value for consumers and marketers alike via our own permissioned data sets. We’re also beginning experimentation with emerging browser cohort, contextual and other sell-side signals – all of which is centered on increasing advertising relevance while respecting individual choice.”

The indisputable truth is that ad tech helps power the open internet. And there is a great deal of optimism that suggests publishers and their technology partners have built the framework for a better ecosystem – one that prioritizes the user experience and achieves improved publisher and marketer outcomes. This transformation won’t happen overnight, but the time to commit to change has arrived. Together, let’s embrace the new trusted ecosystem.  

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