Addressing the Future of Digital Media

SonobiThe Journey to Making Digital Media a People-Based Advertising Marketplace by John Lee & Michael Connolly

People-based advertising has been a hot topic of discussion in the industry trades in 2018. As an idea, it seems simple when written down: leverage data to ensure that each media campaign is only shown to the desired audience. In a world where marketers are plagued with fraud, non-human traffic, and other non-savory issues within digital media offerings, it is no surprise that a 100% accountable advertising solution can gain traction. Simple sells and, more importantly, helps marketers sell.

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To realize this vision at Merkle we developed M1, a technology built to connect our core identity management and data capabilities into the agency and digital media ecosystem. Our mission is to connect the disparate planning & buying technologies and unify them through a single people-based ID. Through M1, we can offer a simple, unified way to plan and buy addressable audiences across different digital media companies. Knowing that this idea couldn’t be tackled by any one company, we decided to join forces with Sonobi and work on the problem together. Merkle and Sonobi set out to build a set of planning and media activation systems to empower advertisers to take advantage of people-based advertising on premium content creators that our advertisers wanted. We encountered many challenges along the way.

Publisher Identity Silos

On the supply side, each logged-in user projects a persistent ID. However, we discovered that even within a single publisher’s different media brands, multiple distinct persistent IDs would be employed for the same user. Considering that this was occurring across owned and operated properties, one can imagine the complexity across all supply. A universal consumer ID that could assign multiple IDs to a master ID was needed — sort of a Rosetta stone to identity. In order to address this need, Sonobi created People-Based ID (PBID), a persistent master ID with multiple authoritative IDs linked to it. Once the M1 ID was incorporated into PBID, we were fully equipped to address the challenge of unifying media planning and buying through a single user ID.

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Does Addressability Create More Value?

On the agency side, there still exists a lot of confusion on what is addressable and if it creates value. Is a cookie addressable? A cookie, first and foremost, is an object that is linked to a behavior. By itself, a cookie is not addressable. However, if one can authoritatively link it to a person then this cookie can be used to target the associated individual up until the cookie no longer exists. Historically, campaigns, where impressions are linked to persons, show a 50% increase in performance.

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The Road Ahead

Through our partnership, Merkle and Sonobi managed to remove the ID silos and link cookies to persons. We built the pipes that allow publishers to easily plug into M1 and offer fully addressable media solutions to advertisers. We also developed a way to effectively unify logged-in users across premium publishers. The data from both advertisers and publishers can now be unified without degrading the quality of the targeting segment. M1 is capable of bringing the power of the walled gardens to premium publisher brands.

Change, as we know, can be good, but change isn’t always easy. As an industry, we need to read past the headlines of people-based media execution as a new technology and focus on how we change the way we plan, buy and sell media. For those of us who are working to foster this change, it is not only our hope that this occurs, but also our mission.

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Michael Connolly:

Michael Connolly, CEO of Sonobi, cofounded the company in 2012 to deliver his vision for the future of advertising. Under his guidance, Sonobi is the leading technology provider of people-based marketing solutions, enabling media transactions against people in ways that are plannable, relevant, predictable, and measurable.

A serial entrepreneur, Michael has a strong background delivering innovative digital media solutions. In 2009, he cofounded Digital Tech Publishing, which generated over 30 million unique visitors and 1.5 billion ad impressions per month before being acquired. 

This article was jointly authored by John Lee and Michael Connolly.

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