The Future of Measurement: Universal ID Adoption

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The world of measurement is often a somewhat murky one in digital advertising, with accurate cross-device, cross-channel, and cross-platform measurement cited as the holy grail for many. What’s stopping us? David de Jong (pictured below), co-founder and CEO, Screen6, firmly believes the future of the industry relies upon a universal ID.

The key inhibitors in the growth of cross-device are scale and persistence. When the scale issue even begins to impact Facebook, you know it’s time to seriously begin to address those issues. Ad tech companies need a way to address those concerns without leveraging PII and without negatively impacting the user experience.

A few companies have tried to scale the device graph with mixed results.

Some tried and failed at this, in part, because it required too much coordination across multiple companies that could best be characterised as frenemies. Moving forward to implement an entirely new technology is difficult enough – but much more so when there isn’t much trust. For all our talk about innovation in ad tech, there’s still a remarkable resistance to change.

We started as a company that created custom device graphs – as many graphs as we had clients. And those graphs were created by leveraging the same technologies that companies know and trust – cookies, mobile ad IDs, log file data, etc. We use that data to match pseudonymous IDs. For example, our algorithm is able to tell us whether cookie ID 12345 is likely the same user as IDFA 54321. When we match two or more UID’s to a user, we assign that user a Match ID. We built the product this way in order to clarify that data was siloed for each client. We’ve found that this process has enabled us to create a custom identity graph for each client that is extremely accurate and doesn’t trip intellectual property concerns.

However, we’ve evolved our thinking when it comes to match IDs. Many in the industry would benefit from the simple connectivity of the IDs used within a walled garden (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google etc.) being connected to cookies and other more static identifiers across DSPs, SSPs, DMPs, ad servers, attribution, and marketing platforms. Advertisers would be much better off if they could tie impressions and clicks across these myriad platforms. As things currently stand, each operate in a silo – making it very difficult for advertisers to accurately measure the efficacy of their media spend.

David de Jong, Screen6

David de Jong, Co-Founder & CEO, Screen6

Privacy concerns are often a red herring when it comes to their unwillingness to share log-level data. But it is sort of ironic that many of them have no issue accepting PII from those very same advertisers. It would be much better for privacy to have a cross-platform identifier that was not personally identifiable.

We’re starting to see demand for the ability to sync IDs across multiple contexts. This isn’t really anything new – cookie syncing has been around for years. But the problem with cookie syncing is that it increases page loads and slows user experiences. Also, it puts an extra burden on an ever-increasing number of ad tech companies to keep track of all the linkages created. And then there are data rights and privacy concerns that need to be addressed.

Here’s our view on the development of a Universal ID:

Increase the scale & accuracy of cross-device connections

Scale and accuracy are paramount. That may seem like an obvious statement, but we believe that you’ll begin to see some of the larger players, such as Facebook, begin to experiment in participating in combined device graphs as a means to address their own limitations.

Reduce increased page loads as data is processed on the back end 

There’s already enough stuff going on to increase page loads and slow user experience. So much so, that this has become an issue that the IAB is taking on directly. The device graph won’t reach its potential if it relies too heavily on pixel syncing and simply becomes another gating factor on internet speeds.

Remove intellectual property concerns over data leakage

One of the biggest inhibitors to scale are fears over data leakage – particularly across multiple large entities. There needs to be an independent third party that can play Switzerland here and ensure that zero publisher, advertiser or client identifying data ends up in the device graph. Also, this party should not compete with any of the above-mentioned entities to retain its neutral positioning and ensure that it will continue to have access to data. For example, we wonder how many of the large data companies, such as Adobe, Acxiom, and Neustar, still partner with Crosswise after the Oracle acquisition.

Privacy safe

Privacy safe doesn’t just mean adhering to law and industry privacy standards. Privacy safe means being very careful, as an industry, not centralise too much data with any one company, granting them the right to normalise across all data assets and incorporating PII. As an industry, we must find a solution where the unifying platform is not in the data business itself. The entity should not own any data, nor house any PII itself. This removes all DSPs and DMPs from the running. Lastly, privacy safe means being really clear regarding what data gets transfers and to whom. These challenges increase exponentially as the device graphs scales.

A universal identifier must be an agnostic means to communicate across any digital platform for media transactions, passing segments, cross-device attribution across platforms, etc. And, at least in the near term, it needs to embrace that same technology stack with which everyone is already comfortable.

We believe the above will become the driving characteristics of cross-device vendors. The true opportunity in cross-device lies with a solution that can check all of those boxes without violating privacy or data rights. The historical growth of digital advertising was dependent upon the ability to reliably measure. We believe that future growth will depend upon the ability to reliably measure across the rapidly consolidating walled gardens.