Cookie Consortiums Emerge To Combat The Walled Gardens

A number of ad tech-backed coalitions consolidating cookie pools have bubbled up this year to stave off Google, Facebook and Amazon running away with the market with their own scaled identity assets.

And trends like Safari’s ITP cookie restrictions shift the advantage further toward the walled gardens with daily active users.

AdExchanger looked at a few of the coalitions being developed to standardize cookies across digital media.

The Advertising ID Consortium

The Advertising ID Consortium is a nonprofit founded earlier this year by LiveRamp, AppNexus and MediaMath as a way to share cookies, which then added LiveRamp’s deterministic Identity Link product.

The group has 15 ad tech platform partners, including OpenX, LiveIntent and Sizmek (née Rocket Fuel). But it has hit some bumps in its first six months, with MediaMath exiting over concerns about LiveRamp’s deterministic extension of the shared cookies, believing it should be disassociated from the anonymous cookie pool.

Index Exchange took over as a leading member of the consortium.

MediaMath continues to share cookies with AppNexus and members of the consortium, data management VP John Slocum told AdExchanger, and is open to rejoining the consortium if it drops the identity-matching feature.

LiveRamp is a crucial element of the consortium because “they have fantastic product and give away a lot of things for free in this,” said AppNexus senior product VP Pat McCarthy. “But it created the misconception that this would be tied to only LiveRamp’s view of identity.”

The company is in talks with two identity tech companies that could fill in the matching extension provided by LiveRamp, McCarthy said, though he declined to name potential members.

AppNexus’ role in the consortium can also be a concern, since the shared cookies are run through the AppNexus domain.

AppNexus’ cookie pool is the largest of the members, and by adopting its infrastructure the consortium doesn’t require joint commitments to maintain the technology. But part of the longer-than-expected time spent working on governance and a legal framework is to ease concerns from potential members about relying on AppNexus, McCarthy said.

“Part of the sell is others will benefit more than we will,” he said.

The group is still working on its governance, payment structure and filling out a board of directors, but expects to begin live deployment in the first quarter of 2018,

“Between AppNexus and Index Exchange, we have the vast majority of the header bidding market dropping the consortium’s cookie,” McCarthy said.

DigiTrust

DigiTrust was founded three years ago by an IAB working group hoping to standardize cookies.

The group’s membership counts 14 publishers or ad networks representing about 300 websites and 29 exchange platforms, said CEO Jordan Mitchell.

Media companies deploy the DigiTrust cookies for free, and the SSPs and DSPs can identify consolidated audiences on those sites in exchange for a co-op fee as part of the coalition.

DigiTrust distinguishes itself from consortiums fronted by companies because it doesn’t rely on competitive technology, Mitchell said.

“The more success those initiatives were to see, the more of a strategic advantage they’d have over identity in the industry,” he said.

DigiTrust’s independence and non-proprietary technology can be an advantage when wrangling competitors into data-sharing arrangements, but has its drawbacks as well.

Mitchell, a former product VP at Rubicon Project, is the only full-time employee at DigiTrust. This means it doesn’t need a huge budget to be viable, and engineering resources come from the CEO and its members without any formal requirements.

“It’s the kind of thing engineers with that open-source mentality like to work on,” Mitchell said. He also intends to hire full-time developers.

The IAB

While the IAB doesn’t officially have a consortium, it has pushed its members to take a more pluralistic view of cookie data, said Dennis Buchheim, the trade group’s senior VP and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab.

And in fact, consortiums have come from IAB working groups – namely DigiTrust.

The IAB is broadly concerned about data sharing as a potential buffer for cookie loss resulting from Apple’s ITP tracking policy and looming GDPR changes in Europe, Buchheim said, but its support for coalitions is more about creating an open web capable of competing with walled gardens.

“Cookies are going to be harder to gather and execute against, especially if these efforts to consolidate identity don’t develop,” he said. “But the big loss is every day platforms with more effective identity solutions are winning more ad spend.”

The Trade Desk

The Trade Desk is assembling a shared view of cookie IDs “with all the benefits of a consortium, but no meetings,” said founder and CEO Jeff Green.

To that end, The Trade Desk has made its cookie footprint available to all 64 of its inventory supply sources and to competitive DSPs.

Partners do have to opt in to the program, Green said, but all major inventory suppliers have come on board. And those that don’t agree to a cooperative view of identity will see less business from The Trade Desk moving forward.

“This is really just an issue of math,” Green said. “This isn’t an area where people create proprietary advantage.”

If an SSP has, say, 30% cookie coverage across the web and The Trade Desk has 80% coverage (DSPs cover more of the web because they view across many SSPs), then a one-to-one match between the two platforms is limited by the SSP’s coverage. If the SSP incorporates The Trade Desk’s ID into its own cookies, though, that coverage becomes the combination of the two.

The Trade Desk’s idea is similar to the Advertising ID Consortium, except that consortium houses all IDs on an AppNexus domain and requires the AppNexus cookie ID. When The Trade Desk shares its cookies with exchange partners, it allows those companies to take its ID and store them in their own domain.

“We’re supportive of the LiveRamp-AppNexus-Index Exchange consortium – in fact, consolidation is a good thing.” Green said. “But it has to interoperate with others.” The Trade Desk would also require the consortium to remove LiveRamp’s deterministic ID extension from cookies in the program before joining.

Platforms can apply their own innovations to deterministic IDs – and The Trade Desk’s acquisition of deterministic matching firm Adbrain last month shows its plans to compete in that space. But anonymous online IDs aren’t an asset to be monetized, Green said, just like McDonald’s realizes the benefits in giving away ketchup and napkins.

“Companies should recognize that anonymous IDs will be ubiquitous, and we should race to the place where we can make advertising more effective.”

 

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