Understanding identity and the symbiosis of online advertising

Lachlan McDivitt
By Lachlan McDivitt | 7 September 2020

Lachlan McDivitt is senior director, trading – ANZ at The Trade Desk.

Symbiosis: the long-term relationship between two or more organisms for mutual advantage. Unfortunately it’s a concept only widely understood by biologists, fans of Star Trek and devotees of the ongoing conflict between Marvel’s Venom and Spiderman.

As an industry, we need to better articulate this concept where the free exchange of ideas on the open internet must be a symbiotic relationship between consumers, content owners and advertisers. This is the tension that has confronted our industry since the modern era of interconnectivity began.

The challenge has been to explain how the critical element each requires to remain part of this healthy symbiotic relationship are not mutually exclusive. Consumers can have the transparency as to who has access to their data. Advertisers can have the data they need to reach their target audiences, thereby allowing quality local content to be produced and thrive in a healthy and open online environment.

We need to better articulate that consumer privacy and relevant targeting advertising are not mutually exclusive, and that consumers, content providers and advertisers are symbiotic.

Rather than focusing on one browser and one player, we need to work better, together, as an industry in articulating why relevant advertising is necessary and how a cookie-less future might operate across different platforms and devices.

Importantly, we need to clearly explain the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of creating a new and better approach.

If there’s a silver lining to 2020 it may be the time we have been afforded for thought and contemplation.

The Trade Desk has dedicated much of this time to the future of addressable advertising without cookies. We’re now committing engineering resources to developing what was originally outlined by the IAB Tech Labs as Project Rearc.

This cookie replacement will be open source, interoperable, decentralised and provide a complete upgrade to privacy controls for consumers. Unified Open ID 2.0 is a solution that we are building for the Open Internet and we will then hand it over to be managed by an independent governing body.

At the heart of the solution is an email encryption service that converts to a unique identifier. Many brands and content owners today have access to email addresses from their customers. The sources of that data can vary widely which is why it’s essential for Unified Open ID 2.0 to be interoperable with all of those sources that exist today.

For content owners who don’t collect email from consumers, the framework will include a lightweight SSO functionality that not only enables addressability but elevates the conversation with consumers about the symbiotic relationship they are a part of - doing so in a consistent structured manner across the open web.

The obvious question is ‘will the user have to log into every website they visit?’. The short answer is unequivocally, no.

Users will be required one time with one content provider to enter an email address and verify it.

This will also grant access to a privacy portal where users will have full control over their data and how it is used.

From then on, when visiting a new website for the first time, a toast will appear. This toast will be the communication point that outlines the quid pro quo of the internet, in consistent, user friendly language. That access to free content online is dependent on a user allowing their data to be used to deliver lower ad loads with more relevant messaging. These companies are regulated by the code of conduct outlined in the framework you have signed up for and you have full control over participation.

Industry leaders have focused on the need for the industry to collaborate on a new approach for a more dynamic, better performing and open internet. We believe Unified Open ID 2.0 is a solution that provides the right balance for the symbiotic relationship between advertisers, users and content owners to thrive.


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