Some publishers are starting to see revenue lift from alternative IDs

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If you asked publishers last summer which alternative identifiers presented the most promise for replacing third-party cookies, most would have responded with a fatigued shrug. But now some are able to quantify the cookie replacements’ revenue impact.

In a test of Unified ID 2.0 — which was developed by The Trade Desk, had been managed by Prebid and is now operated by TTD — Justin Wohl, CRO of Salon, Snopes and TV Tropes, recorded a 200% increase in CPMs compared to ads served to an authenticated audience with third-party cookies present. The testing started in early Q4 2023 and specifically focused on TVTropes.org’s logged-in user base, which represents about 5% of the site’s 150 million pageviews per month. The cookieless test group was confined to Apple’s Safari browser, which enabled the publisher to evaluate the alternative ID’s revenue impact in an environment isolated from third-party cookies.

After confirming those results with The Trade Desk, Wohl said his team “pretty much locked in our commitment to go all-in on UID 2.0.” 

For Unwind Media, which owns online gaming sites Solitaired and Solitaire Bliss, first-party deterministic IDs — specifically LiveRamp’s RampID, UID 2.0, Yahoo’s ConnectedID and ID5 — have been the focus for alternative ID experimentation, according to Emry DowningHall, the company’s svp of programmatic revenue and strategy.

“We found that when a deterministic ID is present in the bidstream … we see between a 40% and 50% CPM increase vs. non-logged in users,” DowningHall said. The tests did not isolate a cookieless cohort to test in a controlled third-party cookie-free browser. “Does that become even more valuable down the road when the third-party cookie deprecates? My guess is that it does,” which is why his team is prioritizing strategies to get more users to self-authenticate on-site this year.

When asked if there was a specific identifier out of the four named above that DowningHall suspected was driving that increase, he said that his team didn’t look specifically at which ID was present, just if there was one present at all in the initial tests.

“It’s the culmination of the IDs that we run that provide that benefit. There isn’t an ID that we’re looking to expand and add, but I also don’t feel the need to narrow it down,” DowningHall said, adding that having four main ID partners hasn’t resulted in page load speed issues or other concerns that would drive him to want to consolidate ID partners beyond the point his team is at now.

Other publishers said they are still in the process of narrowing down the alternative IDs they want to test, but they haven’t gotten to the place where they can share a measurable revenue lift. 

Jo Holdaway, chief marketing and data officer of The Independent, said that there are a few main ID solutions that her team is keeping an eye on. The first is Anonymised.io because she said the ID solution has aligned itself with Publicis Media to trade live campaigns with that technology and it’s appearing to be pretty privacy safe in practice. Anonymised.io is also backed by the trade organization that Holdaway is chair of, the Association of Online Publishers (AOP). UID 2.0 and LiveRamp’s RampID are the other two alternative IDs that are top of mind because of the companies’ respective data clean room technologies, Holdaway said. 

Zack Sullivan, CRO of Future, said that his team has spent the most time testing a few specific vendor IDs. The first is LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solutions, which matches publishers’ first-party audience data with a RampID in real time. The company is also testing The Trade Desk’s European Unified ID (EUID) developed for the EU market and UID 2.0. And finally, Google’s publisher provided signals (which pass information about the audience categories an individual user belongs to in lieu of a unique identifier) and publisher provided identifier (an identifier that is specific to an individual user but is unique to the publisher, making it difficult for others to use as an identifier). Future previously had other IDs in the mix (though he declined to name which ones), but recently buyers have been asking specifically for the company to implement or scale out RampID, EUID and UID 2.0.

“There are a lot of conversations around authenticated users particularly in the U.S. market and therefore the LiveRamp solution in particular seems to fit that ask really well at the moment,” said Sullivan. “And The Trade Desk has done a really, really good job in that space, and therefore, those are the two we receive the most engagement with.” 

While Sullivan was able to say there has been a noticeable revenue lift from the implementation of these alt IDs, in combination with the company’s Privacy Sandbox experimentations, it’s ultimately too early to make a definitive call on which ID will win out in the end. He declined to quantify the revenue lift observed thus far.

“What we’re seeing is more revenue being put to work using those solutions, and therefore … [it’s] naturally commanding higher yields. What we need to see is does it continue to scale and is it continuing to deliver effective marketing outcomes?” said Sullivan. 

One publisher who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that they too have not narrowed down specific alternative IDs that they want to prioritize because they want to wait and see which ones buyers ultimately end up going with. Running the tests to figure out which IDs are generating the best revenue lifts are too expensive and put too much pressure on page load times to justify further investment, they said. 

However, the publisher isn’t convinced that other publishers are able to definitively say that revenue lifts can be directly attributed to alternative IDs at this point, particularly if they haven’t limited their tests to a third-party cookie-free environment. 

“[It’s] difficult to truly say that the lift to the CPM was because of the authenticated [audience] because cookies still exist. Until the cookies are gone, you really don’t know if the lift is coming from the existence of the authenticated solution? Or is it just better lighting up their third-party cookies for them?” they said. 

This article has been updated to reflect that The Trade Desk currently serves as operator of UID 2.0.

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