The ad tech space is a fast-paced, highly competitive environment. Independent tech players throughout the ecosystem—on both the demand and supply sides of the business—are constantly striving to innovate, to iterate, to demystify the inner workings of the supply chain. And yet, the most opaque players (the “walled gardens,” so to speak) continue to receive the greatest amount of growth and spend (nearly 90 percent, to be exact).
So, how can we redress this balance? How do we—the independent publishers, agencies, and tech partners—expand and grow at the same near-exponential rate?
For Index Exchange, the answer is in identity. Or, more specifically, in a common identity solution.
But, what does this mean—both in general and for our industry?
At present, the majority of online advertising spend is poured into custom audiences (i.e. user lists within the walled gardens), which then allow buyers to target specific sets of consumers with personalised adverts. Consequently, premium publishers outside of the walled gardens are forced to share the remaining scraps of budget—a challenge most often attributed to their limited access to custom user lists (or rather, to anonymised user identities).
That said, members throughout our ecosystem have much more access to identity than we may think. Every exchange, DSP, platform, and device offers its own, unique piece of a user’s identity (which we often keep to ourselves). In order to create a level playing field, however, we must surrender these pieces of identity—our own, individual advantages—for the sake of creating a common identity solution. We must commit to cooperating and collaborating for the sake of our partners, as well as user experience. And this is where I hope the industry will place its focus in 2019.
This is not to say that we haven’t already made great progress in this arena. In 2018, the Advertising ID Consortium—a co-op dedicated to creating privacy-conscious, people-based identity solutions—expanded its efforts and integrations (incorporating the IAB Tech Lab’s DigiTrust ID into its framework, thus limiting the potential for conflicts of interest). And in working with our partners at The Trade Desk, LiveRamp, and via the Dentsu Aegis Network’s Merkle M1, Index Exchange has seen our match rates soar to nearly 99%. But there is still much more work to do, and many challenges ahead.
Regarding challenges, we can’t have a productive conversation about identity without also discussing GDPR (the elephant in every boardroom in 2018). Consumers throughout APAC (and in Europe too) are now met with “walls” each time they wish to consume content online, walls requesting their “consent” to receive personalised advertising. In many ways, it has turned our industry on its head.
However, I believe that this is actually a great asset when it comes to building consumer trust, as well as acquiring identity. While only a minority of consumers are willing to consent, that minority likely represents a group of loyal subscribers—subscribers who are likely to exchange aspects of their identity for personalised content on the web.
It’s a concept we have to explore if we want to continue checking marketers’ boxes in a truly meaningful way. Before we can redress this balance in the world of digital advertising, we must unite and collaborate to understand identity at scale in 2019.
Adele Wieser is country manager for Australia and New Zealand at Index Exchange.