Choose Your Own Identity Adventure: Why The Ad Industry Is Stuck In Wait-And-See Mode

Joanne Monfradi Dunn headshot

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by JoAnne Monfradi Dunn, CEO, Alliant.

 With so many privacy-first identity solutions, brands have two options: act now or procrastinate.

Is it time to pick a lane, or is the ad community going to remain consumed by analysis paralysis?

Conversations are happening within every agency and brand marketing team, as everyone tries to tackle the same questions:

  •   Will the new identity solutions take root?
  •   Which IDs will matter?
  •   Do I need to rely on more than one solution?
  •   How is activation impacted? What about measurement?
  •   Do they work in walled gardens? 
  •   Do I even need to do anything?

Some of these questions are unresolved, as companies take different positions on the same issue. While the ad tech world is rallying around cross-platform ID solutions like The Trade Desk-sponsored Unified ID 2.0 and LiveRamp’s RampID, Google has stated that it will not rally around an email-based ID, for example.

As the advertising community formulates a strategy for a cookieless future, there’s a case for each approach: deciding now or deciding later.

 The case for deciding now

Some brands have found a way to dodge the big questions; they’ve simply passed them along to their agency, assured that the agency can handle it. This sounds clean, but it’s not future-proof. While agencies are capable of handling many challenges, a brand should lean into its own data and overall marketing strategy to guide the way.  

Things get muddier for brands that use different agencies to handle digital, connected TV, linear TV and direct mail. A change to any one channel creates waves across the organization, so it’s best that brands bear the burden of deciding their path forward. Many large brands have jumped into the game directly, placing bets on a few large platforms, such as LiveRamp’s rebranded RampID and Neustar’s Fabrick ID.

Being conversant in the new targeting paradigm will greatly benefit brands. They’ll have the knowledge necessary to assess their agency’s decisions and make strategic recommendations and adjustments. Brands that dig deep now also gain more knowledge than their competitors, possibly even adopting worthwhile technology ahead of their competitors.

The early-adopter advantage also gives brands a role in defining the future. Platforms are already placing their bets and leaning into new solutions, and awareness typically flows from platform to agency to advertiser. 

Brands can communicate to their agencies and platforms what they need to deliver on goals and KPIs. That way, brands don’t have to fit into a new technology; they can help write the rules of technology that fits them, while their competition waits around for a solution that seems to fit. 

The case for deciding later

Even with the clear benefits of acting now, the wait-and-see approach may make sense. It’s a pretty big sandbox right now, and marketers will likely use multiple targeting solutions to execute their campaigns.

Plus, one solution won’t fit all advertisers’ needs. While the benefit of early adoption is influencing a solution to conform to your needs, smaller advertisers may not have the resources to devote to that kind of development. They will find it more advantageous to wait for a solution that aligns with their needs, and then make the necessary adjustments to use it.

Then there’s the fact that Google maintains the potential to alter the landscape with a single decision. It can decide not to support possible solutions on Chrome, which can sway the industry and a solution’s future potential. Cookies remain a reliable form of targeting until Chrome actually pulls them, and it’s already pushed back the deadline. With pressure from the European Union and lack of support from Amazon, there is the small chance Google’s cohort approach (FLoC) may evolve as well.

 What if we’re wrong?

Then there’s the big question: What if we do the wrong thing? Brands are afraid of taking the wrong path as much as they are of picking the wrong solution. The main reason so many are paralyzed by choice is the fear that a decision will leave them totally screwed.

Brands will match well with different approaches: Some brands will find success basing their ad targeting mostly on first-party data and cohorting solutions, while others will see results using alternative identifiers or platforms. Plenty of others will have to change course, making them late adopters forced to play catch-up to their competitors.

 The best path for brands right now is to think critically about what they need to stay competitive and let that determine their level of commitment. 

The opportunity to push technology solutions toward brands’ goals and KPIs is too big to pass up, and exerting that influence can be done while still being nimble enough to adapt if a solution doesn’t pan out as expected.

Follow Alliant (@AlliantData) and AdExchanger (@AdExchanger) on Twitter.

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