Originally published on Adweek.
Setting aside their differences of two years ago, LiveRamp and MediaMath today announced a tie-up that will see the former’s IdentityLink (IDL) integrated with the latter’s demand-side platform.
While earlier squabbles may have hindered the (seemingly) Sisyphean task of developing a “neutral identity solution” to help independent ad tech compete with the walled gardens of Facebook and Google, it appears market forces are starting to win out.
It started with good intentions
Midway through 2017, the ad-tech duo and AppNexus were founding members of a group now known as The Advertising ID Consortium, with the aim of creating ad-tech standards so independent shops could better compete for ad dollars.
The original idea was that all members would develop a common identifier based on cookies, which could then be used to help advertisers target audiences outside of the walled gardens of Facebook and Google.
Facebook and Google’s logged-in data makes it relatively straightforward for advertisers to target audiences across devices and is key to their dominance of ad spend. Hence, the common identifier was a key aim of the Advertising ID Consortium, which would help media buyers target web users online free of the stringent data policies insisted upon by the duopoly.
However, this ambition of the union was short-lived, with MediaMath the first high profile company to secede about three months after its initial announcement, reportedly because it was unhappy with having to rely on LiveRamp.
Then things got complicated
At the time, John Slocum, vice president of data management platform at MediaMath, said the company withdrew from the consortium because it had been under the impression that each company would work toward “shared cookie assets,” but over time this changed to cross-device linking.
In essence, this meant that members would have to rely heavily on using LiveRamp’s IDL as the sole cross-device targeting option; several other DSPs voiced similar concerns. Nonetheless, the consortium has carried on.
So, in 2018 MediaMath backed nonprofit consortium DigiTrust with its Ad ID, and The Trade Desk eventually launched its Unified ID program. Meanwhile, AppNexus was later wrenched from the Advertising ID Consortium as part of its takeover by AT&T.
Since the consortium’s fragmentation, there’s been something of a détente with various members agreeing to some form of integration, albeit this has not been without its upsets.
For instance, The Trade Desk and Index Exchange—now a leading light in the Advertising ID Consortium—previously boasted match rates of 99%, with the DSP’s CEO Jeff Green having to claim his ID solution “is not an attempt to rule the internet.”
Fast forward to today and MediaMath has agreed to integrate with LiveRamp’s IDL as part of its much-trumpeted transparency initiative Source, with the pair now claiming the tie-up will help forge a more accountable ecosystem.
So why this apparent change in outlook?
Jeremy Steinberg, global head of ecosystem at MediaMath, told Adweek the partnership is geared toward helping advertisers better understand where their ads are being placed, and that the “open” approach it advocates with Source also includes LiveRamp’s IDL.
“We’re always assessing the needs of our clients, and what we hear from them is that, ‘We like the open approach, and we like LiveRamp.’ … That’s sort of led us to this partnership, because our clients are asking for it,” Steinberg said.
The deal means advertisers who want to participate in Source will be able to use “any known identifier” to help drive their desired outcome, according to Steinberg, though MediaMath has no plans to rejoin the Advertising ID Consortium.
“If at a later date it makes inherent sense to join, [it’s possible],” he added. “The key focus for us is Source and building this new supply chain based the key principles of making things accountable and addressable.”
In an emailed statement to Adweek, Travis Clinger, vice president of strategic partnerships at LiveRamp, said the MediaMath tie-up would enable more effective advertising on the open web, and that it was unlikely that any additional DSPs would sign onto the consortium any time soon.
A likely incentive for DSPs to have adopted IDL is LiveRamp’s February announcement that it will make its audience graph available to DSPs for free, which drove a number of ad-tech outfits to sign up.
The MediaMath-LiveRamp partnership “seems like a logical move as IDL has already been adopted by several DSPs, including Dataxu and Beeswax,” said Ari Paparo, CEO of Beeswax.
Responding to queries on the future of the Advertising ID Consortium, LiveRamp’s Clinger described it as “currently more geared towards the supply side.”
He added, “LiveRamp has recently signed integrations with Rubicon and Index Exchange, and is in the process of signing partnerships with other SSPs before the end of the year.”