IAB Tech Lab Acquires DigiTrust In Homecoming Deal

The IAB Tech Lab, the research and development arm affiliated with the trade group, has acquired the nonprofit online identity consortium DigiTrust.

Terms of the deal are unknown, though a key feature is the acqui-hire of Jordan Mitchell, DigiTrust’s founder and CEO, as the Tech Lab’s senior VP of members and operations. The Tech Lab is also hiring another full-time DigiTrust employee and a product contractor.

DigiTrust is returning home, having spun out of an IAB working group in 2014 as part of an effort to standardize cookies across media and ad tech companies.

The consortium works through publishers and media networks placing a tag on their sites so buy-side platforms can cohesively measure and track users, improving match rates and reducing latency for the open programmatic ecosystem. The suppliers pay nothing and should see improved ad performance, and the buy-side partners pay a fee.

IAB Tech Lab members will gain access to DigiTrust, said Dennis Buchheim, senior VP and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab, which could add supply and improve match rates, though buy-side Tech Lab members will still pay a fee when they use the service.

He compared DigiTrust’s revenue model within the Tech Lab to a service for managing bots and spiders, or web crawlers, which companies can use in their technology for an additional fee on top of membership.

DigiTrust’s ID consortium will continue to operate as a standalone entity, Buchheim said, but the Tech Lab plans to apply DigiTrust’s identity technology to other IAB initiatives, like the GDPR consent framework, which is in development to transmit opt-in and targeting consent from publishers to programmatic technology partners.

Moving to the IAB Tech Lab is the right thing for DigiTrust members and for the industry, Mitchell told AdExchanger, because the propagation of cookie-based IDs is weighing heavily on the online advertising supply chain.

Returning to the IAB is a “very natural transition” for DigiTrust, according to an executive who is both a DigiTrust member and works with DigiTrust in IAB Tech Lab working groups. Both organizations share nonprofit status and DigiTrust’s supporting members, including Quantcast, Sonobi and Index Exchange, are among the most active contributors to IAB Tech Lab working groups.

The IAB Tech Lab needs to own the kind of privacy and identity technology DigiTrust has developed, he said, and if it built its own solution it would add yet another consolidated ID to the market.

And DigiTrust, where for years Mitchell was the only full-time employee, was at a perpetual disadvantage to companies like The Trade Desk, AppNexus and MediaMath with significant R&D investments.

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