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5 Minutes with Intent IQ’s Fabrice Beer-Gabel

5 Minutes with Fabrice Beer-Gabel, VP of strategy and partnerships, Intent IQ

Illustration by Sarah Kim / The Current

Intent IQ is a tech-driven identity resolution company, which has developed patented technology to bring advertisers and publishers closer together. Founded in 2009, the company now powers over 80,000 publisher sites in North America alone, as well as some connected TV (CTV) and mobile apps, but also works closely with media buyers to help them define their audiences.

To hear Fabrice Beer-Gabel tell it, the ad tech space is going through a confusing time, especially as third-party cookies are on their way out. However, the Intent IQ VP of strategy and partnerships is keen to emphasize that this is positive confusion. “Confusion is one of the best signals for opportunities,” he tells The Current.

Beer-Gabel offers his insights on the state of ad tech and whether advertisers and buyers are taking advantage of this opportunity in this year of change.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Over the last three months, Google has deprecated third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users. Is there a greater sense of urgency from advertisers to fill the gap in their cookieless futures?

That 1% is really negligible but it sends the signals across the industry. Certainly since the beginning of the year, there’s much more attention on the topic. And it’s really a cross-industry topic. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not one vendor’s job to fix the cookie. It’s got to be a joint effort from buy side to sell side. More and more, advertisers are struggling to scale their audiences. Those who work with data-driven reach and targeting are seeing the scale issue with cookies in place like iOS/Safari and they’re looking for other ways. So I would say the 1% deprecation has been an accelerator of focus.

Of course, we know that marketers have been navigating cookieless environments with other browsers like Safari and Firefox, not to mention iOS browsing. How are marketers dealing with incompatible approaches between cookieless Chrome and the other websites?

Well, incompatibility is not new. One of the most well-known incompatibilities is between Google and Apple ecosystems. And I don’t think there is a solution on the horizon as far as collaboration between those vendors go.

But that is where identity resolution comes into play. In other words, having access to strong external identity resolution can help close those gaps between otherwise incompatible ecosystems, and between advertisers and publishers. Also, solutions must fit in pretty seamlessly, and that includes a range of capabilities. It’s not just about having access to a graph or an alternative ID that is persistent across all of those ecosystems. Both the supply side and buy side need to be able to match their first-party data to audiences, enrich their bidstream, build lookalike audiences with third-party data, activate campaigns and measure with full-funnel attribution. All of these pieces need to be easily deployable in order to have a solution that closes that incompatibility gap across the ecosystem.

And from your perspective, what does that look like right now?

I like to say the cookieless train has left the station, and right now it’s riding through a thick cloud of confusion. In other words, there are lots of IDs. Everybody’s talking about IDs and they’re indeed a sustainable path to thriving in the post-cookie era. But the fact is that these IDs are completely different. The technology behind them, their commercial model and the results they provide are completely different. And so it’s confusing for some people who might think, ‘Well, I’m going to use an ID and that’s going to work.’ Everybody needs to roll up their sleeves a little bit and test.

We are emphasizing four key elements in the way advertisers, publishers and the tech ecosystem should be evaluating the performance of these alternative IDs: scale (of inventory and reach), accuracy (deterministically verified), precision (at the household, person and device levels) and interoperability with existing practices (first-party data matching, third-party data overlay, frequency capping, bidstream enhancement, attribution, etc.). They’re easy to test and the proof is in the pudding.

You’ve said, “Identity resolution is not a one company solution.” Many IDs exists across supply-side platforms and demand-side platforms. But do you see the industry working together to find workable solutions across the whole ecosystem?

I think it’s a mixed bag right now, but I’d say that the industry needs actors who contribute to transparency [across the whole ecosystem]. In other words, you’ve got companies that act more as black boxes than others, and people need to approach it through dimensions [like] accuracy and scale. It’s important. Do you encrypt your IDs or do you let others see them? How do you verify your accuracy? Do you provide measurement solutions? So, we are now providing free measurement solutions that can help people monitor or measure their accuracy. We’re working with some of the ad tech players to do this. There is some work being done.

We should not forget that ultimately the goal is to get advertisers and publishers closer together via accurate audiences while being privacy-conscious for consumers. That’s the goal.

One of the big changes in the environment has been the rise of CTV, which is 100% addressable. To what extent is CTV equipping advertisers with better signals to find audiences?

We’re scratching the surface when it comes to CTV and currently it’s mainly about converting linear TV dollars to buy on CTV. But identity resolution can help there too. As more end-to-end solutions come up, the performance behind CTV is going to be clearer and better.

The technology’s getting better every day to enable that end to end, with things like CTV-to-iPhone retargeting and attribution.

Some of the Big Tech players still want to ring-fence their share of the internet. Do you think that walled gardens will continue to pose a challenge for marketers who want a more holistic view of their ad buys, or is fragmentation our destiny?

We have to deal with fragmentation, hopefully not too much. I have no crystal ball here, but I currently don’t see signs that walled gardens walls are opening up. For the sake of the industry, having a more open network and access to audience and transparency ultimately will avoid concentration and limited choices for consumers. The goal is to lower the barrier to entry for publishers to produce content, good content, and to help advertisers have more choice in terms of where they reach the audience and how they reach them. So whatever favors this diversity is going to be better for the industry.