Brands Must Work to Unify Identity Data to Create a Single Customer View

By Nancy Marzouk


Marketers are about to feel the effects of third-party cookie loss and mobile ad id depreciation in an entirely new way. As brands embraced identity as a new targeting option, third party data has acted as the "glue" between sets of first party data. A marketer typically doesn't house every insight about an individual in a single database and works with a variety of partners and providers. Third-party data knits these disparate insights together.

When that glue goes away, what brands will be left with is a series of fragmented data assets and partnerships that don't add up to a unified view of the customer.

This is a true case of irony if our market has ever had one. The core purpose of identity is to provide marketers with a single source of truth about the ways a customer can be identified and recognized — and it's about to become the opposite.

Where Identity Fragmentation Will Emerge

Typically, brands have multiple partners in their addressability stack, including targeting and frequency capping partners managed by DMP or CDP companies. Brands are also starting to work with a variety of partners to securely match data. In some cases, brands will use unique point solutions and in other cases, use the clean room capabilities of larger partners that offer other data services. Additionally, brands have measurement partners looking to match data for attribution, which is typically managed by companies like VideoAmp and Nielsen.

To function fully, each partner needs to resolve identities across different data sets. To do this, each point solution typically turns to its own preferred identity partner(s). The result is that identity is being outsourced to the point solutions rather than managed holistically from the brand level.

Brands are missing the ability to connect vital information upstream for cross-function analytics and targeting – for instance, to tie the completed customer profile across media buys and clean room learnings. Today, the point solutions themselves aren't focused on sharing identity findings with each other since this is not their primary role.

Creating A Unified Identity Strategy

Brands need to create a holistic identity strategy in order to bring the fragmented pieces together. This effort requires collaboration between marketing and data teams and starts with the CMO and CIO creating a complete picture of their identity needs across each partner.

Just as internal teams need to collaborate, a wide range of data and technology partners will need to work together, too. The ecosystem crosses a broad set of data sharing and security solutions from database providers to clean room partners. It also includes many of the ad-tech and martech partners that brands and their agencies have in place from CDPs to measurement companies and many others.

The next step is to identify all the places where third-party cookies are filling the gaps in order to develop a 360 view of an individual. Wherever third-party ids are playing a role, a new connection needs to be made that reduces fragmentation. The real work begins with actually filling those gaps with a new identifier. Perhaps collecting more emails or using IP data if emails are difficult to collect at scale.

Finally, brands need to allow data to be shared and permissioned across the point solutions. It needs to be clear who is responsible for what, how data is kept secure, and how technologies will work together. This requires a few different types of conversations:

  • Technical interoperability: New technology needs to be set up to share data between partners or to gather data from partners in order to create a unified picture. Brands will likely need to implement a data clean room and be prepared to work with other company's data clean rooms at the same time. In some cases, data will need to be permissioned in new ways, encrypted in new ways, or stored in new ways.
  • Security and governance requirements: Each brand has a unique set of data requirements that go beyond CGPR and CCPA. For example, an insurance brand may have several compliance requirements such as HIPAA and GLBA. Layers of encryption and security may require that data sharing is limited to insights gathering rather than actually combining different data sets in a single database.
  • Legal liability: Sharing emails, IP addresses and the like requires legal agreements that clearly designates who is responsible for compliance, data breaches, and mishandling of data. For many brands that are wary of the implications of handling and sharing first party data, this could require buy-in from senior executives in order to ensure that legal teams understand the importance of sharing data.

Do The Hard Work Now

Laying the groundwork for an entirely new approach to digital marketing isn't easy, but it is necessary. The more brands start pushing requirements to their partners, the faster partners will innovate and deliver solutions that make it easier to gather and share data. The sooner brands explore legal and technical solutions, the more competitive marketers will be with future advertising and marketing.

Larger tech companies and walled gardens are already creating their own clean rooms and measurement solutions. The louder brands are, the more these solutions will make room for interoperability. Brands have the chance now to make the transition to identity-based marketing much smoother, but they must get started soon.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Nancy Marzouk is the CEO and founder of MediaWallah.