Interactive Advertising Bureau
23 September 2019

Unified ID - What are the building blocks for solutions?

Author: Alwin Viereck, Head of Programmatic Advertising and Ad Management, United Internet Media

In my last blog post, I outlined the challenges to maintain identity in a programmatic first ecosystem and in this blog I will cover what building blocks for solutions exist. There is, in my opinion, currently five key areas of work:

  1. Persistent IDs
  2. Server-to-server bidding
  3. First party ad delivery
  4. Data privacy compliant data collection, storage and usage
  5. Permission management

For this blog, I will focus on the first two.

Persistent IDs

As we understood, IDs are as good as their survival (=persistence/storage time) in the ecosystem they are maintained in, their interoperability (multi-device capability) and their pervasiveness/scalability (can everybody generate or read/match them) they offer. For clarity it is important to cluster the existing solutions. In general, the solutions are:

  • Login based, deterministic identifiers
    • based on a unique character sequence as defined in the Universally Unique ID (UUID) standard[1], email address or simple database driven account number, hashed in addition for pseudonymisation
    • reliably be reproduced (=deterministic character) and precise
    • persistent on server side
    • typically not device/browser dependant and therefore multi-device capable
    • due to the variety of websites without login, not necessarily wide spread via the demand/supply landscape
  • Fingerprint based IDs, probabilistic identifiers
    • based on statistical methods (=probabilistic), therefore often not precise enough (high probability of false positive/negative identification and therefore low quality for identity), requires big scale of data to work properly – as more data touchpoints per user/person as better it works
    • persistent on server side
    • potentially multi-device capable (as long as web is accessible on all devices)
    • high probability of restriction through browsers (see Chrome announcement to restrict fingerprint capabilities)
    • most of the time javascript dependant
  • Mobile Device IDs
    • device/operating system specific = not multi-device capable
      • iOS IDFA, Android AAID, Windows ID
    • not available in web environment but only native apps
    • precise, due to uniqueness per device
    • persistent as long as users do not reset it – which is seldom the case so far
    • due to the amount of devices and variety of operating systems not identity focused
  • Cookie/local storage based IDs
    • operating system, browser, domain specific/dependent
    • precise but low persistence due to cookie deletion mechanisms in browsers
    • aged solution due to the increasing amount of native apps, which don’t support web cookies without the integration of web views

Partial market overview:

Based on different types of identifiers mentioned, the advertising industry has started to develop advertising ID initiatives such as the IAB DigiTrust[2] or the Advertising ID Consortium[3] to define frameworks with the aim to be used throughout the programmatic landscape for “unification”. In this context vendor specific solutions such as ID5[4] or TradeDesk (Unified ID)[5] have also started to gain ground. 

Beyond that, login alliances such as netID[6] or verimi[7] progress as alternatives market players with logins such as Google or Facebook, for the programmatic advertising ecosystem as persistent, not cookie reliant solutions for unified identity frameworks.

In case these frameworks manage to gain scale, they will bridge the loss of identify as we face it today and lead us to a real post cookie era solution landscape.

The supply side has widely started to use prebid[8] as a standard header bidding solution. A very interesting feature called the User ID Module[9] has been released by with its version prebidJS 2.10. Quotation: The User ID module supports multiple ways of establishing pseudonymous IDs for users, which is an important way of increasing the value of header bidding. Instead of having several exchanges sync IDs with dozens of demand sources, a publisher can choose to integrate with one of these ID schemes […]”. This development will force the standardisation of supply side vendor connectors to transfer “unified” identifiers into the programmatic ecosystem.

Server-to-Server Bidding

You may have asked yourself how server-to-server bidding is connected with persistent identity. Well, the availability of persistent identity provides a dramatic change in the way bidding is executed. While today the vast majority of bidding is client-side, a reliable identifier will provide us with the bases of going server-side with the bidding process.

Google with EBDA (Exchange Bidding Dynamic Allocation) and Amazon with TAM (Transparent Ad Marketplace) have shown ground for server-to-server solutions. A widely accepted persistent identifier for the open internet would mean, that prebid server or other alternatives to given walled garden solutions can come into place.

With a move to the server-side, the majority of third party scripts involved in bidding, tracking and profiling would disappear from websites resulting in an increase of usability due to reduction of loading times, a dramatic reduction of timeouts due to real parallelisation/threading on server-side, reduction of latency problems caused by a high number of script calls used for bidding and cookies syncing and finally also an independence of the header bidding process from browser gatekeeping.

In a persistent ID driven programmatic world, which runs bidding processes on the server-side, we are left with ad delivery to be solved properly in the future to avoid bad user experience, ad blocking or other gatekeeping through browsers we face. That’s where the third building block for solutions “first party ad delivery” comes into play. But this might be a topic for a later post.










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