1 min read

The Attribution Chain of Custody - Online and Offline

It’s become painfully clear that cookie matching isn’t cutting it.  Customers are rightfully demanding higher levels of transparency to the audience being targeted, as well as proof that the audience is actually receiving the impressions as promised.

The problem lies in a broken “chain of custody."

Online Marketing technology companies have been working many different angles to bridge the gap between a digital connection and the physical postal address.  Facebook, Google and others solve for it within their closed-silos link registration data to a person-based “Universal ID”.  Universal IDs certainly sound good to marketers but the reality is that a silo-specific ID, such as those from Facebook or Google, limits unique user coverage and is only operational within the walls of Google or Facebook.

Outside the “wall”, where (in addition to FB and Google) unique users still live, onboarding is being based on a device or an email match.  There are more device IDs than ever before, but onboarding remains dependent on matching the (many) emails or devices of a named person to a cookie pool.  In order to get any scale legacy systems still have to match emails or devices to a pool of cookies. This is where the one-to-one chain of custody between the digital population of users and the ID breaks.

Because of multiple email accounts per person and the pool-matching nature of cookies, the match represents an enormous number of overlapping anonymous individuals.  Yet cookies still cover only about 25% of active users, and they still time-out, fade away, and need to be updated constantly.  In a world that demands transparency, one-to-one matching, and end-to-end attribution – onboarding cannot realistically be depended on to link to a household, much less a person.

And then there is B2B.  While the so-called digital “Universal ID” for a person and an address can exist, the limits of the match becomes apparent when the person goes to work.  The ability to link an onboarded unique user to a business, school, or public venue requires a deterministic, cross-device linkage that does not currently exist at scale.

The final challenge is transparency.  Without an alternative universal or common ID, the marketplace cannot assign a digital identity to enough people, households, or businesses with any scale or accuracy.   Options that forecast that your advertising spend is returning its investment remain probabilistic, opaque and largely indefensible.


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