Ad ID Joins DigiTrust (Not the Other Way Around!) Brings the Industry Closer to Neutrality and Independence

June 20, 2018 — by John Slocum    

Everything comes full circle. Overalls are back in fashion for our kids two decades after we donned them in homeroom. The movie It was just remade last year. Even Zima, which went off the market 10 years ago, has made a comeback. And so, it comes to pass that even in the Era of Industry Identity Consortiums, we’ve found ourselves back where we started with the news that Ad ID—a consortium that advocated standardizing on vendor-owned domains—is now promoting an independent device namespace. Ad ID has joined DigiTrust, a neutral, non-profit, industry-wide collaboration of ad tech platforms and premium publishers utilizing a standardized user token to improve the consumer online experience.

When we first helped found Ad ID some 13 months ago, this is what we envisioned—a common namespace that didn’t rely on any one vendor’s technology, and that could be broadly adopted by the industry without reservation. We believe that the Ad ID Consortium coming back to an independent namespace by joining DigiTrust is the right move for the former, and further validates the shared vision of a neutral governance model, managed by the trusted industry trade organization, IAB Tech Lab.

From whence it came

MediaMath helped found the Ad ID (then Open Ad ID) Consortium with LiveRamp in the spring of 2017. In the fall of 2017, we decided to leave that group when the effort veered in a direction incompatible with broad adoption. We then joined the DigiTrust consortium in March of this year because we believe it presents a neutral, independent governance model for building a common ID for the Web that was then, and continues to be, broadly adopted. Think IDFA for the Web. DigiTrust was acquired by IAB Tech Lab in April 2018, and now operates as a service from IAB Tech Lab.

Why did these individual consortiums coalesce in the first place? Because, as it stands today, trying to deliver consumers personalized digital content and advertising over the Web, across many different devices, makes for a crappy end-user experience.

Each company collaborating to deliver messages to consumers assigns its own proprietary, cookie-based user token, which its partners can’t read. That means that to work together in real-time, each company must maintain elaborate systems and processes to synchronize the different tokens used by each of its partners, for each consumer, on each web browser, in every connected device. The conventional process to update those systems and synchronize tokens with each other is called “pixel syncing” (or “cookie syncing”), and because it’s so widely deployed across so many companies, it can result in more than 100 third-party requests on a given webpage. This slows down the Web experience publishers offer their consumer audiences and is costly for third-party companies to maintain.

The DigiTrust service and technology solution works to solve this problem by creating a pseudonymous user token that is stored within a conventional cookie that may be read and propagated by DigiTrust members. With a standardized token provided to and used by all parties, pixel syncs are rendered obsolete. Hundreds of billions of unnecessary, daily, third-party pixel sync requests will eventually be removed from webpages, improving the Web experience for consumers while publishers and their partners continue to work together to deliver consumers rich, personalized content and advertising.

Why DigiTrust could never combine with Ad ID

The two consortiums are not “joining forces.” Ad ID is joining DigiTrust, now IAB Tech Lab, as a regular member, signing the regular DigiTrust member agreement, with no special rights or privileges. DigiTrust could not join Ad ID without a member vote and restructuring from the neutral, non-profit entity that is now actually part of IAB Tech Lab, because Ad ID supports a few specific, for-profit entities. The suggestion that DigiTrust could join Ad ID violates the very terms that make DigiTrust the right approach to building a common ID for the Web, supported by so many across the industry and more each day.

We believe Ad ID joining DigiTrust confirms the market’s need for a neutral, independent, device-level identifier that will help us put consumers first by delivering better internet experiences. MediaMath committed to these principles before even founding Ad ID, and we believe we’re seeing the industry embrace the same, enabling global scale and proprietary value-add. We welcome new members to DigiTrust, along with further validation on principles of neutrality and independence from which marketers, publishers, tech companies and consumers stand to benefit.