Amid post-cookie confusion, Amazon plans to launch an identifier of its own

The lead image shows an illustration of a broken cookie jar.

Amazon is hoping to use the identity vacuum Google has opened with its deprecation of the third-party cookie to suck up more business for its own DSP and publisher services.

The advertising and e-commerce behemoth has been meeting with different companies to discuss plans for an identifier that would allow advertisers and publishers to better track and measure activity within its own ads ecosystem, according to sources at three different companies that have spoken with Amazon about it. Amazon confirmed to Digiday that it plans to release an identifier but did not offer a timeline.

Rather than a universal identifier like the ones being developed by The Trade Desk or LiveRamp, which Google has said it won’t support in its open exchange, Amazon’s identifier will live solely inside of Amazon’s ecosystem: Available to the buy side via Amazon’s DSP, and available to publishers through its publisher services division APS, those sources said.

“They are thinking about it more in terms of Google’s ‘ppid,’ where it’s siloed to a particular network of O&O sites,” said a source at one company that’s discussed the prospect with Amazon, referring to a publisher-provided ID. “It would be more as a means to inform their DSP of frequency and attribution while maintaining an identity silo.” 

It’s not clear when Amazon plans to launch something. A second source said that it seemed as if momentum around the identifier had gathered steam; a third said that Amazon seemed focused on getting the privacy dimensions of its offering right first, a crucial step for a company that still generates just a small portion of its revenue from advertising. A spokesperson from Amazon said the identifier will operate in accordance with Amazon’s privacy notice, interest-based ads and opt-out policies.

But when an Amazon identity offering materializes, it could significantly tilt the balance of power in digital advertising toward Amazon, which had already built significant momentum behind its DSP last year and which many advertisers see as best-positioned to thrive after the deprecation of third-party cookies. It ranked highest among all DSPs in a survey conducted late last year by Advertiser Perceptions.

An identifier could also help significantly boost Amazon’s APS business, which Amazon has long used to try and maximize the availability of inventory outside its own walled garden. “APS was always going to be a differentiator for them,” said Nicholas Seo, the director of MightyHive’s commerce practice. “[An identifier]’s kind of a door opening to push this more.”

It would also help usher in a new, significantly more balkanized era, where advertisers will have to use the different identifiers and tech of a small handful of walled gardens, even to reach what many describe as the open internet. Late last week, Google’s gm of ads, Jerry Dischler, reiterated that Google has no plans to support alternate identifiers in its own ecosystem.

“I do wonder if the buy side is ultimately just going to have to settle for a set of further fragmented buys than what they do today,” the first source said.

Amazon did not make an executive available for comment for this story; a spokesperson said that the identifier would be available only to publishers that meet Amazon’s requirements, without elaborating on what those requirements are. 

The concept of a publisher-provided ID, which has long played a role in private marketplace deals, has recently gotten a fresh look; Google announced in mid-March it would do more to encourage the use of PPIDs in the open programmatic ecosystem, giving publishers the ability to make their respective IDs available in open exchanges to advertisers they designated. That work is in an experimental stage, according to Google’s announcement.

The challenge with all of these IDs, though, is scale, and whether they can summon sufficient demand to make them worth the while of buyers or sellers. Amazon’s ability to clearly map out transactions, however, as well as the penetration of its DSP, set it off to a good start.

“As advertisers look to navigate the future, they’re going to continue to look to partners in the near term who can do 1-to-1, both targeting and measurement,” said Lauren Fisher, evp of business intelligence at the research firm Advertiser Perceptions.

More than anything, Fisher said, “the measurement front, the partners that have that closed-loop look are going to become increasingly important.”

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