How DigiTru.st aims to help publishers navigate the adtech conundrum

'Cookies simply weren’t designed for many companies to work together to deliver personalized digital content' / pixabay

DigiTru.st, a proposed coalition of adtech outfits and publishers geared towards coming up with a universal identifier, has reached a milestone with over 40 such companies agreeing to deploy the technology. The Drum caught up with its chief executive officer Jordan Mitchell to discuss his pitch to the market.

Having been co-founded in 2014, and later resurrected in early 2016, DigiTru.st has gained critical mass, according to Mitchell who adds that members are about to fully deploy its single ID solution as 2017 comes to a close.

He further discloses that 14 leading publishers and 29 adtech outfits have now signed up to its pledge to devise a standardized user ID which he hopes will improve audience recognition at scale.

With US programmatic ad spend for display advertising inventory forecast to increase from $32.56bn this year to $45.72bn, according to eMarketer the use of cookies for audience recognition on the web has exploded in recent years, and is set to do so even more (see chart).

This is increasingly burdening consumers with slower experiences and causing massive inefficiencies within the digital supply chain, according to Mitchell, who stresses that DigiTru.st differs from other similar initiatives in the market since it is not driven by a profit motive.

This “identity war” has in large part been a reaction to the growing dominance of the industry’s "walled gardens" such as Facebook and Google, with Mitchell pointing out that “cooperation” was key to the success of DigiTru.st. “A rising tide floats all boats,” he adds.

Among the publishers now working with DigiTru.st (and are at various levels of deployment) are: CBS Interactive; Gizmodo Media Group; Nexstar Media Group; Purch; Hometalk; Topix; Spil Games; Encyclopaedia Britannica; Barons Media; Snopes.com; and Univision.

A blog post trumpeting DigiTru.st’s progress, contains testimony from Jason White, general manager of CBS Interactive, claiming that from the first quarter of next year he will begin asking third-party adtech companies they work with to remove their “sync pixels” from its web properties.

DigiTru.st members also include DMPs, SSPs, as well as support from DSPs to help pass on the proposed user IDs during bid requests (see chart below for a list of adtech players involved).

“We have full supply chain cooperation,” reveals Mitchell, adding that Digitru.st commands support from multiple tiers of the industry.

A presentation currently being promoted by DigiTrus.tv cites research claiming that the average publisher web page receives anywhere up to 80-plus third party bid requests from third parties, resulting in an page load time of 6.1 seconds.

However, with a standardized third party ID, deployed on a page, this could be reduced to less than 20 user ID requests, resulting in an average page load time of 2.5 second or less.

“Fewer third party requests from publisher pages translates to less potential leakage of valuable audience data,” adds DigiTrust's Mitchell. “DigiTrust allows premium publishers to take back control over their user experience and audience data.”

Dr Boris Mouzykantskii, chief executive of IPONWEB (the parent company of DigiTru.st member BidSwitch), explains the central technology problem at the core of multiple cookie – or pixel – syncs.

“Cookies simply weren’t designed for many companies to work together to deliver personalized digital content and advertising over the Web to consumers on many different devices,” he adds.

Mitchell points out that the emergence of server-to-server side header bidding is further exacerbating the problem, adding that a common user ID is necessary to the next wave of innovation in online audience targeting.

The DigiTru.st model proposes that members pay a monthly API fee in return for access to the user ID, with Mitchell also keen to raise his belief that adopting a cooperative approach will help adtech can better ensure they comply with the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

Speaking previously with The Drum, Dan de Sybel, chief technology officer at Infectious Media (a participating partner within DigiTru.st) described such consortiums as “necessary to start the kinds of dialogue between partners that will enable more upfront and transparent data sharing.”

This is a point of view also shared by Mike Shehan, chief executive officer of RTL-owned SpotX (a video ad serving company also participating in DigiTru.st) further pointing out that such an approach can help partners in the aforementioned “identity war” with some of the industry’s biggest names.

“Google, Facebook and other walled gardens enjoy a first-party relationship with internet users which enables frictionless delivery of addressable advertising within their footprints. Collaborating with a shared ID promises to deliver that same capability to the independent publisher,” he adds.

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Ronan Shields

I'm the digital editor at The Drum, and cover adtech and martech. Prefer news and analysis, over opinion pieces. Current fascination(s) are blockchain and media futures trading; also curious about transhumanism on a personal basis. NYC-based, but really London Irish.

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