Digital media is standing at a crossroads with multiple factors coming together and providing the unique opportunity to re-build the industry and digital ecosystem.
Google has announced it will withdraw support for third-party cookies in Chrome, the privacy landscape is evolving to give consumers more control, and Google and Apple are proving their economies can be interoperable when necessity calls in the form of a global pandemic. Together these factors create an environment where it’s possible to collaborate, discuss big ideas and rethink the architecture of digital marketing, opening the door to universal device IDs which could solve every significant challenge around legacy infrastructure.
Here are just four reasons the industry should seize the opportunity of universal IDs that are persistent, open, and connected to the device:
Efficient backend functionality
It’s already proven the mechanics of digital media work better with a universal ID thanks to Apple’s phone-based ID for Advertising (IDFA) and Google’s AD ID (GAID). The existing cookie-based digital media ecosystem, where multiple IDs are dropped from numerous domains, is characterised by latency, slow page loads, back-end syncing transactions and nested server calls.
But when Apple and Google introduced their respective IDs there was suddenly no need to drop multiple cookies in a single page load or sync, process and maintain ID maps on the server side. The result? Efficiency, reliability, consistency and an environment that works better for everyone. These IDs do, however, threaten the walls and barriers that the major tech players depend on to succeed, so it’s likely IDFA will now be withdrawn in the name of privacy. And Google will sponsor a closed proprietary ID system in the form of the Privacy Sandbox.
Interoperability for digital media players
The business of digital media and marketing also works better with universal IDs. When IDs exist at device level they are interoperable between and among apps and browsers, giving advertising technology providers a means to communicate. When they are persistent and consistent they enable maintenance of state and are readable by anyone that needs to serve content to the device.
Marketers have always transacted on some sense of identity – whether that’s a physical address or a cookie ID – so identity in media and marketing isn’t going away. The ability to effectively determine identity directly impacts marketing efficiency. Cookies currently sync at between 40% and 60%, meaning marketers can’t reach up to 60% of valid audiences, but a universal device ID would enable the budgets of marketers and advertisers to be used far more efficiently.
Tools for privacy and consumer control
Respecting privacy is about providing consumers with complete transparency and control, which can be realised through universal device IDs in a way that can never be achieved with the current set up. Privacy policies introduced under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) ask consumers to individually consider tens or even hundreds of unfamiliar advertising technology vendors, deciding who to trust and who to block. This means most consumers still don’t have meaningful control over what happens to their data and providers have the expense and uncertainty of applying consumer preferences against a continually changing set of cookie IDs. With a universal device ID consumers can maintain total control, blocking the ID if they choose not to be tracked and signing in with trusted partners they are happy to share data with.
Addressing diversity and competitiveness
There are currently a number of anti-trust and competitiveness inquiries taking place into online platforms such as Google and Facebook, including a UK investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which published an interim report in January. These investigations aim to determine whether characteristics such as economies of scale, the power of defaults, unequal access to user data, a lack of transparency and conflicts of interest undermine healthy competition and effectively inhibit innovation.
While these investigations are welcome, any resulting action to limit or break up the tech giants will require time, great expense, awkward divestitures and most likely an eventual return to the status quo. Setting a standard that requires open universal device IDs is a much simpler, smarter and quicker way to tackle antitrust and competitive concerns, enabling interoperability and levelling the playing field in a way trust busting never will.
A unique combination of factors is providing the industry with an opportunity to rethink the architecture of digital media. By collaborating on a standard that requires persistent, open, universal device IDs, the industry can improve both the mechanics and business of digital marketing, give consumers total control over privacy and take a smarter approach to competitiveness, solving many of the industry’s pressing issues in one decisive act and creating connections in a disconnected world.