Thought Leadership

Is DigiTrust the “Universal ID” We’ve All Been Looking For?

November 9, 2017
By Heather Carver

Cookies have ruled the ad industry since the early days of online browsing and shopping — helping media companies understand who their audiences were and what they were interested in, while making sure advertisers could deliver the most relevant messages. But the growth of programmatic and the mobile explosion have changed the industry dramatically, leading to a growing sense that cookies are no longer enough.

Across the industry, technology companies, advertisers, and publishers are all seeking an alternative to cookies — and there are a variety of solutions vying to be the go-to way we identify users and analyze their behavior moving forward. DigiTrust, the non-profit, independent ID consortium supported by companies like Rubicon Project, Dataxu and OpenX is one such option, but is it our best collective path forward?

Why do we need a new “Universal ID”?

A quick refresher into how cookies work and what they’re used for might first be helpful.

Cookies are essentially small pieces of code that live in a user’s browser, identifying the user as he or she moves across different sites and platforms. Cookies worked well when there were a limited number of companies using that info for transactions — like ad networks selling specific audiences to advertisers, or analytics companies tracking an e-commerce sale from ad, to website, to purchase.

With programmatic, there are now thousands of different companies that create and use cookies to buy and sell media. And since every solution provider creates its own cookie-based user ID, each one needs to be matched (or synced) to another provider.

This sync process is the only way to make sure that User 12c (the mom hunting for the perfect holiday decorations on ApartmentTherapy.com), is the same as User K22 (which is how she’s identified by the SSP that sells ApartmentTherapy.com’s inventory) and the same as User 9g8 (which is how she’s identified by the agency trading desk that wants to send her a 30% off decorations ad from Target).

This syncing process needs to work fast (and well) for the programmatic ad chain to function effectively for both buyers and sellers, and while most companies in our industry work together successfully, there is still room for error. One of the reasons there’s a push for a single or “universal” ID that represents each user no matter the platform is to help eliminate those errors — meaning advertisers’ dollars go farther, and publishers get more value for their audiences.

Why is Rubicon Project backing DigiTrust?

As we’ve demonstrated, Rubicon Project believes in transparency and openness, and DigiTrust is a neutral, non-profit consortium dedicated to creating a universal identifier that benefits all stakeholders –publishers, advertisers and all the technology platforms in-between — uniformly.

Because DigiTrust is independently operated, not focused on buying or selling media, and not tied to the proprietary technology or commercial interests of any one company,  we think it’s the consortium that’s best-equipped to turn the collective efforts of companies from across both the buy and sell-sides of the industry into a successful, well-adopted solution.

How can publishers get involved?

There’s more information in the FAQs section on the DigiTrust website, and you can always contact your Rubicon Project account lead for more detailed insights.


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