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5 considerations for publishers working on identity resolution

July 8, 2022 | By Jessica Werner, Senior Director, Publisher Development – ID5 @ID5_io

Publishers stand to lose up to $10 billion due to the deprecation of third-party cookies and mobile advertiser IDs (MAIDs), according to McKinsey. Earlier projections by Google indicated that publishers lose half of their ad revenue on average when cookies are blocked. The impact is compounded by the growing impact of global privacy law and browser changes. 

Despite the growing complexity, publishers actually sit in an enviable position as we edge toward the cookieless future. Actioning data in this new world will fall to them (and their monetization partners) thanks to their access to, and ability to activate, first-party data. Publishers can replace some of the revenue lost to deprecating identifiers using a combination of this first-party data and probabilistic methods. 

Here are five key considerations for publishers honing their approach to identity resolution:

Lean into partnerships

With publishers securely in the driver’s seat for this next chapter, it is vital for them to move full steam ahead with the necessary procedures in preparing for a world with fewer signals available to third parties. 

Most importantly, publishers must select the right partners to ensure an addressability strategy that will stand the test of time. Successful and well-integrated partnerships will allow them to continue to monetize their inventory in the long term, without being affected by potential changes — including signal obfuscation — being implemented by operating systems and browsers. 

Explore multiple solutions

Universal identifiers are one of the most promising solutions developed to make publishers’ traffic addressable even when conventional identification methods are deprecated and signals are no longer available to third parties. These work by gathering various signals from publishers to reconcile a user across domains to enable the demand-side to target them with personalized messages and measure the results of their efforts. 

Some of the most effective first-party user ID solutions use both deterministic and probabilistic methods to collect both hard and soft signals in a privacy-first way. These can include hashed email addresses, IP address, page URL, user agent string, and timestamps. With privacy regulations constantly on the move and some traditional signals dropping, ID solution providers that rely upon a wide pool of data points will ensure that addressability strategies are scalable, accurate, and future-proofed. 

On the other hand, relying on one signal only, no matter how consistent it is, presents significant limitations. Let’s take the example of the hashed email address, which is the most commonly used signal to deterministically reconcile IDs across domains. Although this is a very accurate approach, it also presents two main issues. First of all, it’s not scalable as it doesn’t enable publishers to address all users who are unwilling to enter their email address to log into a website. At the same time, relying on email addresses only is not future-proof. Features such as Apple’s Hide My Email can significantly impact publishers’ ability to collect and leverage such signals for addressability purposes.

Prioritize first-party relationships

Selecting the identity partner that offers the most suitable approach is not enough. The ecosystem is constantly evolving and being disrupted by technical restrictions and stricter regulations. Establishing a first-party relationship with your identity solution providers is crucial to ensuring identification signals are shared in the most secure way possible.

Server-to-server integration methods enable publishers to share information with their identity solution provider while being less exposed to interference rolled out by browsers and operating systems. This integration also allows publishers to leverage direct encrypted connections, boosting the security and privacy of the data transfer. Publishers can also store user IDs in their server databases, and then associated them with client-side, first-party IDs. 

An identity resolution partner can keep track of consent signals from identifier to identifier, as well as at each data touchpoint, and manage opt-out preferences.

Place privacy above all

Let’s not forget about the most important aspect: users’ privacy choices. Whatever signal publishers decide to use and pass to their partners should be obtained and shared on the basis of consent. This is a legal requirement in places like Europe and California, with many more states and countries looking to adopt or increase the strictness of privacy laws. Regardless, taking into account people’s privacy choices and leveraging frameworks and technologies that collect and enforce such preferences should be paramount. 

Forward-looking, industry-leading media owners have been honoring opt-out signals from Global Privacy Control, an initiative that makes it easier for people to exercise their data privacy rights without informing every single website they visit. This is an additional step that publishers can implement as well as another signal they can pass to their identity partners to demonstrate commitment to respecting users’ preferences.

Good things come to those who DON’T wait

The deep sigh of relief that went through the industry when Google pushed back the demise of cookies was premature. We all thought we had more time to procrastinate on finding a solution but in reality, we don’t. Nearly half of the internet traffic is already unaddressable and signal changes are happening all the time. 

In a constantly changing ecosystem, there shouldn’t be room for procrastination. If you’re one of the 50% of publishers that have not integrated ad identity solutions yet, don’t delay any longer. Having a secure integration with the right identity partners will enable you to future-proof your addressability strategy for the long term. It will also enable you to address and better monetize Safari and Firefox traffic today.

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