Consorting With The Frenemy: Ad Tech Players Partner For Shared Identity Matching

Seven independent ad tech companies debuted a programmatic consortium on Thursday that pools their supply- and demand-side cookie IDs into one shared identity asset.

The consortium is helmed by AppNexus, MediaMath and LiveRamp, which provides the data matching. Other launch partners include Index Exchange, Rocket Fuel, LiveIntent and OpenX.

And it’s a shot across the bow of Facebook and Google, which suck in a majority of digital ad dollars.

“The big giants have had an advantage over the open internet in that they have their own deterministic identities for users that allows more precise targeting and cross-device matching,” said AppNexus product VP Patrick McCarthy.

Ad tech platforms like AppNexus, Index Exchange and OpenX have the combined online reach marketers want, McCarthy said, but an advertiser must match its data against each platform independently and use LiveRamp to create one-to-one matches.

“A universal cookie ID eliminates all the user syncing that goes on between platforms and the lower match rate that necessarily goes with it,” he said.

While Google and Facebook have users who contribute deterministic data, the newly formed ad tech consortium can apply first-party data from advertisers and logged-in data from publishers.

Marketers and supply sources who are a part of the consortium will access for free the shared cookie pool. LiveRamp’s cross-device graph IdentityLink can be extended to the campaigns, but LiveRamp is still considering commercial terms for ad buyers who want to add a cross-device matching component, company CMO Jeff Smith told AdExchanger.

For now, though, any marketer who wants to take advantage of the consortium’s cross-device offering must be a LiveRamp IdentityLink customer.

Smith is acutely aware that LiveRamp gains a new business funnel, noting that onboarding potential consortium partners is “definitely is a benefit for us.”

“And hopefully the broader benefit is if everyone standardizes around a common identity, the value and efficiency of their marketing will go up,” he added.

While the DSPs and SSPs in the consortium may not view it as a new business play, “there certainly will be benefits” that could lead to budget and supply-source consolidation, said MediaMath product VP Philipp Tsipman.

For instance, a European video supplier working with MediaMath on a campaign could match its viewers one-to-one with MediaMath’s cookie pool. If that relationship were to occur through the consortium, the match rates would be higher and the profiles would be more robust, since suppliers across the web are contributing data as well.

AppNexus’s McCarthy said the system doesn’t cut off buyers from suppliers that don’t use the consortium, but “they will get better matching and better results, so it could naturally funnel more budgets to suppliers that participate.”

The market needs “a unique identifier that is neutral,” said OpenX CEO Tim Cadogan in a statement about joining the consortium. “The lack of a unique identifier to date has been one of the biggest factors in fueling concerns around transparency, fairness and control in the digital advertising ecosystem.”

The ad tech consortium seems like a potential rival of DigiTrust, another co-op of ad tech platforms and publishers standardized around a shared first-party cookie ID. AppNexus, Rocket Fuel, OpenX and Index Exchange are members of both organizations.

“While details on their technical approach aren’t yet public, I can tell you it’s different than DigiTrust and like every technology approach has its trade-offs,” said DigiTrust CEO Jordan Mitchell, who was approached by AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley about the product last week.

“My belief is we can work in partnership with them on a path of least resistance,” Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, other cross-device graph providers want to know how they’ll fit into the consortium, which currently leverages only LiveRamp.

“It is a nice change of pace to see so many leading companies bonding together to address an industrywide problem which cannot and will not be solved without collaboration,” said Keith Petri, chief strategy officer at the cross-device identity management firm Screen6.

The company is waiting on details around the data-matching and privacy standards in the consortium, Petri said, but he looks forward to “being involved and tackling these challenges with open-minded companies.”

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