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First Party Identity Data & Privacy Technology

The ad industry must uphold these 6 pillars of identity in a post-cookie world

By Ionut Ciobotaru , co-founder and CEO

May 15, 2023 | 7 min read

Preserving identity is imperative for advertising to deliver value, argues Verve Group’s Ionut Ciobotaru. But not all identity solutions are designed equally. This story is part of The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, The New Data & Privacy Playbook.

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In the new privacy-first world of digital advertising, we can protect user identity while still providing value and insights to advertisers. As an industry, however, there’s very little agreement yet on exactly how we do that.

Amid the many viewpoints on identity – understood generally as the ability to recognize individuals across devices and the web – and a raft of competing solutions, advertisers and publishers need tools and insights to navigate their identity discussions and assess cookieless solutions.

In 2021, there were at least 80 identity solutions in the market, according to estimates from MMA Global and Prohaska Consulting. Last year, the number topped 100. As the options continue to proliferate, so does the confusion.

Ideally, identity solutions will provide both interoperability and neutrality; compliance and safety; global reach as well as measures of real performance. But how can you screen for such things? When evaluating the benefits and drawbacks, it can be helpful to assess them across six key pillars.

1. Privacy

The necessary quest to protect user privacy is what has brought our industry to this inflection point in the first place. Above all, advertisers and publishers must ensure the solutions they implement include proper consumer protections. Questions include:

  • Is the solution probabilistic or deterministic in nature?

  • Does the solution require PII or any other form of IDs such as an email address that can be tied back to individuals?

  • Have platform players such as Google and Apple reviewed the solution? Does it adhere to its strict regulations or regulatory scrutiny?

2. Scale

To have an impact, identity solutions must protect consumer privacy while still helping advertisers meet their goals – which requires the ability to scale. Questions include:

  • Can the solution deliver scale comparable to the ID-based world?

  • Is the solution scalable across channels?

  • Does the solution compromise on the fidelity of data input or output in favor of scale?

3. Tech implementation

A solution isn’t a solution if advertisers and publishers can’t reasonably implement them within the broader context of their tech stacks and requirements. Questions include:

  • Will a solution require changes to an existing advertiser or publisher tech stack?

  • Is it a plug-and-play solution with the heavy lifting done by the vendor?

  • Does the solution require development work and investment by the publisher or demand partner?

  • Does the solution require an SDK implementation? What is the impact, if any, on app performance and security?

  • Is the implementation based on a common industry standard?

  • Is the solution available with aggregator services that bundle or offer other alternate identifiers?

  • Does the implementation impact the app UI or UX?

  • Does the vendor provide visibility into data flow through explicit tech documentation or other means?

4. Interoperability

Every advertiser’s and publisher’s needs are unique, and that means they must be able to customize a solution set to their individual needs. That means identity solutions need to be adaptable and play nicely with others. Questions include:

  • Does a solution work well with other software and systems?

  • Are there well-defined standards for encryption, decryption, and storage of signals?

  • How easy is it to use the solution across different buying and selling platforms?

  • Is the solution open source?

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5. Targeting

We live in an omnichannel world, and effective identity solutions must be able to connect consumers across the many disparate screens, platforms and channels where they spend their time. Questions include:

  • Does a solution allow targeting across mobile, web and CTV?

  • How does the tech implementation impact targeting costs?

  • Would targeting in general be expensive? In other words, will acquisition costs increase?

6. Measurement

If you can’t measure it, how can you optimize it? This statement is true across the entire digital marketing landscape, and, given that identity sits at the core of omnichannel efforts, measurement capabilities are of the utmost importance. Questions include:

  • Does the solution allow brand advertisers to measure upper-, mid-, and lower-funnel performance?

  • Does the solution allow cross-channel measurement?

Identity is in many ways a foundation for the advertising industry – and, ultimately, advertising should be a public good. Advertising plays a key role in helping businesses reach new audiences, which enables them to drive the economy, create jobs and provide opportunities for people and communities. In preserving effective advertising with strong identity solutions, we preserve all the benefits that come with it.

Ionut Ciobotaru is co-chief exec at Verve Group. To read more from The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, where we’ll be demystifying data & privacy for marketers in 2023, head over to our special hub.

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