The Trade Desk Ruffles Feathers With Controversial Unified ID Solution Rollout

Ad tech’s biggest independent player proposes ‘cutting off' lower-tier DSPs

The company proposed the new measures to trading partners at Cannes Lions.
Getty Images, Trade Desk

Documents presented to supply-side platform players at this year’s Cannes Lions conference suggest that The Trade Desk wants to apply pressure in its bid to further its Unified ID Solution roll out.

The industry’s most high-profile independent demand-side platform unveiled its alternative ad targeting solution to the walled gardens of Facebook and Google late last year. The debut has received positive feedback, and the company boasts a series of high-profile partnerships with SSPs, plus integration with the open-source Predbid.org, an initiative that was jointly pioneered by AppNexus and Rubicon Project.

However, the company has ruffled some feathers with the presentation of a working document detailing the next proposed phase of The Trade Desk’s Gold Standard initiative.

Presentation slides contain phrases such as “The Sell Side Players of the Future All Look Like This” and state that “The Only Resellers That Survive Are Value Added Resellers.”

Later slides suggest that agreeing to the implementations of IAB Tech Lab standards—such as app-ads.txt plus sellers.json—will be table stakes to remain trading partners after this year.

In particular, the document goes on to call out arbitrage players—whom it states are “scarring the industry”—but draws a distinction between such parties and “value-added resellers,” who will receive “special consideration.”

It also states that “TTD will move resellers to opt-in in 2019 to force the routing of spend.”

In the weeks since the document was displayed at Cannes Lions, several sources have alleged that the proposal, including its “commitment to cut off tier 2/3/4 DSPs by end of year,” would effectively force The Trade Desk’s Unified ID upon both SSPs and smaller demand-side rivals.

A slide from The Trade Desk's Cannes Lions presentation.

According to multiple anonymous sources, this amounts to The Trade Desk forcing rival DSPs to stop syncing with their own advertising IDs, effectively relegating rival target offerings below its own.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for The Trade Desk stated that its Gold Standard document “reflects the latest thinking” from major advertising clients. They said the working document reflects collaboration and ongoing conversation that has been taking place over several years with as many as 15 top supply-side partners, adding that value-added resellers could be broadly defined as those that are forward-thinking when it comes to implementing app-ads.txt.

The company also noted that 10 other DSPs use Unified ID Solution, and said that while The Trade Desk does make recommendations to media buyers as to which SSPs to partner with, the final decision as whether or not to act on said recommendations is down to the advertiser or media agency.

However, one anonymous DSP source said they were outraged over the prospect of The Trade Desk potentially acting as an arbiter as to how rivals to Unified ID are used in auction dynamics.

“You also have to think how publishers would think about a DSP trying to muscle-in on [and reduce] their demand,” they said.

Robert Webster, co-founder of Canton Marketing Solutions, added that it would signal the end of the open programmatic ecosystem, especially if “[what constitutes] a second-tier DSP is an arbitrary decision.”

“It would aid some privacy concerns by limiting the number of companies IDs are synced to,” he added. “I’d be interested to see how growing innovative DSPs like Beeswax and Avocet would be impacted. Also, Iponweb with its Bidswitch product and their own purpose-built DSPs.”