Today, brands and publishers now have more identity-related data at their disposal than ever before. Because of this, identity resolution has never been more important to brands and publishers…but unfortunately many have found it to not be the “magic cure-all” they were told it would be. So how can brands and publishers take advantage of identity data and identity resolution to improve their marketing and advertising efforts?

Aqfer and Aerospike recently held a joint-webinar to discuss the identity-related challenges currently faced by modern brands and publishers, where identity resolution tends to break down and fall short, and how to set-up for identity success. The webinar, “Beyond Identity: The Pitfalls of Not Becoming Identity Agnostic in 2023,” featured speakers Daniel Jaye, CEO and co-founder of Aqfer, and Daniel Landsman, Global DIrector of AdTech Solutions at Aersospike. 

During the webinar, both Jaye and Landsman offer unique and valuable insights into what causes many brands and publishers to struggle with identity/identity resolution. They address the misaligned expectations many organizations have regarding the supposed “magic cure-all” that identity/identity resolution was promised to be. They also dive into how moving to an ‘identity-agnostic’ state can increase the value derived from identity/identity resolution efforts and help organizations prepare for the coming ‘Cookiepocoylpse’ and ‘Ad-mageddon’.

Below, we’ve provided some educational excerpts from the webinar to provide you with a look into the topics covered and the information that was shared by Jaye and Landsman on this perpetually hot topic. We encourage you to watch the full on-demand webinar recording to get the complete rundown on how brands and publishers can achieve success with identity/identity resolution and easily scale their processes to meet modern demands.

What are the biggest problems with identity today?

Well, obviously top of mind for everyone is this ‘Cookiepocolypse’ issue…we’ve seen increasingly the browsers start to deprecate not just the acceptance of third-party cookies or to link identity across context, but also things like the duration.

…You may truncate the expiration dates, you may limit the scope, you may limit the distribution, and there is an ongoing – I would say – arms race between the privacy protections in the browsers and the ecosystem’s attempt to try to preserve some of the heavily relied upon mechanisms they’ve used for the last five to 10 years.

…I would say that in some ways that the fundamental issue is being able to respond to change with agility and being able to adapt and be able to incorporate whatever identity solutions are going to help you achieve your business outcome. I don’t think, at least for the foreseeable future, we’re going to see a world where you can make one play and have that cover all of your business needs.

…We firmly believe that brands and publishers are going to have to increasingly focus on making their linchpin be their first-party identity data. And it’s not that cookies are going away, it’s just that they’re controlling the data proliferation issue with third-party cookies and cookie linking and sharing, et cetera. Brands and publishers – the people who have the first-party dialogue with an engagement with the consumer – are in the best position in some ways to lean into this and to take back control of their data and relationships

Landsman: I think it’s important to understand [that] two different types of devices are going to have different types of IDs. So, if you’re looking cross-channel, whether you’re doing targeting or attribution, it’s important to be able to look out into the world of addressable media that you’re working towards and be able to understand where is said individual in that world.

…We’re moving from a world of better information to more opaque information…and bringing all that data together is something that takes a lot of effort. You have to have the proper investments, the proper infrastructure. Aqfer can help with that, Aerospike can help with that, but it’s how are you going to bring everything together to make an intelligent business decision about where you’re trying to go.

…Identity resolution was supposed to be a magic cure-all and it’s not quite so simple. There’s a lot of complexity and nuance and far too often people are relying on a single provider and you have to look across the ecosystem to figure out how are you going to capture the right signals for what it is that you’re trying to accomplish, whether it be spending on media or doing attribution.

How have misaligned expectations around identity impacted brands and publishers?

I think that there’s a challenging balance that marketers and advertisers need to strike. Depending upon whether you’re working in batch or real-time, you have to have an understanding, as Dan Jaye mentioned, the business outcome.

…In real-time, there’s limited amounts of time to leverage data and decision against it. But with a little more time, there’s the opportunity to open up that aperture, pull in more data sets, and create a more cohesive view of the business outcome that you’re trying to achieve. So, I think that you have to balance the operational objectives with the amount of data that you’re pulling in with the times that you have in order to make those decisions. So, there’s a lot of nuance that goes into that because, in my opinion, you have to take it on a case-by-case basis to do what it is that you’re trying to do at scale.

Jaye: So, in our model, we think about identity resolution as a lens through which you look at all of the data in your business. And that lens starts with your first-party data as the basis for your identity graph. And then you supplement and augment that with whatever works and drives your outcomes.

…Based on that, you are going to stitch together a patchwork, if you will, of identity and ideally that is going to be able to adapt. The problem is that there’s still an expectation that I can go to one identity spine vendor and have the “one ring to rule them all.” And the issue is, unfortunately, that landscape is much more fragmented and you have to use not just different vendors but different techniques depending on both the channel, the type of engagement you are conducting within that channel, the target audience.

So, again, it’s about flexibility and adaptability and being able to supplement your first-party identity truth set with what you need to reach out beyond your own media.

How can brands and publishers set themselves up for identity success going forward?

Start with your own data. Start with building an identity graph over the evidence that you see in your own business operations. That’s on your own media, but also there are technologies, we provide some of them, that allow you to bring in your paid media evidence and to be able to use that to drive and extend first your first-party graph. 

…Now you bring in the other identity providers and other partners – whether they be third-party syndicated data providers who may provide identity spines as part of their service, they may be neutral third-parties. And you grow out from there based on those priorities. But we would often say to people, start with actually calibrating and gathering the data. Don’t let the data drop on the floor. The first thing to do is to make sure you’re gathering the information you need to drive your resolution and decisions.

…But as we move forward into what [success] looks like, we think that [success] looks like the data-centric marketing architecture. And it is a process whereby brands and publishers have the data under their control. They understand it and they can make it actionable. They can activate it when and where they need to. And we believe that that architecture starts with first-party data and the ability to have governance and control over that data and the ability to make it available at the point of consumer engagement at scale, which brings us back to why we’re so excited about our partnership with Aerospike.

…Identity data is surprisingly messy. It’s not just the fact that it’s incomplete and inconsistent. Very often the identity data people receive is not what they think. Sometimes it’s metadata issues, the data’s not described accurately. Sometimes it’s that the data’s been commingled upstream and so it’s not the homogenous stream of hashed email addresses you thought it was.

Landsman: I believe you have to start with the first-party data as we’ve touched on before. Then you have to figure out, are there data co-ops or something of that nature in order to effectively capture a larger portion of your target demographic or audience. From there, work with third-party vendors or other types of data spines and then after that move towards more of the probabilistic type of environments in order to better understand where that identity is.

…Some of the data that you’re going to get is just going to be noise. Maybe you have to verify that that data is actually good data because there’s a saying, garbage in, garbage out. You need to make sure that the quality of the data that you’re using is actually up to snuff as well in addition to increasing the reach or incrementality of the data that you’re actually using to drive the desired business outcomes.

…I think what companies need to do in order to get ready is, if you have the ability to ingest data in real-time and leverage it in that capacity, absolutely would move towards that direction….Whether it be planning or forecasting, it’s really dependent on how you’re actually leveraging the data, but personally I believe that the more you have access and ability to leverage data in real-time, the faster you can make decisions as a business that will lead to positive outcomes. And that’s why I believe that trying to do things in real-time as much as possible is the best course of action.