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How Do We Solve Our Identity Crisis?

April 20, 2020

by Adam Solomon, Chief Growth Officer, Lotame

I think that it’s safe to say that our industry hasn’t done a good job so far advancing effective conversations on identity, privacy, and the services needed to support media businesses. The IAB and IAB Tech Lab are trying to establish an identity framework with Project Rearc and many technology companies are working to build and offer solutions to the complex identity crisis we’ve found ourselves in. We’re facing a complicated set of issues that defy simple cure-alls or island approaches. 

The Case Against IDs

Some players in the marketing ecosystem believe we don’t need or require consumer identity as a foundation. Rather, they built their process on the collection, organization, and activation of audience segments client-side via the web browser (i.e., edge computing enabling local storage). In this case, the technology is not relying on data being stored or activated on the server-side (“the cloud”). If you execute collection rules in the browser, deposit the resulting segments in the browser, then fetch the segments from the browser to send to the adserver, then you don’t need to have user IDs or “people IDs.” This is a decidedly anti-cloud argument.

Playing devil’s advocate, but what happens when edge computing infrastructure becomes limited to 7 days, as Apple just announced? Or if it’s further curtailed to 24 hours? Traditionally, “edge computing” means pushing data and computing tasks closer to the end-user. Some companies are touting “edge computing” as the hero we’ve all been waiting for but it’s really disconnected computing that returns a one dimensional and siloed view of the consumer. 

Let’s look at an example, John visits cooking.com so we know he cooks or aspires to cook. Brands can serve him contextual ads based on that single interest and browser history. In this case, accessing local storage data is fine. But let’s say you’re a brand looking for customers similar to your best customers and you want to find that scale by layering on affinities or behaviors similar to your audience? After all, people are multi-dimensional with ever changing tastes, preferences, behaviors, and intent. No such luck in this lonely island world. Disconnected computing a la local storage doesn’t allow for this kind of audience (or people-based) targeting. 

The Case for IDs

Let’s explore the pro-ID approach to these same challenges. Identity graphing is a viable alternative to help stitch together disparate data sources across time, platforms, devices, and contexts.  

Identity graphing or people-based marketing supports data collection, organization, and activation across platforms and channels. While ID graphing originated with the goal of stitching web and mobile IDs together, the solution has evolved in light of third-party cookies being swapped for domain specific first-party cookies. The new ID graphs require some kind of “glue” to attach data to the person. With a mix of technology and data, it’s possible to build a global ID graph with web-based IDs (in first-party or third-party cookies), MAIDs, and OTT IDs. 

The output are people-based profiles that capture the dimensionality of a person. For example, John who visited that cooking site might be an active car collector, soccer fan, dad and pet parent. With ID graphing, these attributes, behaviors and interests are linked so that you can engage with John when and where relevant across many sites, channels, devices and contexts. If we truly want to get closer to customers and develop stronger relationships, we should aspire to a view of the consumer across domains, devices, time and channels. And of course, all of this needs to be carried out in a manner that is fully compliant with legal requirements and gives consumers the power to make choices as to how their data is used.

So if you had a choice between mono-channel and omnichannel, which would you choose? The former which puts all its eggs in the client-side-single-domain-seven-days-at-best storage and processing basket, or the latter that focuses on server-side, multi-domain, and flexible times for storage and processing. Maybe a sharper analogy is Microsoft Word classic where the software is on the PC vs Google Docs where everything is in the cloud and accessible anywhere. Each has their pros and cons. It really depends on what you need to do for your business. Where do you stand? 

How do you think ID graphing will change the way marketers understand their consumers? Do we need a standardization across the industry on how we tackle consumer privacy in an identity graphing world? Join the LinkedIn Privacy Sandbox Group to continue the discussion with industry peers.

Still not sure on how to get started with identity graphing? Download the complimentary playbook from AdMonsters and Lotame to learn how you can find an identity partner to help you navigate in this cookie-challenged world.