What Does Identity Look Like In The Post-ITP Landscape?

Our global product compliance director Kelly Jacobson Collins discusses what opportunities have been opened up post-ITP, and how providers can collaborate with publishers for the benefit of the industry.

Q: What opportunities have been opened up in the privacy-compliant post-ITP landscape, and how are independent providers outside of GAFA set to capitalise on these?

It would be very easy to dwell on the negative side of the post-ITP landscape, especially when taking Google’s recent announcement into account. We could focus on the further power that these changes give to GAFA – or we could see it as an opportunity to innovate and change.

Digital advertising can no longer focus on a direct and immediately measurable result but will need to refocus on brand building, awareness and creativity, objectives which help build long-term business value rather than short term gains.

Contextual advertising will, of course, become more important again but not in the mass media way of yore, for example placing a pizza ad in a TV programme about Italy or a lipstick ad in the beauty section of a magazine, but by really thinking about the context and emotion of the page or the site that the user is browsing. What is their mindset when listening to a podcast? Where are they? What is their emotion when they read that article?

Extensive research from Binet and Field shows that emotional campaigns produce brand impact, but also increase business impact. According to them “another strength of emotional campaigns is that their effects last much longer than rational campaigns and also tend to accumulate much more strongly over time.” This mirrors what we experience every day at Unruly. Over the last twelve years, we have tested thousands of ads determining their emotional impact and this data has been amassed in our UnrulyEQ Dashboard. We have used this data to inform our campaign targeting and provide better business outcomes for advertisers harnessing the power of video.

Furthermore, there are opportunities for innovative tech companies to reset the industry and think differently about shared identities and ways of sharing data but respecting consumers’ rights to privacy. There may be opportunities for digital technologies that are not reliant on the cookie, such as mobile apps and Connected TV, to grow revenue.

Q: What support should tech providers be providing publisher and brand partners, and vice-versa, in navigating the identity challenges?

Collaboration and dialogue are key to the future of the digital advertising industry. Being part of the IAB working group that crafted a response to the ICO’s Report into ad tech has demonstrated to me the importance of competitors working together on a shared cause. And bringing together the wisdom of the crowd, rather than the opinion of one, can lead to a well-thought-through idea and response. To create a true alternative to GAFA in a post-ITP/cookieless world, we will have to unite and create simple unions, shared data rooms, an industry identity solution, and joined-up ideas.

Q: Will the majority of media spend in online display be shifted to premium publishers (and the walled gardens) with logged-in data assets? What alternative avenues are open to those without first-party data assets?

It is very positive that premium publishers will gain more control over their own inventory and this will most likely lead to increased revenues for publishers who have a wealth of log-in data or first-party data. There is an opportunity to create publisher logged-in alliances, e.g NETID, but this means that publishers will have to work together for mutual gain and encourage and incentivise users to authenticate, register, and sign in.

The opportunities for publishers and vendors without first-party data assets are more limited and this group may have to wait for an industry-wide solution or form a contextual consortium.

Q: Can current identity solutions be used as a viable alternative to the third-party cookie? Will contextual targeting have to be used in lieu until an industry-wide set of privacy-compliant solutions are available?

The challenge with the current identity solutions is that many rely on the third-party cookie. So while they could (even though they are fragmented) offer a way to speed up the page and reduce lag, they do not address the fundamental issue of ITP or Google’s proposed change to the Chrome browser. The identity solutions would need to change and find a way to rely on the third-party cookie, using pseudonymous, probabilistic, or non-deterministic, data. There are also publisher-side or advertiser-side solutions based on email or authentication.

I agree that it will be an evolutionary process, and although two years sounds like a long time, in terms of innovation, build, and industry adoption, of another solution to replace the third-party cookie, it is a brief time. I imagine the evolution will be: The next two years the industry clings to and mourns the loss of the third-party cookie, the two years after that we look to contextual, industry-wide privacy-first identity tools and GAFA. And then in the two years after that, we all look back at the third-party cookie as an outdated piece of tech that we are pleased became obsolete.

Q: What learnings can be taken from resolving identity in the post-ITP environment in online display and applied across other channels?

I think it is less about what other channels can learn from online display and more about what we can learn from other channels that do not rely on cookies, such as mobile. What lessons from huge data and research panels could be applied across our industry? What lessons from the emotion of a “Google search” could we use to think about the emotion when someone reads an ad or changes the channel on a connected TV? How has the outdoor industry continued to innovate based on location, size, prominence and context?

The death of the cookie does not need to mean the end of relevant messaging. Hopefully, it will lead to innovative, smarter solutions that can cater to the needs of advertisers and marketers, but that also can responsibly use data without compromising privacy and annoying users.

Despite the challenging times ahead, there is no doubt that the industry needs to fundamentally change. I see this as an opportunity for the digital industry to learn from the past as opposed to a return to the past. Whilst some in the industry see the post ITP and third-party cookieless world as dire, it should be seen as an opportunity to resurrect all that is good about advertising – emotion, creativity, impact and trust.