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Verizon Media’s ID-free targeted ad solution, explained

Verizon Media’s new Next-Gen Solutions don't rely on app IDs or cookies, or capture consumers’ personal data

As advertising shifts toward an increasingly privacy-centric reality, Verizon Media is the latest to offer a suite of ‘ID-free’ targeting options. With all eyes on Google’s FloC, here’s what you need to know about what Verizon Media’s Next-Gen Solutions offer.

Verizon Media is the latest to offer ID-less advertising tools designed to help publishers and advertisers alike target specific audiences. Its Next-Gen Solutions offering adds to the ongoing cross-industry conversation about the future of advertising in an increasingly privacy-focused, ID-free world accelerated by Google’s decision to kill the third-party cookie, Apple’s new iOS 14.5 privacy updates and an influx of new data privacy regulations.

AI-supported audience building

Verizon’s Next-Gen Solutions suite enables audience creation, media buying and measurement. It includes three primary solutions:

The first is Next-Gen Audiences, an AI-powered tool that captures data signals from user devices to seamlessly connect marketers with relevant audiences based on these factors. According to Iván Markman, Verizon Media chief business officer, Next-Gen’s capabilities go beyond traditional contextual targeting that marketers often use to deliver ads to relevant site content. “We use content and other real-time signals received on the bid request to infer audiences with a high-level of accuracy and reach them with meaningful ad experiences. By leveraging our machine learning algorithms – trained on our first-party data – Next-Gen takes a sample of the user and projects those learnings to the remainder of the traffic that is not addressable, in real time.”

The second offering is Next-Gen Buying, which is integrated into the Verizon Media demand-side platform and uses similar machine learning capabilities to bid on both addressable and identity-free inventory. The goal is to help marketers buy smarter and improve campaign effectiveness.

Finally, Next-Gen Measurement marries Verizon Media’s aggregated first-party data with third-party measurement solutions to create a comprehensive, privacy-compliant picture for marketers. The capability helps marketers optimize conversion and pinpoint ROI.

Connecting with ConnectID

The suite of tools can be used in conjunction with the telecom titan’s other advertising solutions, including ConnectID, Verizon’s answer to growing demand for consent-based unified identity solutions that was unveiled in December. It is available in the US, APAC and select Latin American markets, and is expected to be made available in additional markets in the future.

Markman claims there are two scenarios in which identity-related solutions are needed. The first is in cases when an identifier, such as a hashed email, is present. The second is in cases where an identifier is not present. When an identifier is available, unified ID solutions such as ConnectID can enable marketers to reach their target audiences in a privacy-compliant manner.

However, Markman believes that the future is more likely to be ID-free. “The scenario in which an identifier is not present becomes more likely with the rollout of things like Apple’s IDFA, which is expected shortly and may have long-term impact on advertisers’ ability to reach target audiences in the ways they have become accustomed to.” However, he notes that identity-based advertising isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.

With Verizon Media, marketers and publishers can target audiences in either case. ConnectID enables them to reach audiences for whom IDs are available, whereas Next-Gen Solutions allows them to do so without access to any identifiers.

“In the case of identity-less audiences, consumers may have opted-out and we need to respect their decision to neither track nor create a user-level profile,” says Markman. “That’s what we’ve done with Next-Gen Solutions – help our advertisers and publishers continue to drive revenue and meaningful connections, while supporting consumer trust. We’re enabling them to take an integrated approach to identity.”

A FloC doppelgänger?

At first glance, Next-Gen Solutions may seem uncannily similar to Google’s FLoC. Marksman acknowledges that the two solutions have similar aims but is careful to differentiate Next-Gen. “FLoC is also billing itself as a solution for identity-less audiences, but our two solutions are different, both in the method in which we infer audiences and what that means for consumers,” he says. “FLoC leverages a user’s behavior to create browser-stored IDs that are then grouped into ‘cohorts’. It also only works on Google Chrome [whereas Next-Gen Solutions works across browsers]. We’re not storing any user data or creating user-level profiles. We’re pairing content with real-time data signals to infer audiences – and we neither store that data nor use it to create user-level profiles.”

Ultimately, Next-Gen helps marketers reach target audiences without relying on third-party cookies, user-level profiles, mobile app IDs or other existing tracking options. Paired with ConnectID or another unified ID solution, it could help marketers reach target audiences with or without IDs present.

Next-Gen Audiences and Next-Gen Buying will be available to marketers in the second quarter of the year, while Next-Gen Measurement will become available later this year.

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