Drawbridge Exits Media Business In Europe Before GDPR Storms The Castle

The cross-device identity company Drawbridge abandoned its advertising business in the EU and is trying to reconcile its data business with GDPR regulations beginning in May.

Drawbridge founder and CEO Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan confirmed the company’s reversals in Europe in an email to AdExchanger.

Drawbridge will transition its EU partner services to the company’s New York City office as it unwinds the London office this year, according to mar tech partners alerted to the changes.

Drawbridge’s two arms consist of a media-buying group and a data business licensing its identity solution to other companies.

The problem Drawbridge faces is that under GDPR, it must obtain individual consumer consent to access data, and then again to conduct services like targeted advertising.

Drawbridge has no consumer-facing brand or touch points, so it must coax consent from people who don’t know the company and on the back of app operators or media companies with first-party relationships. And it must do the same to apply its cross-device profiles for advertising.

GDPR compliance would be a monumental task, and the quality of its service would be undercut even if Drawbridge committed to securing consent for targeted advertising in the EU.

“Our position and response is that we must focus on what we do best, which will also position Drawbridge for long-term success,” Sivaramakrishnan said.

Drawbridge is exploring ways to implement GDPR for its data business, she said, but “still needs some clarity around how the industry at large is ensuring consent from consumers.”

Drawbridge is working on a way to license its cross-device graph to exchange vendors in Europe so, for instance, a buying platform could use Drawbridge’s identity-matching solution for its own data without Drawbridge storing or seeing any data on the continent.

“The product changes are feasible, but people are in a wait-and-see mode for how (GDPR and e-Privacy laws) are going to be enforced,” said one Drawbridge DSP partner in Europe who requested anonymity to discuss partners.

Drawbridge’s setbacks in Europe are part of a trend among cross-device identity graphs. Tapad is getting out of media services entirely and is shifting its cross-device graph business to something more like a CDP, a category with less regulatory burdens because CDPs manage first-party data on behalf of brands without applying the data to ads or marketing services.

“It’s too bad for Drawbridge, but the whole mar tech ecosystem is hurting from this,” said another exchange tech vendor working with Drawbridge on a GDPR solution.

Cross-device linking is a critical service for mar tech vendors, she said, and all of a sudden the cross-device cupboard in Europe is looking pretty bare, especially for a category where a handful of vendors are typically employed to get the breadth needed for online campaigns.

“Meanwhile, there’s Google and Facebook, running away,” she said.

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  1. These issues are simple to resolve. Obtaining explicit consent is simpler than they think, easy to document, and GDPR issues are readily resolved.

  2. Bruzote

    Just for the archives – Drawbridge’s business model is essentially selling highly-revelatory information about interpersonal connections. If they seek consent, they will have a short-term challenge and a long-term challenge. In the short-term, it’s likely a large fraction of people will decide to NOT give consent, essentially eliminating much of their European business value. In the long-term, as the consent requests pile up, awareness of Drawbridge will possibly draw unwanted scrutiny to the company, leading to a negative shift in public willingness to consent or even tolerate the existing legal framework in the EU. Or (worse), the increased visibility could lead to crossover visibility in the US, where people may tire of having their corrupt Congress sell out their own citizens instead of allowing markets to fund business through hidden costs to citizens. Making costs explicit would hurt their business model tremendously. The need for their data would diminish.