Publishers will lead the charge as cookie-less advertising becomes the norm

Steve Wing, managing director, EMEA, Magnite

As the advertising industry moves closer to a cookieless world — one in which browserless environments including connected TV (CTV) and mobile in-app are an increasingly large part of ad budgets — publishers will have an increasingly important role in developing the future of identity. 

Segment creation and identity management standards will increasingly be developed by the sell-side, a departure from how advertising data has traditionally been handled. Though this will entail a shift in processes, it gives the industry a chance to create an identity model that is transparent, cross-platform and community-driven.

Here’s a look at where identity stands today and how we believe it will need to evolve to work for all sides. 

CTV brings the need for omnichannel identity into focus

CTV is a major channel to which brands are allocating marketing spend and a format in which identity standards are nascent. Despite the COVID-19 global pandemic, digital video has remained a bright spot this year, mainly because of the resilience of CTV.

According to Statista, 50 percent of CTV audiences in Europe are streaming daily. This year, CTV viewership has grown to reach 50 percent of households in Europe’s five biggest markets, including the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. As more viewers adopt streaming TV services, advertisers are shifting budgets: according to the IAB, 59 percent of buyers worldwide are increasing their CTV budgets this year.

With this level of investment, addressability and measurability will take center focus, and identity is a critical piece of that puzzle. Due to the number of manufacturers and vendors operating in the CTV space compared to display and mobile, CTV identity solutions are still emerging, including the development of identifiers for advertising (IFAs) that are sent to DSPs to build user profiles and handle frequency capping. 

Looking forward, the CTV world needs a common identity solution. A key driver of this will be a publisher-created and managed identifier, used in conjunction with first-party data, to create segments that scale across all publishers. This would ideally be omnichannel and used to serve consumers across browser-less devices and platforms. To the extent that CTV is bought programmatically around audience segments, the help of an open-source, community-driven platform like Prebid can ensure identity solutions are fair and balanced.  

In-app approaches are ascendant

According to Statista, more than 592 million apps will be downloaded daily this year. With mobile users spending more time on apps, unifying identity across all devices and screens is of growing importance. 

In the mobile app world, identity has traditionally been tracked via resettable, user-controlled static identifiers. With the changes in iOS coming next year, however, there will be radical shifts in the availability of those IDs, and the industry will need to adapt. 

Here, the mobile industry will have to rethink how it targets users, with open-source solutions presenting promise. Landing on a durable, publisher controlled, privacy-conscious, shared identity solution in mobile will require considerable collaboration across the mobile and in-app world. In the future, open-source, community-driven platforms such as Prebid are poised to play a vital role in this conversation, with its transparency and access to pooled first-party data adding to what can be built into a shared ID.

The future of identity is bright

Ultimately, user-identification is still a moving target in both CTV and mobile, but the direction of travel for both formats remains consistent — transparent, privacy-forward, publisher and end-user controlled-targeting. Phones, tablets, televisions, even your toaster are all browser-less, so creating a standard system of cross-platform user identification is much needed. This will require unprecedented collaboration across the supply path but will result in a more sustainable model.

It’s becoming clear that the existing digital identity landscape is ill-suited for the emerging future of advertising. We have the opportunity to build out the future of the identity landscape in a thoughtful way, as opposed to having to rework entrenched systems that have become obsolete. We can view this as an opportunity to build a new identity solution that is transparent, cross-platform and equitable, and this time around publishers will have a prominent seat at the table.

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