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With Chrome slated to switch off third-party cookies within the next two years, what is your view on the identity state of play across the adtech ecosystem?

Identity is a critical enabler in the adtech ecosystem. With most browsers already blocking third-party cookies and Chrome poised to switch off these tracking technologies by 2022 – with only a small chance this could be extended – the industry must rethink its approach. We have to rebuild the core of the programmatic ID system to deliver effective advertising at scale.

There is a lot of noise around identity, with many providers claiming they have the solution. The simple truth is there are only three types of IDs: third-party cookie IDs that work across websites, first-party cookie IDs that work on individual websites, and log-in IDs connected to a user account. With third-party IDs on their way out and log-in IDs unlikely to achieve the necessary scale, first-party IDs are the only future-proof solution to the identity challenge.

At Adform, we have a fully flexible setup that enables transactions on all types of IDs without prejudice to one or the other. Most notable, the identity issue must be solved at the source, by consumer-facing companies that create first-party or log-in IDs and collect the necessary consent. It cannot be solved by intermediaries as they provide a technology or solution layer. And the issue needs to be resolved soon, otherwise, when Chrome pulls the plug on third-party cookies, large parts of the ecosystem simply won’t function as well as they do today.

Last week there was an announcement from Prebid about the launch of an open-source ID supported by Adform. Why is this a significant development for the industry?

Prebid has taken over Epsilon’s first-party PubCommon ID and merged it with the sharedid.org third-party ID. This created the industry’s first community-owned, open-source identifier: SharedID. It is crucially important as it delivers the first real substitute for the third-party cookie and is completely neutral, operated by an independent industry organisation and built as a bridge between advertisers and publishers.

This neutrality is critical as there are many other solutions that might well be successful in the future, but with more unclarity on how the IDs are created, with changing commercial models, which creates uncertainty about how they will develop and their potential lifespan. Now, for the first time, there is a fully neutral, scaled ID that can run side-by-side with other solutions, providing a stable future and base for the industry on which to partner and transact. 

The Adform platform fully supports the new SharedID identifier and we were one of the first providers to go live with this solution in several markets. We were already onboarding many publishers to the PubCommon ID, and the Prebid development will accelerate this adoption. The launch of SharedID is an incredible achievement for Prebid, proving it is possible to innovate and deliver an effective and compliant solution at speed that meets the needs of the market, even for a large industry association with multiple stakeholders.

Why is now the right time for such a solution and why is Adform leading the charge on adopting this first-party ID?

Adform has worked on its first-party ID capabilities for many years. We were the first to deliver cross-device ID support, putting us in a great position to later meet the challenge of a cookie-less ecosystem. The timing of this Prebid initiative is particularly advantageous as it follows the latest iteration of IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework, TCF v2.0. Many publishers were waiting for the switchover to TCF v2.0 to ramp up their identity infrastructure and install new IDs or consent mechanisms and are allocating resource to identity, so we are seeing the PubCommon ID starting to scale. Adopting TCF v2.0, which integrates SharedID as a first-party identifier, gives publishers a completely consistent end-to-end setup.

A key benefit of SharedID is that it is a hybrid identifier, combining the first-party ID with a third-party ID already functioning in the ecosystem. The first-party element can be utilised now and in the future, but if the publisher hasn’t yet adopted it, the third-party aspect can work in the current format at scale. This enables a smooth transition, reducing dependence on third-party IDs while ramping up first-party IDs, all with the same trusted partner to ensure publishers are prepared when third-party cookies are switched off. With the tentative 2022 deadline in mind, Adform is proud to be a leading voice for industry ID solutions, helping to simplify the industry conversation and future-proofing identity moving forward to 2022.