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In a new report on the future of audience targeting, Forrester describes how known customers will be targeted in the third party cookieless future: “To target known customers in a data deprecated world, marketers must unite their first-party authenticated and permission-based customer data with publisher data through a common identifier. Then they can target the overlapping audience within publisher environments. Use your DMP’s publisher connections or your relationships with identity-based providers, like Unified ID or LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS), to achieve this.”

In the fast-developing world of alternative identifiers, it should come as no surprise there’s already a different approach on offer — an identity graph embedded in the ad exchange itself.

The addressability challenge. “It’s an exciting time in the industry,” said Eric Wheeler, CEO of SSP 33Across. “The pressure comes from the demand side — from The Trade Desk with Unified ID 2.0, from LiveRamp who would want everybody to use their solution — to the publisher: use my solution and you’ll make money.”

But is it that simple? Not at all, said Wheeler. “I was talking to a national local news company a few days ago, and they said it’s just not reasonable that I’m going to get somebody to log in to see a video of a cat in a tree. It’s not going to happen.” The focus on authenticated identities might only account for 10 to 15% of traffic, Wheeler said. The one large-scale solution right now seems to be FLoC. “But maybe there’s an opportunity for a publisher to not have to be reliant on Google for another part of staying in business.”

Read about Google’s FLoC alternative to third-party cookies.

The addressability challenge is stark. From the SSP perspective, said Wheeler, 60% of the audience they supply is tied to cookies, and 97% of demand is focused on that 60%, not the cookie-free remainder. “It’s a cliff we’re riding off of.”

The 33Across solution. “There’s no other SSP I know of,” said Wheeler, “that has embedded an identity graph into the exchange.” The graph, called Lexicon, was launched in the Spring. Here’s how it works. “One of the things we have is a publisher analytics offering called Site Control which we offer to publishers to understand how their content is being shared, on what platforms, and it’s a very widely used tool. It’s on over 800,000 publishers, 24 billion pages a month. From that, we already have a broad distribution of our Java script into these publishers.”

This gives 33Across an ability — analogous to Google’s FLoC — to see behavioral attributes of cohorts of readers, from the server side, not the browser side. What Wheeler calls a “pub token” can be assigned within those cohorts. “It’s like a cookie,” he said, “but better than a cookie on a whole bunch of different levels. It’s a probabilistic identifier, it lasts for 14 days, it’s about 85% to 90% as accurate as a cookie, but you can’t identify a specific browser or a person.”


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Everybody can transact immediately. Whereas identity vendors and DSPs are inviting advertisers to buy into solutions like Unified ID 2.0 or LiveRamp’s ATS, and looking for publishers to roll them out, 33Across, as an ad exchange, is already connected to the demand side, and embedded with large numbers of publishers. “By launching the ID, everybody is already able to transact.” And there’s no added cost to using the ID. Data solutions vendor Lotame has also entered the probabilistic identifier stakes, but its Panorama ID sits, like the deterministic IDs, on the supply side.

33Across will support any industry-approved deterministic ID; it’s solution helps, as Wheeler said, to “map the unknown.” On the demand side, having everyone bidding for the small universe of authenticated users will send the price of CPM through the roof. He also warned, “The gap that the cookie deprecation leaves is co crushing it’s literally going to put thousands of publishers out of business if we don’t fine a way to do this.”

Why we care. So far, most (not all) alternative identifiers are grounded in some token of first-party data — typically a hashed email or a log-in. Some are interoperable, some aren’t. But no matter what the value exchange offered by publishers in return for an authenticated identity, a big audience of unknown users will continue to evade addressability.

The approach taken by 33Across is different, and promises, at least, to target audiences with almost the same effectiveness as third-party cookies. We’re watching to see if they come through on that promise. So far, they are reporting increased revenues among publishers using Lexicon.

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