The Trade Desk Rolls Out Its Unified ID to Take on the Walled Gardens

Lotame, Rubicon Project and SpotX back the scheme, with the hopes of streaming workflow

The launch brings the number of 'independent' targeting IDs on the market to three.
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The Trade Desk, a publicly listed ad-tech company with a market capitalization of more than $5 billion, is rolling out its own audience ID solution with several players also participating in its debut, a move that means there are now three such offerings on the market.

While marketers highlight their desire for persistent IDs to bring more uniformity to their media planning, differences of opinion and technical challenges have led to a relative proliferation of such initiatives in recent years.

The ad-tech sector wants to narrow the number of cookie syncs necessary for advertisers to target audiences at scale on the open web, or “independent internet.” If achieved, this could boost their share of marketers’ ad spend by posing a plausible alternative to the industry’s “walled gardens,” according to advocates of the model.

The Trade Desk’s Unified ID Solution comes in addition to the Advertising ID Consortium, which formed almost 16 months ago but was recently dealt a body-blow when AT&T’s Xandr pulled the participation of AppNexus. And both of these are complemented by DigiTrust, a not-for-profit initiative that dates back a number of years and was recently purchased by the IAB Tech Lab.

Data management platform (DMP) Lotame, plus supply-side platforms (SSP) Rubicon Project and SpotX, have all pledged to work with Unified ID Solution (the latter two are listed as members of DigiTrust), with all hoping that it will help streamline their workflow.

Jessica Berman, SpotX senior product manager, added, “We plan to do a test with The Trade Desk’s hosted pixel to see what sort of improvements we can capture in overlap rates to increase conversion rates to ultimately maximize revenue.”

Tim Sims, svp of inventory partnerships, The Trade Desk,  told Adweek that the rollout of Unified ID Solution was geared toward fixing a problem akin to trading with separate currencies.

Most demand-side platforms (DSP), DMPs and SSPs have their own individual cookies, or identifiers, which brings with it problems of latency both in terms of workflow processes, as well as the negative impact it can have on the consumer experience, i.e. page load times.

“We then go through this kind of complex matching system [in an ad trade] to make sure that those currencies can translate to each other,” he said. “So Unified ID is essentially setting out to solve this by creating a common currency for all.”

U.S. marketers currently spend more than half of all their online ad spend with Facebook and Google, primarily due to their respective reach and vast data sets that make it comparatively easy for them to target audiences across devices in a single ecosystem, or “walled garden.”

This leaves the rest of the market, the majority of whom are termed “independent ad-tech players” (their number ranging up to hundreds of companies) to do battle over what remains, with many falling by the wayside in recent years.

Part of the reason for the walled gardens’ dominance of ad spend is the comparatively simple means of targeting audiences within these ecosystems using a single user ID, compared with the average of 200 cookie syncs necessary to do likewise on the open web, according to sources.

However, separate initiatives in the past two years have seen competing independent ad-tech players band together to form consortia in order to create standards for programmatic media trading, which can then be used to rival the walled gardens.

One ID to rule them all?

Last fall, The Trade Desk became a “strategic partner” of The Advertising ID Consortium, which later announced DigiTrust as an additional ID option, after fellow DSP MediaMath backed out of the Consortium, citing unease with its then-reliance on LiveRamp’s ID solution.

When asked for clarification on the status of The Trade Desk’s participation with the Ad ID Consortium, Sims said its partnership is still in place and that the aim of the three initiatives described above was to rationalize the number of IDs on offer, not converge on a single one.

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