The Identity Crisis

You may have heard (it was second page news after all) that Google is planning on eliminating 3rd party cookies in Chrome over the next two years. No more 3rd party tracking. Instead measurement will be dependent on Google’s Privacy Sandbox, a Chrome enclosed (what sounds like) clean room solution Google is building. You know, in the name of privacy. The strengthening walls of their garden are just an unintended consequence…

ITP was the drama of 2018 and 2019, yet Safari represents a little over 18% of desktop/mobile share. Chrome represents north of 65% of all US browser usage. (Net Market Share) This is going to change the ecosystem.

Refusing to let go of their drama spotlight, Apple stubbornly muscled it’s way back into the fray by announcing that it was going to begin requiring opt-in, at the app level, for IDFA collection. This is supposed to happen with the release of iOS 14 in September.

GAID may follow suit. Wouldn’t be surprised if Google announces by the end of the year – it is 2020.

What Does It All Mean?

It means change. Drastic change. Entailing all the risk, failure and vulnerabilities that come with seismic shifts. (It’s affectionately known as the “cookie apocalypse”) But change also comes with the opportunity to rethink, iteratively build and shape solutions that don’t yet exist. It’s the most fun when there isn’t yet a solution.

For Google, Apple and Facebook, eroding these 3rd party cookies erodes 3rd party data, making their own 1st party data more valuable. Trust me – they’re still tracking everything you’re doing on their platform (including different devices you log into which is the backbone to their deterministic identities powering their advertising solutions).

We’ll be more dependent on the already monopolistic walled-garden behemoths of the industry.

Unless we do something different, well, kind of….

Do we have to play by their rules? The consensus seems to be chasing down “the one identity to rule them all.” This mythical rosetta stone that would translate everyone’s 1st party IDs into a usable, non-re-identifiable, ID. Kinda sounds centralized and powerful doesn’t it?

For bigger companies, it’s worth considering developing their own identity graphs and their own ID syncing with major publishers. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately…it certainly requires a lot more work, and the major platforms make it easier to buy inventory programmatically by doing that work for you. But I’ve bought programmatic directs with specific demographic audience criteria – in theory, you don’t need all those hops in between if you had an ID sync directly with the publisher.

CDP would be critical here, managing the various different publisher ID syncs. And the mechanism for matching is foggy.

One of the biggest advantages the Facebooks, Twitter and Google’s of the world have is that you access their apps from multiple devices – so they have large identity graphs of their own, allowing them to do PII matching directly into their platform. Publishers can do this too – but match rates would be lower.

Onboarders (like Liveramp and Neustar) are other alternatives of matching directly with publishers, but again – a lot of power in one’s hand. Once you translate your data to a 3rd party identity provider’s ID, you need that identity provider to do anything with those IDs.

It’s not just about audiences either. The matching mechanism used to onboard audiences is often the same for onboarding server to server events. Again, a well orchestrated CDP should be getting all events from your 1st party analytics solution, and can then send them server side to ad platforms. Google and Facebook have server side pixel solutions – where event forwarding can completely replace any need for a pixel on your site.

But now I’m just rambling…

The point I think I’m trying to make is we don’t have to figure out how to replicate the paradigms of the past, we can build a next era of ad tech as seismic as the shift that necessitated it.

When two companies can change their platforms and completely disrupt, if not devastate, an industry – I don’t think cookies, or their death, is the biggest threat in the industry.

Maybe their moves to leverage their domination over the ecosystem will be the catalyst for the rest of the ecosystem to push back by decentralizing.

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