Historically, in digital advertising, third-party cookies have been used to identify audiences in desktop and mobile web environments for the purposes of reaching them and gathering insights on consumer activity. Although the timeline has been extended, advertisers are still grappling with what the future of identity will look like across the entire landscape once cookies are eventually deprecated.
While desktop and mobile are heavily impacted by the fate of cookies, the same challenges that face these environments do not apply to connected TV (CTV) which is an inherently cookie-less environment. Although device identifiers (and their standardization) have advanced audience targeting and measurement capabilities in CTV, challenges do still remain for advertisers that are planning cross-channel or cross-device campaigns.
The industry is also rightfully trending towards heightened consumer privacy and transparency. Privacy regulations--including GDPR, CCPA, CDPA--and decisions by device manufacturers will continue to shift how audience data is transacted and increase the use of first-party data. Both media owners and device manufacturers want to ensure consumer data is being used in accordance with the consumer’s consent preferences within their platforms. As a result, media owners are becoming increasingly reliant on layering audience data in their own environments. This is propagating data strategies that are driven by the supply-side. Connecting the consumer’s footprint across the fragmented landscape to the broader digital ad ecosystem would require a means of bridging data across platforms or devices.
So, as the ecosystem evolves, what strategies should media owners and advertisers adopt to best prepare for the changing identity landscape?
Tech Advancements to Help Cross-Screen Campaigns
Paywalls and login requirements have become more common on the web and in mobile settings but consumers still generally expect to be able to access content without logging into a platform. CTV viewers, on the other hand, are familiar with the authentication process and even expect it. As a result, CTV content providers have a uniquely close relationship with the consumer, and their stockpile of first-party data is becoming inherently more valuable.
Many advertiser first-party datasets are built on consumer information or consumer interactions on desktop and mobile environments. Increased fragmentation will come with the loss of identifiers, which presents a cross-device challenge in connecting data to CTV devices for both measurement and audience targeting. As third-party cookies are phased out and privacy regulations are enforced, cross-device graphs (which have been relied on historically to connect data sets to CTV devices) are becoming increasingly less reliable. Many advertisers and media owners are turning to data clean rooms, which provide safe spaces to share data, to solve these challenges and connect data to the consumer’s footprint across devices.
Data clean rooms enable data collaboration between media owners and advertisers without either party becoming more data rich. Advertisers can see how their own data sets match up with media owners’ obfuscated data sets. Using tools within the clean room post-campaign, advertisers can determine whether they’re over-serving ads to the same audiences or link exposures to outcomes. In order to prevent data leakage, media owners can also obfuscate any device information from passing through the bidstream.
Authentication strategies being deployed by media owners also play a key role in many universal ID solutions which have the potential to unlock cross-platform measurement in a safe, privacy-compliant manner. Universal IDs present an opportunity for advertisers to reach consumers across devices while providing consumers with relevant, personalized ads that cater to their preferences.
The Way Forward
The loss of digital identifiers and increased privacy regulation presents an opportunity for industry-wide collaboration to create solutions that power advertising in a transparent manner.
While unified IDs, data clean rooms, first-party data, and new technologies can solve the impending challenges, the true way forward lies in adoption.
Media owners will ultimately do what’s best for their own business strategies, and that often involves holding on to their first-party data closely. While this can increase fragmentation and scale challenges for media owners and advertisers alike, industry education and adoption of new technological solutions to bridge the divide in the changing privacy landscape will benefit all parties.
To understand how different screens complement each other, advertisers should test, measure, and learn how best to reach their target audiences across multiple devices. Understanding new tools available in-market, implementing cross-screen measurement, and building new systems and processes—will allow marketers to navigate this ever-evolving ecosystem.