Programmatic Video #WoTW: What Is User Matching / Cookie Matching?

Programmatic video is the fastest-growing category of programmatic buying, but a lot of marketers are still struggling to get to grips with the basics.

A recent study by the Association of National Advertisers and Forrester found that only 23% of marketers said they understood programmatic and were using it to execute their campaigns. This is despite the fact that more than half of US publishers reported selling their premium video ad inventory programmatically in August 2014 (Adap.tv), while mega-brands like American Express and P&G vowed to shift the majority of their ad spend to programmatic by the end of 2014.

There’s clearly a knowledge gap between the programmatic front lines and everyday marketers, making 2015 a key year for programmatic education. As with any burgeoning new trend, one of the main causes of confusion is vocabulary.

Any discussion of the topic produces a web of jargon and acronyms that’s enough to send anyone running to Google. But fear not, this is easily solved.

Each week we’ll be serving up handy guides to the most important programmatic video terms, courtesy of Unruly co-founder and CTO, Matthew Cooke. Last week we looked at what audience segments are. This week, Matthew explains what user matching / cookie matching means. Stick around and see how quickly you can master the art of programmatic.

What Is User Matching / Cookie Matching?

Data providers like Bluekai and Lotame work with website owners to anonymously collect data about web users. They don’t hold personally identifiable information about the user, such as their name or address, instead they makes up a unique identifier for every user.  DSPs, SSPs and ad exchanges also need to identify web users and they create their own unique identifier for each user.

It is important to understand that every company makes up their own unique identifiers for each user.  They are not using the same identifiers.

In an RTB environment, this causes problems because when an ad space is being loaded, only the company on the supply side can work out who the user is. The SSP or exchange can identify the user via the unique identifier it holds for them, but the DSPs wanting to bid on the impression also need to know who the user is and they want information on the user from the data providers. It is no use if the SSP says to the DSP, this is “SSP user 87632”, because the DSP uses a different identifier for the same user!

For the systems to work together and exchange information about the users they need to match the unique identifiers between the systems so they understand which users in one system match to which users in the other system.

And that is what user matching is about, it is when two or more systems exchange information so they can match the identifiers they have created for their users with the identifiers used for the same users on another platform. Because these identifiers are commonly stored in your web browser as a bit of data called a “cookie”, user matching is sometimes also referred to as “cookie matching”.

User matching can take some time, this is because any platforms performing user matching need to see each user at the same time on a web page or advert, and talk to each other to exchange the two different identifiers.