Thought Leadership

Why Balancing Personalization with User Experience Benefits All

October 19, 2018
By Garrett McGrath, VP, Product

As our industry continues to evolve — especially as it relates to the issues of identity, personalization, and privacy — Rubicon Project has an ongoing commitment to finding the best ways to leverage technology to help solve for these issues while also helping improve performance for our client base. This is central to our intent to be one of the world’s most efficient, transparent, and complete digital advertising marketplaces.

Central to almost every transaction in our ecosystem is some version of targetable-but-anonymous identity, or representation of identity. On the web, the world has long used browser cookies for this purpose, and more recently device IDs for in-app impression opportunities.

Along the way, the ad tech industry has admittedly overused the browser cookie, leveraging its ability to hold small pieces of data, then make those data points easily referenceable by functions of the browser as a way to store and communicate identifiers. As we’ve grown as an industry and have begun to reach some very significant scale, the use of the browser cookie as a medium for identity now results in a tremendous amount of web traffic dedicated to simply transiting these identifiers. Because every cookie is domain-based, in order for one ad tech entity to have a common understanding of the identity signal from another source, we engage in what’s known as “cookie sync”. This is the process of trading these user ID values from domain to domain, ultimately enabling a (somewhat reliable) common identity framework for advertising.

This causes a problem: The process of this “sync” system puts a lot of strain on the browser, network bandwidth, and ultimately the end user. The browser cookie was not originally intended to be a vehicle for identity management.

At the same time, the Internet goes more and more “mobile” every day. The traffic generated from app usage continues to skyrocket, easily surpassing the growth of the web browser. As mentioned, the in-app world has a far more elegant way of transiting “identity”; the device ID, which allows for unique identifiers which are always the same and are not tied to the app used, a domain, or anything other than the device they represent.

Recently there have been efforts by the web community to come up with browser-based solutions that behave more like device IDs: cookie-based systems (out of necessity, due to the browser environment) that try to behave more like the device ID world. These systems endeavor to use unique or common identifiers which should greatly reduce the amount of “syncing” necessary, thereby improving the ad tech network footprint while simultaneously improving the concept of identity for advertising.

To this end, Rubicon Project has recently started to support the Ad ID Consortium. Consortium members elect to use common namespace(s), which allows for shared cookie resources with no asks or requirements of sellers to support. In doing so the Consortium obviates a large percentage of cookie syncing, which improves user experience, network load, and page performance while at the same time creating a shared ID system that delivers far greater identity fidelity. This ultimately delivers better, more targeted ads to users and better outcomes for both buyers and sellers.

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