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LiveRamp’s IdentityLink acts as centerpiece for new identity consortium
The consortium is based around a common cookie for its members, to simplify the task of matching cookies to identities.
People-based marketing is a gold standard for marketers, because the targeted customers are definitively identified.
Today, Acxiom’s data onboarding division, LiveRamp, and two leading ad tech firms, AppNexus and MediaMath, announced the launch of an open consortium to increase the availability of people-based marketing in programmatic advertising.
While the announcement talks about a single identity standard being available across platforms — including Internet of Things devices, addressable TV, video billboards and mobile — LiveRamp CMO Jeff Smith explained to me that this announcement is really about adopting a single type of cookie for use in LiveRamp’s IdentityLink.
The new organization could be described, he said, as “a consortium for a unified identifier, in one cookie.”
The consortium’s members already use LiveRamp’s IdentityLink to identify people, he pointed out. IdentityLink connects user data across online channels, as well as with offline behavior, via a common fixed identifier such as an email address, a phone number, a name or a street address.
So, an unknown user’s laptop cookie could be identified and linked to a cookie on a desktop machine, for instance, because the user on both devices might have logged on to some participating site with the same email address.
The problem, Smith said, is that everyone is dropping their own cookies, so it takes IdentityLink that much longer to sync up connectors with lots of different cookies. Essentially, he said, this consortium is about every participating vendor agreeing on one cookie, which will make IdentityLink’s matching easier and faster.
Since it’s faster, he said, it will mean that people-based targets will be able to happen more often when a programmatic ad bid is made.
Because there are so many cookies, IdentityLink hasn’t always been able to resolve an identity in the milliseconds before a bid is made on a specific user’s impression. It can do that about 50 or 60 percent of the time, Smith said, but the rest of the time, IdentityLink says to the ad platform, in effect: “I can’t figure out fast enough whose impression this is.” Now, IdentityLink should be able to more frequently tell the ad platform in real time: “This impression belongs to Jane Smith.”
Of course, cookies don’t work well on mobile, or on smart TVs or video billboards. Smith said that a more efficient matching to a single cookie in the desktop/laptop world could make it easier to match identities in other realms, such as mobile or smart TVs.
Eventually, he indicated, the consortium may tackle a unified identifier on mobile or other platforms, but for the moment, it will continue to match mobile device IDs to identified cookies via a common identifier in IdentityLink.
Outside the unified cookie, Smith said, the rest of IdentityLink will act more or less the same.
The consortium’s announcement pitched the idea that its unified identity standard will make it easier for vendors and publishers to compete with the big walled gardens and their huge people-based environments. It mentions in particular Google and Facebook, but there’s also AOL/Yahoo/Verizon, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.
Many advertisers obviously relish walled gardens’ treasure trove of identified users, but they and publishers are wary of becoming too dependent on the big guys.
Forrester Vice President Joe Stanhope told me that “we’ve reached the limit of third-party [anonymous] data,” so a broader use of identified users could provide a more efficient system, with more attribution and cross-device accessibility.
He noted that the consortium faces two key challenges. First, he said, there’s the question of what constitutes a tipping point that will make a big difference. How many consortium members will it take before this common cookie becomes a standard?
The other challenge, he said, is “we’ve seen consortia come and go.”
Analyst David Raab pointed out that “there’s more and more focus [these days] on marketing and advertising that is people-based.” He added that making identities available when the ad bid happens “makes programmatic substantially more powerful.”
Also joining the consortium are ad tech firms Index Exchange, LiveIntent, DSP Open and RocketFuel.