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Identity Resolution and the Future of Data: A Q&A with Scott Gordon of Adstra


By Scott Gordon, EVP of Partnerships, Adstra

Marketers are more focused than ever on identity resolution, especially in light of the expected end of third-party cookies. But changes to regulations around data and identity are ongoing, underscoring the need for today’s agencies and brands to have a clear identity strategy that provides an accurate picture of their customers at all touchpoints, regardless of what happens to cookies.

To better understand what marketers need to know about identity resolution and deterministic data, we spoke to Scott Gordon, EVP of Partnerships at Adstra. Integrated into Viant’s software, Adstra helps marketers orchestrate the application of data to all dimensions of their efforts.

Q: In what has been a period of uncertainty, have you seen marketers change their approach to using data?

2020 was certainly a year of reconsideration on the part of marketers across all of their efforts. Between the immediate impact of the pandemic and diversity issues on consumer sentiment and behavior, and the longer-term impact from the threat of third-party cookie and mobile ID deprecation, marketers have had to look at redesigning both process and message. In both, marketers have had to take a closer look at their use of data and the information that data represents. The acceleration in digital commerce and consumer behavior has placed a premium on speed of access to data, while the regulatory changes and concerns on identity deprecation have spurred investment in gaining greater control of one’s own data and identity management. It’s safe to say 2020 was a year that marketers truly invested in their understanding of data and identity, and in turn has begun the shift to the next era of value creation.

Q: Looking ahead, and with the end of third-party cookies in sight, what do marketers need to understand as deterministic data becomes the primary currency of the internet?

It might be more accurate to say that first- and second-party data are becoming the larger currency. First-party data will largely be driven by deterministic data but will also include modeled and inferred data. What marketers want and need is access to data that helps them better understand an accurate picture on intent and behavior. Deterministic data does not always equal valid data. How many of us have lied about age or income in filling out a social media profile?

That all being said, what marketers do need to understand is how data is being collected, permissioned and used throughout their marketing processes. They also need to understand that regulatory change around the use of data and identity has been constant and evolving over the last two decades and will continue to be so going forward. Long-term success will come from owning your data, establishing an accurate permission-management capability and having a clear identity strategy that provides an accurate picture of who your customers are at all touchpoints regardless of the cookie outcome. At Adstra, this is why we have become a Data Bureau, to help marketers develop their own solution to each of these three needs.

Q: Identity resolution is top of mind today, but many remain uncertain about what true identity resolution is. What is key to understand?

True identity resolution is the process of resolving touchpoints and data elements back to a known, valid individual. This is the foundation for accurately building linkage of individuals across systems and platforms and effectively understanding the complete and effective profile of those individuals. It was once said, “On the internet, no one knows you are a dog.” The internet has long been based on anonymity, driving many of the challenges we see in social and news media today. The next generation of identity will likely shift to make known identity more the norm as it has long been in the terrestrial world.

Q: We recently wrote a piece about the changing role of match rates in today’s climate. In your opinion, what do marketers need to keep in mind when using match rates to measure identity resolution effectiveness?

The critical thing to keep in mind is that not all matches are the same. Match rates can easily be adjusted based on the accuracy of the match and the type of data being matched. Many of the platforms and vendors a marketer engages with are compensated based on media volume. As a result, they are financially motivated to drive the greatest scale they can justify. Marketers conversely succeed through effective scale, marketing to the audiences that matter. At the core of this is accurately defining valid and persistent individuals, against which data can be applied, models built, and marketing campaigns deployed.

In considering any match rates presented, a marketer must understand if the match rates reflect the ability to execute each of these steps correctly. What is the outcome they are looking for and does they data “matched” get them all the way through their marketing process? Do the match rates reflect a true match back to a known individual that can be marketed to?

Q: How does Adstra’s direct integration with Viant help marketers as the cookieless future approaches?

With the Adstra/Viant integration, we have established a direct and persistent link between the audiences Viant has access to and the known individuals that exist in Adstra’s ID graph. This allows marketers to connect their customers and prospects easily and directly to both the Viant network and their associated individual data. Adstra can connect a marketer’s own data and further enhance it with Adstra’s consumer and business essentials data plus any other third-party data. Adstra can do this regardless of the media the data comes from and we are not dependent on third-party cookies to do so. Adstra’s integration with Viant is based on linking known individuals, not simply a tag management connection.


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