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How Identity Establishes Order and Opportunity in Ad Tech Evolution

New research from Winterberry Group, sponsored in part by TransUnion, found significant opportunities across the future outlook of the identity market. While many advertisers, publishers, media and ad tech companies are feeling the crunch of recent industry evolution, the market is overall wrought with innovation.

The Winterberry study revealed a few factors have and will continue to shape ad tech over the next year and a half, such as:

  • Pending regulations have brought data privacy to the forefront

  • The deprecation of cookies has spurred an immediate need for new, identity-based approaches to digital matching, targeting, personalization and measurement

  • A booming advanced TV market, including consumer adoption and new delivery services

  • Brands expanding use of first-party data and identity graphs

These trends relate back to the volume of data being generated across digital, including significant gains in the number of addressable devices and platforms at individual and household levels. But more recent events have shifted the bedrock of digital identity, making it more difficult to leverage legacy identity strategies to drive performance, scale, efficiency and measurement.

New challenges arise

For advertisers, publishers and media and ad tech companies, identity maturation has brought new challenges deeply rooted in the complexities of managing, understanding and activating against identity, including:

  • Privacy constraints — driven most recently by consumer sentiment and regulatory and browser crackdowns — have helped form a viewpoint that no digital or offline identifier is safe

  • Alignment on an optimal replacement for many prevalent, cookie-centric models has yet to be established

  • As the advanced TV market has exploded, it has quickly become one of the most fragmented playing fields

  • Brands looking to drive loyalty, acquisition and engagement need solutions to scale first-party data assets

As key industry players evaluate possible identity solutions, privacy-compliant approaches and efficiency across the programmatic trading system are quickly becoming a hallmark of consideration sets. Thus far, the rate of innovation to tackle these challenges by creating a foundational layer of identity to manage cross-channel planning, targeting, measurement and more in privacy-safe and compliant ways has been on point, but new opportunities remain.

The opportunities

Winterberry noted advertisers have doubled spend on identity solutions in the US to a tune of $1.2 billion, generally recognizing the value of identity in improving omnichannel campaign performance. Implementation of identity solutions across complex media infrastructure also helps tackle multiple, emerging challenges in parallel.

Due to future regulatory and browser uncertainty and questionable longevity, the ecosystem is rightfully less likely to rely on a single identity approach. Many experts have removed dependency on any singular ID from the concept of identity, creating a more holistic definition encompassing the general objective of recognizing and understanding audience members across channels.

Winterberry found publishers and media owners will thus need to support interoperability and a broad set of identity solutions to drive the scale, omnichannel capabilities and efficiencies necessary to compete with walled gardens. For media companies without access to unique identity components, these developments and partnerships will also serve as an opportunity for survival.

The proliferation of advanced TV creates a new landscape of walled service providers across streaming platforms, OTT and connected TV providers, and more. That’s one reason Winterberry highlighted distinct opportunities in helping to understand and target at both the individual level and household level, and create a bridge between the addressable environments.

As brands place more emphasis on first-party data, they’re identifying gaps in privacy approaches, including scale, talent and abilities to manage and activate PII-based. As data activation looks to become even more challenging in the coming months, Winterberry expects to see a short-term pause on the shift to in-house models. To continue adoption and growth of database management solutions while addressing organizational talent and privacy gaps, brands are more likely to need robust identity solution providers with the historical expertise to approach evolving data ecosystems.

All of these opportunities will guide the future of identity, ultimately creating a more efficient and reliable marketplace to support brand use cases of personalization, targeting and measurement. Privacy-compliant approaches may also help improve consumer, buy-side and sell-side activities to forge a stronger infrastructure for everyone responsible — creating safe, personalized, relevant advertising experiences.

Dive into the trends, challenges and opportunities identified by Winterberry Group in its Identity Outlook 2020. Download the research here.

TransUnion is at the forefront of identity-driven, people-based marketing, making continued investments in knowing the connected consumer to serve the marketing ecosystem. Check out some of our latest thought leadership on how an identity foundation powers greater advertising experiences:

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