The Key to Measurement Is the IP Address | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

The Key to Measurement Is the IP Address


The industry's well-documented drama surrounding the end of the third-party cookie is finally here. Now that is finally real – we need to acknowledge that this is going to be a big disruption to the status quo, upending years of investments that call into question a very large number of innovations, systems, brand workflows and business model decisions.

Even though we've known this was coming for a long time, none of the workarounds seem to have achieved the required coverage or have gained general acceptance. We tried different universal (but private) cookie proxies, platform and brand walled gardens of all kinds and even first-party data pooling. Emboldened privacy advocates have even expanded the "abolish the cookie" charter to take aim at location tracking, device identifiers and most recently the IP address.

But instead of burying our head in the sand in the name of privacy, let's see if we agree on a few fundamentals. Most ad tech organizations:

  • Openly recognize and support the privacy choices of consumers.
  • View privacy violations as a behavioral issue and not a technical problem that will ever be completely mitigated by technology.
  • Consider access to a person's device location a safety feature, not a risk, unless improperly applied in sensitive places (see choices).
  • Believe that measurement is a requirement being written into every RFP.
  • Understand that the IP address is a potential building block of measurement because of cross-platform universality and the role of connected TV (CTV).
  • Acknowledge that most measurement processes devised by walled gardens are black-box band-aids and are akin to the fox guarding the hen house.

The IP address can be "hidden" but can't go away because the entire digital ecosystem simply won't function without the IP protocol.

Here's one way we can build a measurable future on the foundation of the IP address.

Why Is the IP Address So Important?

If we're being honest, most advertisers rely on the big three or four media platforms — all of which are black boxes. Today, determining whether or not your campaigns reached the target audience on these platforms is either impossible or a blind study. Blind, because only these platforms have linkage between their user ID and the audience member.

In practical terms, for the rest of us, the digital identifiers for an audience member are disconnected from the original personal information in an onboarding clean room process long before an audience reaches the demand-side platform (DSP). This means any impressions served against those media platform digital IDs can be totally disconnected from the original audience – with different IDs for each platform. There's really no way for a DSP to know the true identity of an ID being reached on their platform, much less when it is the same person on another platform.

Measurement is therefore dependent on the onboarding party to stitch the discrete ID for each platform back together. Doing that at scale is nearly impossible without having an IP mapped correctly to a home or business delivery point.

Use of the IP is the common currency for mapping to CTV and the home modem. It is a deterministic identifier to a home or business delivery point – not a person. The home modem IP is reasonably stable for a limited period in contrast to mobile Ips. An IP should be considered an identity source for a specific authorized use, in a specific time frame rather than a cookie, device ID, or hashed email which can be reused and exposed to unauthorized redistribution. IPs used for targeting or measurement, should be used for permissible limited purposes that are acknowledged by all parties.

The importance of the IP for the advertiser is that it provides full transparency to the life cycle of a campaign – from offline data to onboarding, through impressions and back to onboarding for measurement. When the IP is resolved to a delivery point, such as the home modem, it can serve as a verifiable match key for multiple media types and platforms. The IP address with a timestamp is how you know the path to conversion, who saw which impressions, and just as importantly, who didn't.

How Advertisers Can Put IP Address at the Center of Measurement

The big hurdle here is not the IP address. A lot of time and investment went into building robust targeting tools, but while that was happening, our industry has been slow to catch up on measurement. Building robust measurement tools on the foundation of the cookie (going away) or a universal ID (that lacks scale or universality) is the bigger challenge. An IP mapping process solves this problem for digital media. The efficacy of the IP is time-sensitive, which is a good thing in that it is a poor vehicle for privacy abuse. However, it is also a challenge because it means that the brand or agency has to plan and manage impression exposures within the construct of a campaign, rather than as a post-campaign process.

Measurement Makes Advertising Better

Our industry has measurement capabilities, but those capabilities are bespoke and at the margins. In other words, here and there advertisers can do measurement, but they can't tie it together in a holistic way to connect the dots. Without transparency to the audience throughout the campaign and across platforms, advertisers are stuck with abstractions of the measurement process in the silos of their media buys – which inevitably means that attribution suffers from subjective preferences, modeled or last-click assumptions about the audience or the creative.

The IP can be a tool for transparency that makes measurement accessible and multi-channel campaigns viable.

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.

Ray Kingman is CEO of Semcasting.