Where Do Publishers Stand On Industrywide User ID?

The concept of an industrywide single user ID that every advertiser can agree to use is nothing new, but it recently resurfaced in the form of an advertising consortium dedicated to launching an omnichannel people-based identifier.

Here's what I’ve gleaned about these attempts to build a persistent identifier: While the future of ad tech continues to head toward smarter measurement and targeting, which is great for the industry, this could have a negative impact on publishers and the wider industry that relies on publishers as a source for inventory.

The players in the advertising ecosystem most supportive of this type of ID are on the buy side, and particularly demand-side platforms. The DSPs want to demonstrate transparency in their traditional targeting and audience building methods. Currently, if the same consumer shows up multiple times, and buyers continue to bid on multiple impressions to serve an ad to that person, the DSP could reap the benefits of an additional transaction or simply higher bids.



However, if they are building that targeted audience around an agreed-upon universal ID, that inefficiency and lack of transparency should go away. Seems like the right thing to do -- but also hard to believe that the push for a universal ID has everyone's best financial interest in mind.  

So what does a persistent ID mean for publishers? Does it enable agencies and brands to target across the open web as accurately as Facebook, eliminating the need for publisher’s audience insights? With a unique identifier, potentially all ad buyers need from  publishers is their inventory, significantly reducing their value as an entity in the market.

We’ve seen the handful of efforts around publisher-side consortia, such as Pangea or The AOP Alliance, and there have been similar efforts in linear television with the Open A.P. Platform from Viacom, 21st Century Fox and Turner. These have all had varying degrees of success.

At the end of the day, who's going to get a piece of the pie?

If the impetus of this initiative is to compete with the identity, scale and accuracy of Facebook and Google, how can publishers match that? So far the only people saying they’ll do something are part of a vendor consortium, with their own vested interests. While it does sound good and like the right thing to do, getting there seems like a big leap.

Publishers, who on their own lack the scale to go head-to-head with Facebook or Google -- and are focused intently on how to work more closely with those industry giants -- should keep their friends close and their enemies closer.

Over the past few years, most publishers have raced to scale, because with scale you have more inventory to sell programmatically. Maybe the combination of scale across so many publishers has made the same users available across many, or even all domains.

There are deeper conversations to be had than just about monetization. Maybe digital publishing needs to find its identity around user identity. Do publishers simply want to be the place where advertisers can find the user they have the token for, or do they want to own that identified user?

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