The Really Big Picture of Identity: What Marketers Need When the Dust Settles

By Sameer Sondhi, Co-CEO at Verve Group

It can be hard to look to the horizon when there’s a mountain right in front of you. But that’s what today’s advertisers and publishers are up against when it comes to the identity landscape in marketing.

  • In the immediate term, our industry has a big gap to bridge when it comes to the loss of third-party cookies and other identifiers.
  • At the same time, we must not lose sight of the long game. What happens when we shift our perspective from the immediate term to look more than, say, three years out?

This is a useful lens to apply, as it helps advertisers and publishers understand how the decisions they make today are going to affect their longer-term strategies. So, what should we expect in the realm of identity in both the short- and long-term view of identity management?

A Rebalancing of the Scales

It may be hard to fathom a prediction as to what 2027 looks and feels like, but making a prediction about something this far down the road gives my team something to look forward to and adapt toward, with the goal of pivoting earlier than others where possible.

We believe that the digital advertising and media landscape will be rebalanced by then, with far less concentration than we have today, where two main walled gardens have dominated the industry since 2014. I see a world with many “open gardens,” which will essentially be walled gardens, with their own data and advertising, that will be connected with bridges so that advertisers can reach their audiences and meet their goals with less friction. The media landscape will be rebundled, including metrics, allowing marketers easier access to audiences, measurement and automation. This rebalancing will lead to a thriving ecosystem for all types of businesses and a larger contributor to the economy.

We’re seeing the building blocks of how technology can better address advertisers’ and publishers’ challenges, making their jobs easier and more effective. Looking through that three-year-and-beyond prism, this will become a reality. Technology providers can work together to build the parts that are already commoditized, while creating differentiation on their own platforms. This will create more value while also making tools simpler and easier to use for both large and small businesses, which are the lifeblood of the economy.

A Brighter Future for All

With the ecosystem solving many of their challenges using this larger time horizon, advertisers should be in better shape. By this point, their agencies will have invested in privacy-first strategies for years, positioning them ahead of the curve and better equipped to help clients navigate a landscape with new channels, retail media networks and consumer behaviors. Brands will be closer to their customers (especially their best customers), while publishers and content creators will have deeper relationships with their audiences, which will incentivize better business models and content.

Consumers will receive better products and experiences, with their needs met faster. They may also get spammed by ads (as they do now), but since the ads will be of better quality in terms of creative, format and personalization, consumers may not recognize them as ads or perceive them negatively. Since consumers will recognize the value exchange in sharing their data and consuming ads, they will unlock more free (or cheaper) services while also enjoying more seamless experiences among devices.

How to Seize the Opportunity

To align themselves with the opportunities presented by the identity landscape of the future, advertisers should continue nurturing their relationship with their customers, gather online and offline intelligence about their target audiences, and follow them to whatever new environments they are spending time in, which may include more advanced augmented reality or gaming media. They must resist the urge to spray and pray. Instead, brands need to put in the work to find their desired audiences and continuously test new approaches.

Small to medium-sized brands will hopefully be able to grow by finding the right media channels and retail media networks. Larger brands should consider acquiring their way into new markets, models or digital subscription bases, by identifying smaller smarter brands that fit into the long-term vision of their portfolio.

As new channels and platforms emerge, the sell side should consider bringing in new talent to test and capitalize on emerging environments. They must avoid bolting new media onto an existing business and, instead, build new offerings from scratch, independently. When user behavior or consumption changes, publishers must be ready to adapt.

The winners from yesterday may not be winners tomorrow, so publisher success may depend on their ability to look at opportunities with fresh eyes—and start early.

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