Home Agencies Dentsu’s Merkury Charts A Post-Cookie Future

Dentsu’s Merkury Charts A Post-Cookie Future

The Trade Desk is on a tear, striking three partnerships in quick succession over the course of a week to support the Unified ID 2.0 initiative.

Goodbye, cookies. Hello, agency first-party IDs.

Agency holdco Dentsu launched a set of identity solutions for Merkury, its identity resolution platform, on Tuesday.

The identity solutions try to create a single customer view for marketers. By connecting their tech and their partners’ tech with centralized creative, media and customer experience data across their ecosystems, marketers can own – and manage – their first-party data, said Matt Naeger, chief strategy officer at Merkle.

Currently, only individual walled gardens offer advertisers a single view of consumers for creative and media, said Liz Rutgersson, CEO at iProspect, a Dentsu-owned media agency.

Dentsu claims that a shared identity graph between platforms and partners will lead to a more consistent experience for customers, brands and agencies alike.

Dentsu arguably kicked off the agency data stampede when it acquired Merkle in 2016. But integrating customer data throughout a giant entity like Dentsu hasn’t been an easy task. Nor has demonstrating how the data improves Dentsu’s creative and media.

Mending the data divide

Technological limitations have historically thrown up walls between media and creative and led to an unconscious uncoupling in both strategy and execution, Rutgersson said.

Say the creative team picks up identity signals from how customers interact with content, but the media team doesn’t have access to that information. When media and creative teams have different ideas about who’s in the audience, it’s no wonder they disagree about which assets to run or how to structure a campaign, Naeger said.

The Merkury solutions aim to put an end to the bickering. Since a brand’s loyalty program messaging and creative are connected to the same identity source as the media messaging and creative, Rutgersson said, brands can communicate with users in a more coherent way.

For instance, a national furniture retailer that’s been working with Merkury for years connects its loyalty and on-site experience through one identity source. “From a media perspective, we do a lot with retailers that have both digital and in-store experiences, so the ability to use identity for omni-messaging has been critical,” Rutgersson said.


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One of Merkury’s selling points is that it can serve more tailored creative to individuals, based on the data points that uniquely differentiate it from similar customers, according to Naeger. The more advertisers know about someone, the more personally relevant (and successful, from a conversion standpoint) the creative can be.

“It’s the difference between speaking to somebody you might have a general knowledge base about around the office and someone you’re really friends with,” said Amy Thorne, EVP of performance and creative business lead at Dentsu Creative. “We’re friends with [consumers] in the backend.”

Break out the best friend bracelets for Dentsu and Merkury, too. With the promotion of Michael Komasinski, who previously served as global CEO of Merkle, to CEO of Dentsu Americas this summer after Jacki Kelley left for IPG, first-party data and identity may have even bigger roles to play at Dentsu in the future.

Off to the data races

In recent years, many agencies have invested in data tech and touted their first-party platforms.

On the holding companies front, IPG acquired Acxiom in 2018 and launched an identity resolution solution, Acxiom Real ID, last week. The app unites brands’ cloud data and seems like a direct competitor to Dentsu’s latest offering.

Publicis acquired Epsilon in 2019. WPP in-housed its data within GroupM. And Omnicom built its own data platform, Omni, in 2018.

Indie agencies are getting in on the first-party data action, too. Last year, Horizon Media launched its homegrown data platform, Blu.

The longest goodbye

Though industry players agree that first-party data is the future, the road to adoption is slow and filled with potholes.

Brands have put off fully exiling third-party cookies for the past two years, but “we’re in the last moment,” said Matthew Seeley, EVP of global technology services at Merkle. Now that it’s getting real, “we’re starting to see a lot of urgency” from brands that want to reach audiences without cookies.

Dentsu itself has yet to swear off cookies entirely.

Cookies will continue to be in the mix for Merkury as long as the signal persists, but “we don’t rely on it,” Seeley said. Merkury is built on “more relevant signals,” including device IDs, email addresses and terrestrial addresses, pulling data from a variety of sources, including Merkle’s consumer data product, DataSource. The data asset contains more than 10,000 attributes.

On top of that, Merkle pulls in different data based on the sector, Naeger said. For instance, as an agent of the credit bureau, Merkle can use credit information to build financial models for loan qualification for financial services clients. For nonprofits, Merkle can bring in donor files.

The company also analyzes how and why people make decisions based on how they respond to a brand’s messaging, Naeger said. If one person engages with an ad from a water bottling company about its efforts to become more eco-friendly and another doesn’t, it’s a signal about what motivates them.

“Once you know what matters to an individual,” Naeger said, that data can infuse every aspect of messaging: how, when and where to talk to someone. That kind of data point takes identity from the aggregate to the specific, which is exactly what Dentsu is trying to do in the post-cookie world.

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