Identity is the top focus in 2021, according to these experts

To say that 2020 has been a chaotic year for ad tech would be an understatement.

Google announced its intention to deprecate third-party cookies, reduced ad spend due to COVID sent CPMs crashing and exposed the risks associated with using blunt keyword blocking as a tool, achieving privacy compliance remains a moving target with new rules being written every day, and antitrust investigations against big tech are proceeding at full steam.

Of all these industry developments—the collapse of cookie-based identity resolution is the one that has the potential to hurt publishers of all sizes the most.

There is a lot that we still don’t know about how user identification will work in the future for ad tech. All the solutions that have been proposed so far, including Google’s Privacy Sandbox, Unified ID standards, a shift to contextual ads—are either in their infancy, difficult to understand or implement, not as effective as third-party targeting, or some combination of those things.

On our part, we intend to track identity more closely in 2021, and try to simplify the issue for publishers using explainers, guides, and interviews with developers and early adopters.

And in the meantime, here are four industry leaders talking about their focus going into the new year, which might provide some ideas as you form your own ad ops/revenue strategy.

2021 is all about transition

“We’re moving from a wild-west of digital advertising to a privacy-first world, and companies must be ready.

Under this, are many tracks we’re pursuing including identity solutions, deeper relationships with users, understanding the Privacy Sandbox in detail, upgrading our contextual targeting systems and 1st-party data, and more. Alone, each track would be more than enough as a major strategic initiative, so pursuing all of them simultaneously is challenging, but exciting. 

We’re working within the major standards’ bodies (IAB, Prebid, W3C) to shape these new standards and make sure they work well for publishers of all sizes, and advertisers can advertise effectively on the open web. We’re optimistic that the future of advertising will be even better, but the path is going to be complicated.”

— Paul Bannister, Chief Strategy Officer, CafeMedia

Kijiji Canada eyes opportunities beyond 3rd party cookies

“If I had to pick one main focus (out of the many we plan to work on in 2021), then I would say our focus will be on integrating identity solutions that also meet any future privacy regulations.

The 3rd party cookie as we know it has been given an expiry date.

As one of Canada’s largest marketplaces and a leading Canadian publisher, we are working on ways to continue supporting our advertising partners through identity solutions that enable them to target our 1st party audiences within our platform.

We have already launched one of these integrations, and have a few more on the horizon. In addition to expanding our native and contextual offerings.”

— Chris Quinn, Head of Display Advertising, Kijiji Canada

Finding a durable identity solution

“For 2021, our main focus continues to be the reliable, efficient operation of our ad stack and programmatic platform.

We’re always testing, learning and improving. That process will remain our foundation year in and year out.

I think the point of the question, though, is really “What’s new for 2021”?

In that context, we’re focused on a durable identity solution for a post-cookie world. We’re also looking carefully at how best to integrate the various assets that Red Ventures has acquired over the last 18 months into a cohesive whole from an ad platform perspective.”

— Andy Atherton, SVP Revenue Operations, Healthline Media

Counteract the erosion of 3rd party cookies

“As we all know, 3rd party cookies are the backbone of the programmatic ecosystem. In January 2022, quite some time after Firefox and Safari stopped accepting 3rd party cookies, Chrome will follow suit.

The market already has a proliferation of ID solutions to identify users which will guarantee high CPMs. At Snigel, we’re working on perfecting our existing interface for all of these solutions to make sure relevant IDs are passed to the individual SSPs and DSPs. All the necessary tech is already baked into our AdEngine ad delivery product and will receive constant updates in 2021.

The challenge here is to keep the syncing lightning fast and be able to bridge the gap between hashed logged-in solutions and pure play ID paired with machine learning identification algorithms. Personally, I think that the user acceptance rate for logged-in solutions will remain low and the proliferation of ID solutions will only increase during the course of 2021.”

— Christopher Krischnig, Co-Founder of Snigel

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