To authenticate or not to authenticate?

February 24, 2021 by Experian Marketing Services

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It’s been over a year since Google announced they’d be deprecating the third-party cookie and in that time there’s been a major focus on two types of cookieless identity solutions. Identity vendors and marketers are strategizing which of these two future solutions best fits their needs so they can achieve privacy-safe scale once third-party cookies are no longer available for use on Chrome. Let’s break down these solutions and the considerations marketers need to take into account when deciding what partners to move forward with in the future of identity resolution.

Authenticated Traffic Solutions 

Authenticated traffic solutions (ATS) are a type of digital identification that asks the end-user to identify themselves via personal information, most commonly email address. Often, you’ll see self-authentication at the point of entry to a website that asks you to create an account or login immediately to access the content you are seeking. E-commerce sites use authentication to keep track of consumer purchases and inform advertising decisions for that customer; and publishers use it to tailor featured content, or, more importantly for this discussion, leverage it within the ad ecosystem for targeting. While authentication can provide very valuable user data for audience segmenting and targeting, it can be limited in scale for a single publisher to leverage and monetize on their own. That’s why some identity vendors have worked to integrate themselves within as many publisher authentication modules as possible, so that they can create an aggregate of scale for the ad ecosystem to tap into. But, even this isn’t going to deliver the reach marketers truly thirst for. Alternatively, Facebook has the scale for authenticated traffic, but they keep their data inside a walled garden, so the utility of those authenticated users is only valuable within the Facebook ecosystem.

So how can authenticated traffic solutions increase scale to broaden the scope of identifiers they can collect and leverage? Hint: a few of the biggest players have already figured it out. It’s the single sign-on. Google is probably the largest purveyor of a single-sign on solution that can directly impact advertising capabilities. Can you think of a site you visit that doesn’t offer a sign-in with your existing Google account? It’s a short list. Google has integrated themselves into so many applications and publishers that “Login with Gmail” is just second nature (you pictured the Gmail logo when you read that, didn’t you?).

Now, if you’re about to purchase something you found off an Instagram ad, or perhaps a retailer you buy from regularly, you’ve probably noticed options to proceed with your checkout via “Amazon pay” or “Apple pay”. These are also single-sign ons. You’re authenticating yourself through Amazon or Apple to that retailer in exchange for A– the safety and security that Amazon or Apple provide for your financial information and B– skipping the annoying process of manually entering personal information over and over again at point of sale. It’s starting to sound like there’s a lot of authenticated data out there isn’t it? Well, that’s true, but again, Amazon and Apple are walled gardens. Amazon is working diligently to build out their own ecosystem to leverage their content and retail channel data for a holistic offering. And Apple keeps user data very close to the chest, constantly limiting its utility for themselves and advertisers.

So what is identity resolution doing about it? The Trade Desk announced their solution; Unified ID 2.0, which promises to leverage email authenticated identity for a truly scaled solution for publishers via Javascript through Prebid. By handing over UID2.0 to an independent unbiased organization like Prebid, The Trade Desk is creating instant scale and trust in their solution.

Unauthenticated Traffic Solutions

Unlike ATS, unauthenticated traffic solutions do not rely on a log-in to identify a user, but they also don’t rely on third-party cookies. Instead, unauthenticated solutions (UATS) leverage their existing streams of real-time data through Javascript on publisher sites or an SDK (software development kit used by apps). The type of information UATS solutions can collect via Javascript or SDK vary, but it can include IP address, user agent and device level info. But being able to read this information at the point of entry to a website does not make a quality identifier. The best unauthenticated solutions will have the ability to set or ingest this information into a unique ID through an infrastructure with incredibly fast speed that can process trillions of anonymous data signals across multiple channels and devices. And even more so, be able to interpret those signals into a profile using machine learning– all at the moment a user enters a domain. It sounds complicated because it is, but it also has a lot of potential.

The identity space cannot rest solely on authenticated traffic solutions, because, as you can see, it could limit ownership and operability to just a few power players/walled gardens. This doesn’t help the larger ecosystem monetize and personalize ad inventory. The right unauthenticated solution, however, can unify cross-device individuals and households at scale, because they’re integrated on the broadest number of publishers/SDKs across platforms, have the best algorithms to build confident connections between identifiers, and are universally transactable across the most common sell and demand side platforms. Think of it as the perfect partner- speaking a common language that everyone in the ecosystem understands and acts on.

Today more than twenty cookieless identifiers are available in market for the ad ecosystem, and Google hasn’t even announced a date of deprecation. It’s important to be on the lookout for differentiators like scale and precision. Most importantly, choosing a truly cross-device partner will be key, especially as more digital devices and IDs grow in adoption, like CTV has this past year.

Taking advantage of both

What we will come to find, once the third-party cookie is obsolete, is that choosing just one of these solution types, or partners, will be a disadvantage. The more the industry comes together to collaborate on solutions, the more apparent it is that both of them have value, and thus employing both solutions will give marketers the best opportunities. Tapad, now part of Experian, recently announced the launch of Switchboard; a module within our identity solution; The Tapad Graph, to create this agnostic interoperability for identifiers of all types, and choice and control for the ad tech vendors and marketers who want them. By instantly creating the ability to partner with multiple solutions, Tapad + Experian is ensuring that all use cases for the third-party cookie live on in our cookieless future.

Get started with The Tapad Graph

For personalized consultation on the value and benefits of The Tapad Graph for your business, email Sales@tapad.com today!