Flying Blind: The Struggle for People-Based Digital Identity Resolution

Consumers are spending more time on digital devices than they spend time on all traditional media channels combined. Marketers who are trying to stay in front of these consumers are increasing spend in digital media channels such as display, mobile, video, and social media.  While budgets are increasing, the core issue of people-based identity resolution is not being solved as it continues to evolve.  This core problem leaves marketers flying blind on who (and how many) they are actually reaching.

The world of digital media not only presents the problem of recognizing people, but significant complexity to align the cookie to a browser to a device to a real person and finally that person to a household.  Keeping these moving parts accurately aligned while the average consumer has 19 active cookies, uses 3.5 devices and over 50 percent of consumer change out devices every year, becomes incredibly challenging.  This is particularly difficult in the digital world where most companies don’t collect or use personally identifiable information out of respect for the consumer’s privacy.

The largest ad technology and media companies in the world are challenged with identity resolution and its corollary, cross-device mapping.  Without superior ID resolution, all critical components such as profile management, decisions, media buying, and measurement, are rendered suboptimal. In a perfect world, all matching at the person and device level would be deterministic but the reality is, even the biggest solution providers cannot pull that off.  This leaves the marketer reliant on inaccurate guestimates of who a consumer really is and what they know about them, which leads to low marketing effectiveness.

Promises made to marketers are continue to fall short.  While the ad technology strive to get to people based identification, they struggle with granularity, accuracy and persistent connectivity.  Further, they are selling the promise of consortiums that are limited in scale and now falling apart because the participants don’t know whose data to trust.  Data on-boarders and these ad tech stacks still speak in terms of segments and not 1 to 1 with no ability to update profiles decisioning and profile management.  New entrants in the marketplace tend to rely on old data sources for identity authentication.

Most marketers are using some combination of the status quo mentioned above and would be better off throwing their big pile of money into a bonfire.  When you cannot solve ID resolution your approach to the digital media world is fundamentally flawed.  The money you are spending on digital media is massively inefficient and the measurement of your programs are immediately inaccurate

How do marketers solve for this problem all while ensuring it is done without identifying the individual?  They need to become smarter about vetting the solutions they are using and the people they depending on.  Here are a few areas to explore:

  • People v Cookies – Is your digital media buying truly people-based, one-to-one marketing, resolving for all cross-device or are you relying on cookie pools?
  • Consumer Profiles – How much do you know about your consumer and do your profiles include online and offline activity updated in real-time?
  • Ad Tech Stacks / DMPs – Do you understand how limited and inaccurate your match, reach are and your limitations of staying persistently connected to real people at scale?
  • Accuracy – Is your media buying partner validating accurate media delivery at a person level?
  • Measurement – Can you attribute the impact of digital media spend with conversions (not clicks) at a person based level (connected all devices to the person) and measure incremental revenue?

Finally, many marketers rely on media buying agencies to spend their money.  Not only do agencies bring a conflict of interest representing only their trading desk, but agencies are not inventors of new technology.  They simply partner and rely on the status quo.  Marketers need to vet their agencies as much as they vet their ad technology.  Anything short of this effort is leaving the marketer flying blind.

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