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Building the Future of Internet Identity – With Relevant Advertising and Improved User Privacy

As the Ad Industry looks beyond Cookies, leaders believe there’s an opportunity to create a much better approach – that better serves the needs of internet users and advertisers.

The advertising industry has done a poor job articulating digital advertising’s value exchange. Tech giants want to reshape the open web in their favor. Media buyers need to be more proactive. And the overall industry must adopt a sense of urgency in addressing the future of identity.

Those sentiments were among the declarations made by industry leaders during a candid panel on the future of addressable advertising at The Trade Desk’s annual Groundswell Digital Marketing Festival on Thursday.

Addressable advertising allows marketers to target consumers with relevant ads in areas such as display, digital audio and connected TV. But its primary ingredient — identity — relies on outdated technologies, cookies in particular, that aren’t designed to work across disparate platforms and channels. At the same time, the deprecation of third-party cookies, increasing consumer privacy regulation and looming restrictions to Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) are presenting industry leaders with an opportunity to upgrade identity technology in a way that preserves the value exchange of the internet while increasing user privacy and control.

“We really need to do something now and not wait,” Andrew Casale, president and CEO of Index Exchange, said during the panel on the industry’s identity dilemma. “We have a lot of precedent for what happens to the industry when it waits too long.”

‘Don’t follow the leader’

Marketers as a result must now rethink their identity strategies and find solutions that can achieve both scale and compliance. The Trade Desk is building on the IAB’s Rearc roadmap to create a new gold standard of consent and open-source identity management, one where the consumer has total control of their data, regardless of device or channel.

The effort builds on The Trade Desk’s Unified ID. And the solution will first look to find a replacement for third party cookies, which help fuel identity in areas such as targeting and measuring ad efficacy. Apple Safari eliminated cookies from its browser in 2017 and Google Chrome — the world’s most popular browser — said it will follow suit come 2022.

Others, such as Google, are also actively working on developing the cookie’s replacement, but that doesn’t mean the industry should wait on the sidelines for the search giant to create its solution, David Pickles, chief technology officer at The Trade Desk and panel moderator, said.

“For the entire life of the internet there has been a free, ubiquitous way to do some kind of user identification,” Pickles said. “To have some commercial entity dole out that right isn’t something we should accept.”

Amanda Martin, VP of enterprise partnerships at media buying agency Goodway Group, echoed a similar sentiment: “It is important for us to not follow the leader, as we have in so many of these instances,” said Martin. “As an industry, we often wait to hear what Google, Facebook and now, Apple are going to do. If we are going to control our destiny we need to act outside of their actions.”

Marketers must also clearly communicate digital advertising’s value exchange if they want consumers to opt in and share their data. It’s an area the industry must improve on, according to Martin.

“We have done a poor job and haven’t explained it,” Martin added. “Because of that, we find ourselves in a situation where consumers are confused and overwhelmed by the potential use of their data and therefore, don’t value the exchange.”

An Upgrade to Cookies

Cookies were first made by Netscape engineers to keep track of what items users left in their digital shopping cart — not the complexities of digital advertising. As a result, they significantly lack the sort of privacy controls now required in regulation such as California’s Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CCPA) and the European Union’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Despite their shortcomings, the industry has widely accepted transacting on third-party cookies because they are a neutral currency — nobody owns them. The Trade Desk is instilling that feature in its Unified ID by making it open source — a key decision in keeping the cookie’s replacement neutral.

“We can’t over complicate it,” said Michelle Hulst, exec VP of global data and strategy at The Trade Desk. “We need to make it simple and straightforward.”

The industry must also do better in telling the consumer exactly how their data is being used, Chris Guenther, senior vice president and global head of programmatic at News Corp, said.

“It’s not very clear to the user with what’s going on with their data,” Guenther said. “That gives rise to urban legends like ‘Facebook is listening to you.’ Those things exist when there’s a lack of understanding so the solution must be user first, have accountability and auditability in what we do with identity.”

Be sure to catch the session in full here.