Advertising technology prides itself on continuously advancing the field. I believe we are acting as our own worst enemy when we define and share templates for the evaluation of a potential vendor. Let me explain…
I have very few guilty pleasures in life. Watching Casey Neistat’s blog was one of them, but his (nearly) daily video updates will no longer prove to be a distraction since he announced that the regular updates would cease so he can focus on his next life-challenge. While disappointing, it sent me down a reminiscent, never-ending hole of clickbait titles and attention grabbing thumbnails until I landed on this treasure: What’s Your Motivation?
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Casey’s channel on YouTube, he was named YouTuber of the Year in 2016 at The Shorty Awards with nearly 6 million subscribers and over 1.3 billion all-time views of his 900+ videos. He is perhaps most famous for his outrage after receiving a ticket for biking in New York City outside of the designated bike lane. He voiced his frustration through the medium of his choosing: a video. However, Casey’s normal, daily vlog consists of coverage from his extensive travels to mundane tasks at home. Each Tuesday he sets aside some time to answer questions from his fans in a very loosely structured Q&A.
It was during the Q&A portion of his video from April, 2015, where a fan states, “You are a film maker. Stop vlogging.” Casey’s response inspired this post and allowed me to finally articulate what I had trouble forming a cohesive thought around previously.
“Our job as creators is to further define any medium. Our job is to create the new clichés – not adhere to those that were defined by generations past.”
In September, the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Cross-Device Counsel released a Cross Device Identification Solutions RFI Template and simultaneously the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) published the Best Practices in Cross-Device and Cross-Channel Identity Measurement. Both resources are great steps in educating the market on the current, widely adopted solutions for cross device association.
The DMA, CIMM, and Screen6 share similar views: the industry is facing a challenge of information asymmetry and needs to address it. As the DMA shares in the RFI template (page 3):
i) Not everyone speaks the same language.
ii) Buyers don’t always know the right questions they need to ask.
iii) Sellers with distinctive methodologies rightfully promote the benefits of their solutions. *
(* Yes, I do hope you consider Screen6’s cross device solution more carefully after reading this article.)
Screen6 realizes that market education to increase transparency for buyers is no small undertaking. Each cross-device vendor needs to play their role and chip in – plus, we all benefit from self-promotion and ensuring that each of our own distinct methodologies is rightfully portrayed. Unfortunately, this is not the reality and it is hindering the industry’s potential growth.
While we could analyze both the DMA as well as the CIMM publications line-by-line, I found a section within the CIMM paper to help summarize my point: limiting your perspective and aiming to check off pre-determined boxes will not lead you to the right solution for your company, but to the solution which is already categorized as best for a problem previously solved.
The Bottom Line – Working with Graphs
(Page 11, CIMM Best Practices in Cross-Device and Cross-Channel Identity Management)
Understanding how any vendor’s graphs work is key to having confidence about their claims regarding the strength of connections across consumers and devices. Key questions that any vendor should be able to answer with regard to its graphs include the following:
– What is the graph’s match rate (specifically, to your target audience)?
– How frequently is the rate calculated (i.e. weekly, monthly, quarterly)?
– What data goes into the graph, and is it overly dependent on any specific type of data, such as cookies or e-mail addresses?
Without diving into a sales pitch for Screen6, I’d like to clarify a few points of differentiation:
We build private identity graphs. We keep each client’s dataset completely siloed and never co-mingle other client’s data. Therefore we do not have any of our own data in-house. We do not listen to bid streams. We do not purchase deterministic data. We do not operate a single, master graph. Since we do not need to match a client’s dataset with a pre-existing master graph, there is no need for a cookie-sync. Thus, we do not have a pixel implementation and do not require direct interaction with the consumer. Because of our ability to work server-to-server (no piggybacked pixel), we provide two very important benefits for our clients: A completely privacy compliant solution, globally. Yes, we work anywhere our clients have data.
Our methodology can incorporate any identifiers – meaning we can connect Unique Identifiers from cookie-less environments (i.e. set-top TV boxes, streaming audio services & connected cars)
We bill based on a SAAS data processing model. (* Again, this point is a bit self-promotional.)
So, how can we answer any of the questions within the DMA & CIMM validation templates?
Vendor Question: How many cookies do you have in your graph? Device IDs?
Screen6 Answer: None. How many do you have?
Q: What geographies do you work in?
A: What countries do you have data in?
Q: How precise is your graph?
A: We do not own a graph. (Screen6 is a data processor. Each of our clients own their own graph and have the right to it. Each client verifies us themselves.)
Q: What is your average match rate?
A: We do not have one. We analyze each of our clients’ entire datasets. As such, there is no data leakage due to initiating a cookie-sync. Instead, we would encourage you to inquire about our average de-duplication rate.
In conclusion, Screen6 encourages buyers to keep asking questions. Question your current vendors and question new potential partners, but do not limit yourself to predetermined questions with predefined acceptable answers. As Jane Clarke, CEO and Managing Director of CIMM, shared during a cross-device workshop co-hosted with the DMA at Advertising Week in September, “The buyers are as responsible here as the vendors. Buyers have to demand transparency. Keep asking questions.”
It is our job as innovators to further improve upon any process. Advertising technology prides itself on advancing the field; everything from profiling and segment creation to ad serving and tracking, and perhaps most importantly, attribution. Our job is to create new clichés – not to adhere to ones which were defined by generations past (thanks Casey!). If this was the case, we would still be buying audiences like they existed back in the day when newspapers were the primary medium and distribution was king. To validate a cross device solution with simple binary questions is very limiting. We, at Screen6, approach cross device identification in a very different fashion – one which we think is better for many reasons.
“Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes.” Thomas W. Higginson