The concept of identity is highly politicised and divisive in digital advertising, but it is an essential part of the marketer’s toolkit.
Marketers need to engage real people, with multidimensional needs and emotions. They put enormous effort into creating, validating, and testing personas to represent these people, as well as turning personas into addressable audiences. Without identity and authentication, there’s no way for marketers to understand whether or not their efforts are paying off. In a world where tighter privacy regulations and cookie deprecation appear to be making life more complicated for marketers to operate outside of the walled gardens, identity can help overcome many of the challenges they face.
Confusion persists as to what identity actually means in digital advertising, with the term often incorrectly interchanged with the word data. In a recent whitepaper, Winterberry Group defined identity simply as “the effort to recognise and understand individual audience members across channels and devices such that brands can interact with those individuals in ways that are relevant, meaningful and supportive of overarching business objectives”. Rather than being the same as data, identity is a combination of data attributes that describe an individual, or possibly a household.
Here are just a few of the reasons identity matters to marketers:
Respecting privacy choices
For those opposed to identity, the idea that it can help to promote privacy may sound surprising, but it’s already being used to cascade privacy preferences across the digital life of the consumer. After all, it is impossible to respect someone’s privacy choices without knowing who they are.
Privacy is a fundamental human right, and consumers should have complete transparency and control over how their data is used, without their preferences being dictated by a device or a browser. Identity solutions are designed with fair and compliant consent capture processes at their core and can incorporate technical approaches to restricting identification such as differential privacy, anonymisation, and pseudonymisation.
Understanding the customer
What marketers know about their customers is based largely on interactions and, as a result of cookie deprecation, first-party data is playing an ever-greater role in understanding the customer. But there are still gaps to be filled, meaning first-party data needs to be enriched with other valuable data sources to gain a more complete picture of the consumer. In the current climate, where consumer needs and behaviours are continually changing, this in-depth understanding is more important than ever, and identity is an intrinsic piece of the puzzle.
When marketers have a greater understanding of the customer, they can use this for effective audience targeting and personalization, ensuring they are making the best use of budgets by reaching those with the highest propensity to be interested in their product or service. By helping them deliver targeted, relevant messaging that meets the individual’s immediate needs, identity allows marketers to enhance engagement and forge strong customer relationships.
Controlling ad frequency
Bombarding a consumer repetitively with the same ad messaging is annoying and likely to have the opposite effect to the one the marketer intended. But this is all too often what happens when the consumer is unknown.
Identity provides the ability to recognise an individual across and between multiple devices, domains, and channels, allowing marketers to impose frequency caps and ensure the individual sees the message often enough to make an impact, without being inundated. It also enables them to employ tactics such as sequential messaging across channels and devices to encourage consumers along the purchase journey.
Proving campaign success
Marketers fear the loss of third-party tracking cookies will make multi-touch attribution more difficult, meaning it is harder for them to measure and prove the success of campaigns. But in reality, cookie coverage and reliability were never very strong, and cookie deprecation is actually a positive trend, driving innovation in new technologies such as identity solutions.
Identity enables marketers to follow the customer journey from first exposure through to the conversion, and then on to subsequent purchases. It allows accurate attribution by helping them understand which channels and tactics contribute to conversion, and makes optimising digital advertising campaigns, as well as proving their success, much easier.
Stricter privacy regulations and third-party cookie deprecation are positive trends for the digital advertising industry and they are driving innovation in pioneering identity solutions that enable marketers to respect data choices, understand their customers, control ad frequency and prove campaign success. The concept of identity may be controversial in the ad industry, but ultimately, it helps to build strong consumer relationships and it really matters to marketers.