What is Universal ID and How Can it Help Publishers

September 21, 2020

The world of digital marketing, and ad tech, is highly data-driven. Those who work within the industry, including advertisers, content creators, and publishers have traditionally relied on cookies as one way to collect and track user details and customer identity for marketing purposes.

But the ever-changing landscape of the digital world is pushing for a new adaptation. The laws and tech that govern the digital world are swiftly moving away from cookies and towards universal IDs.

What is a Universal ID?

It is one single identifier that will recognize users and each user identity across different platforms. The predecessor to universal IDs, cookies, lacked standardization. Ad tech agencies would rely on third-party software to sync cookie information from one platform to another, which often negatively impacted the UX experience with slow, buggy websites.

Universal IDs eliminate the need for third-party software to sync user identity information. It also allows the ad tech agency to better target advertisements to the right users. Universal IDs can be created using first-party cookies from offline sources like a customer management software database (CMS).

Types of Universal IDs

These are relatively new, but there are already three types emerging on the market. A first-party data-based, proprietary and industry IDs solution. The difference is largely in where these solutions will pull the information.

Some solutions have the flexibility to collect identity information from multiple sources, while others are limited to only first-party databases or third-party cookies.

First Party Data-Based ID Solutions

LiveRamp was the first player on the field back in 2016 creating IdentityLink, a first-party data-driven universal ID. IdentityLink has the ability to utilise user information across a variety of sources, including third-party cookies, first-party CRM’s, and other sources of offline information.

Proprietary ID Solutions

TradeDesk, one of the largest digital syncing processors (DSP), has created a proprietary solution called Unified ID that aims to standardize cookie-syncing across all platforms. This solution basically simplifies cookie-syncing so that less user identity information is lost in conversions and the matching to appropriate ad viewing boasts nearly 100%.

TradeDesk’s solution, Unified ID, uses aggregated cookie information. If browsers ever completely block the use of cookies, Unified IDs will not work. Unified IDs can be a good first step for companies looking to try out a different solution, but its usefulness will be limited by the use of cookies.

Industry ID Solutions

DigiTrust ID is an independent solution that is not owned or operated by an invested party like Unified ID or LiveRamp. DigitTrust is the first provider to offer a universal ID service designed for the advertising world. DigitTrust also relies on a simplified cookie-syncing technology that puts an expiration date on its useful lifespan.

Why Do You Need a Universal ID?

The reason behind the push for universal IDs is two-fold. First, cookies are being actively phased out. Google Chrome, among many other competitive browsers, are either already blocking or plan to block cookies by 2022. The clock is ticking down on the digital marketing world to find another way to collect and use information.

But more importantly, the clear advantage that publishers and marketers will see from switching is eliminating data loss and user duplication that plague the viability of syncing cookie information across multiple platforms.

Universal IDs do not need to rely on third-party syncing solutions to aggregate identity information. Instead, they can pull data from any source online or off to provide a definitive ID match.

Benefits of a Universal ID Solution for Publishers

These IDs can benefit publishers and marketers in many ways. Such an ID solution is more efficient, working seamlessly between multiple devices. If the same one user accesses a platform on a desktop PC, they will be easily identified and not duplicated on their smartphone or tablet as well.

Severe Reliance on Cookies

When you build universal ID’s solutions that pulls information from your own databases, like a CRM, you are no longer at the mercy of search engines or third-party services who can change or drop support for their services at any time.

Mozilla Firefox has already dropped support for cookies, and Google Chrome has announced plans to follow suit by 2022. Considering that the major players on the internet are moving towards measures that will eliminate cookies, it is time for marketers to cut their dependence on them as well.

Better User Data

It offers a nearly 100% user match rates functionality, so you don’t need to worry about user duplication. The sample sizes are more accurate, and the match rates between user interests and ads is spot on.

One way that marketers can cultivate premium authenticated data mines is to offer value-based exchanges with users. Loyalty programs are one example of a powerful value-add tool that works well for enticing users to voluntarily provide their identity information.

That information is then stored in a first-party database and tied to a universal ID that recognizes that user across platforms by that ID rather than tracking cookies tied to a device.

Higher Revenue Potential

Better matching accuracy and increased ability to target data user pools mean that your platform is more valuable to advertisers. Naturally, a universal ID-based system will be able to command higher ad prices than older cookie-syncing systems. Authenticated user information drives deterministic ad matching that outperforms older models based on probabilities.

Many companies are seeing returns on investments that are nearly quadrupling their ad performance after switching to a universal ID system.

Better User Experience Design

There are two big problems with the UX experience on a traditional cookie-based system. The first is slow, boggy websites that are running third-party cookie-syncing software. The universal ID does not require a third-party to translate the information, and all of the options on the market seem to play well with others.

The second problem is irrelevant ad displays. Cookie-based systems deal more with probabilities than a universal ID system. Not only does showing irrelevant ads hurt the ad campaign performance, but it detracts from the user experience by failing to provide anything useful.

Consumers are relatively open to viewing ads on products or services that they are interested in. Comparatively, an eMarketer report found that consumers are significantly annoyed by viewing irrelevant ads that aren’t aligned with their interests.

Publift and LiveRamp Collaboration

Publift provides small and medium-sized publishers with access to premium advertisers. Without the use of an intermediary, these publishers would be hard-to-reach for smaller businesses. Publift’s endorsement of LiveRamp marks a step away from cookie-tracking.

Publift and LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) uses first-party data to match authenticated users with ads based on real details and not probabilities. Check out our CEO Colm’s Vlog on User Privacy where he talks more about Publift’s collaboration with LiveRamp and the death of third-party cookies.

First-party data offers even small businesses the opportunity to cultivate high-interest target audiences for premium content with an opt-out option so that every ad dollar spent has real potential to drive business goals.

Key Takeaways on Universal IDs

While the list of benefits is sizable and growing for the unified ID, no benefit is more compelling than being faced with the imminent demise of the current cookie-based system.

The best-case scenario is that using cookies will hurt your search engine rankings. But the more likely, and more damaging scenario, is that your site will stop working and become obsolete because web browsers are not supporting cookies anymore.

This change has the potential to cut the legs off of the digital presence of thousands or millions of small to medium-sized businesses. There are a few ad tech solutions already on the market that can help, but buyers should be aware of what they are signing up for.

A universal ID solution that only pulls information from third-party cookies will become as ineffective as a cookie-syncing service once the web browsers cut support for cookies. By comparison, universal ID’s that have flexibility in pulling information from multiple sources are more attractive for their longevity and ability to survive the impending cookie crash.

A collaboration between Publift and LiveRamp is making access to such a solution practical for smaller businesses. Access to big tech is not going to be the problem for the little guys as the industry’s first universal ID provider is already taking steps to address them. The bigger problem for small businesses will be a timely investment in this change.

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