The Standard Identity Framework

Recently, a consortium of ecosystem players announced something so sensible it’s amazing it wasn’t done sooner: a standard, anonymous way to understand peopleby transcending media channels and publishers with respect to identity. The opportunity is for any media company to be able to see a unique consumer as one (anonymous) identity rather than many, without using the expensive and unreliable tricks required to do that today.

The Problem

It’s an old problem in online marketing: Consumers have a different identity for every site they visit. That’s why browsers have so many cookies. Making them the same person (same cookie) for every website requires a trick called cookie sync that gobbles up a big slice of global internet and browser capacity.

Meanwhile, the process to recognize consumers as the same person on another device is called onboarding.

These two processes are so essential to today’s online advertising that entire companies are devoted to them (for example, Live Ramp).  For simplicity, I will lump them both under the heading of “synchronization.”



The synchronization process causes recency problems, IO bottlenecks and browser narcolepsy, and consumes a whole lot of internet capacity.  It is happening all day, every day, in every device and server.

The Solution

The Standard Identity Framework was invented to obviate machinations currently required to sync up the entire ecosystem, in order to make you you, regardless of sites you visit or devices you use.  Facebook and Google already have this, and so do the open web players.  But in the open web, it comes at a price.

The new standard will make that capability easily accessible to publishers and intermediaries who do not have it today. This will, in turn, allow the collective Digital Davids to ward off the Silicon Valley Goliaths.

At the core of the partnership are several players.  First is Appnexus, which sees most publishers and browsers every day in its massive footprint. The Appnexus domain’s cookie is a de facto standard today.

Another partner, Live Ramp, specializes in creating equivalence within and across identity systems, so this makes their job way easier without obviating any unique advantage.  The third partner, Media Math, is a prominent DSP that uses identities to make ad placement decisions billions of times per day. The three companies form a natural core from which the standard can grow.

If this happens, it will create tectonic forces. Who will be impacted?

Winners and Losers

First, consumers win because device performance is degraded by trying to synchronize, and ads will be targeted more accurately, so will be more relevant.

Advertisers win because the whole system will be more efficient.  Brands will more likely to be speaking to their target consumer, too. Advertisers are also publishers, so will reap the corresponding benefits.

Intermediaries and agencies win because they will be able to serve their customers by offering improved people-based marketing more readily. Some intermediaries who feature device graphs may lose a little edge, but they know how to think about these matters, so have a big head start.

Research companies win because research is about people. This should make conclusions about consumers more accurate.  

Walled gardens may not like it because it commoditizes their unique-ish strengths. Now, a lot more players will have reliable people-based marketing within reach.

Publishers could have better page execution by virtue of less junk running on their pages, and be able to more completely and easily understand their audience.  

Marketing clouds (Adobe, Oracle etc.) might like it. They can realize more scale across the entire cloud, enabled by homogeneity among their client's data.

DMPs might have a simpler job. Today, they are the key to sorting out the existing chaos regarding who’s who.  

It Ain’t Over

Will this become a meaningful standard? Why didn't the Interactive Advertising Bureau lead the movement toward it? Will there be a privacy backlash? Will Facebook and Google play nice? Will it be hacked, or will fraudsters now know more about me? There are dozens more questions like this.

So off we go — as always, with gusto — into the unknown. Advertisers, you should support this.  If you don’t, your prices are likely go up, irrevocably.  The strategy of the duopoly is clearly to divide and conquer.

1 comment about "The Standard Identity Framework".
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  1. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC, August 3, 2017 at 2 p.m.

    Good news.  

    It will be interesting to see where IAB, a highly politicized body, stands regarding this development.

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