We recently got a chance to sit down with Liam Doyle, VP of Ad Products at Salesforce, about the concept of Identity, and what it means for the digital advertising industry at the moment. You can watch the interview here, or read the transcript below:
Q: What does identity mean to you?
I like to talk about in very simple terms, really. If you think about what we’re trying to achieve with advertising, we’re trying to move people to action.We are trying to reach real people who would like to buy our products and services, and I think in the first version of ad-tech we were quite comfortable with proxies – proxies for identity – cookies, fingerprints, anything we could use to assemble some sort of a view of who was behind that screen. But now that technology’s come such a way, we can really start to think about who we can address behind that screen or behind many screens and who those real people are.
Q: Why now? Why is there such a huge conversation going on around identity? Why are so many people excited about it now as opposed to, let say, 5 years ago? Is it just the number of devices that are out there? is that the proliferation of data? is it just how people are able to use that data? what do you think?
Yeah it’s a little bit of all of those things. Certainly the explosion of mobile really put the industry into this mode because we use an average of three devices a day. And suddenly it became very clear that you didn’t want to overstate or understate frequency and you wanted to make sure that you were reaching different people with different messaging and weren’t taking them from being somewhat of an advocate for your brand and actually turning them into a detractor by peppering them on all of these different channels. And really I think where it pivoted was when Facebook told its story because it said, ” well we have (at the time) maybe 1.3, 1.4 billion people and these people are the same person across many different devices.” So, guess what? The era of People-Based Advertising is here. And that forced everyone to kind of go back to the drawing board and think about whether they had an identity platform. I think that’s a huge part of LiveIntent’s story and why you have such a strong position is because you’re grounded in another version of digital identity. That’s really powerful.
Q: Why is identity important both to brands and consumers? Is it important to consumers? Should they feel comfortable?
I think on the advertiser side, it’s all about value. I think for a long time they’ve been understating frequency and overstating reach because of these bad proxy identifiers. On the user side, I mean, I think we’ve done a great job as an industry to completely ruin other people’s experience, completely ruin their digital life. For them, the promise of this is, there are a few places that collect identity and use it whilst protecting their privacy and provide the value that advertisers need to reach real people. And I think that’s a much better idea than being tracked across the web.
Q: Are you suggesting that the concept of identity and the focus on identity may actually be a response or even a solution to certain things plaguing the industry, big topics right now like, viewability, ad blocking, in particular? Things like that?
Yeah, if you look at the reasons why people ad block. They ad block because we use all their data to serve our ads, we ruin their experience, I don’t know how you can read the news on the mobile web anymore. And we compromise privacy. And I think many people in the industry had a long time to self-regulate and they didn’t and so advertiser dollars are shifting to places where you can find real people and you can provide this quality inventory. And the people are choosing to block ads that ruin their experience. Now is the time where we need to be honest about this and I think identity is the piece that really, hopefully, be the perfect meeting-in-the-middle of what advertisers and users need.
Q: In this new era of identity, how close are we to that utopian ideal of marketing that everyone talks about: what might be possible, etc. Have we reached that point, and if so, why haven’t more marketers jumped on board?
Well, one point to make is that you don’t always have to use identity for everything. If you’re selling CPG all over the world, you probably just want to be everywhere all the time, staying front of mind. But there are so many different applications, and I think a far bigger portion of the market, that can be better served when you know who you’re reaching. We’re definitely not at that Utopian state – that said, you can now reach real people on these platforms, on LiveIntent, on Google, on Facebook. Does it get to a point where you can orchestrate every touch point within the ad space? No, not yet, but what you can do is learn who they are as a customer to you, and leverage that knowledge in your ads and campaigns.
Q: What is the most important piece of online data that can be tied to someone’s identity for marketers?
There’s one identifier that we use across our digital life, and it’s the email address. It’s what I use to log into Facebook, it’s what I use to log into Gmail, and all the retail experiences I have – I use it to log into Amazon as well. So it’s a very good identifier for us. And it’s cross-device, so when I’m checking my email on my desktop, on my laptop, on my phone, I’m the same person across those devices. So it’s funny to see, the email address has come right around and really established itself as being incredibly important for this next phase of ad tech.
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