Where Identity Meets Reality

For some time, movers and shakers in digital media have been talking about how the industry is due a shift away from targeting audiences–the first iteration of the programmatic market–and toward reaching individual users. For advertisers, identity marketing delivers better campaign performance. For publishers, identity marketing presents opportunities to make better use of your data assets, and to create stronger and more direct relationships with advertisers. And for users, it can help create a smoother experience overall. That’s what Brandon Seltenrich, Director, Global Programmatic and Tech at CBS Interactive, told us in the conversations we’ve had about the session he’s leading up at the  Publisher Forum in Huntington Beach, CA.

Brandon’s attendee session on Mon., March 5, “Identity Meets Reality,” will dig into how publishers and their users can benefit from this shift toward identity marketing. Right now, he’s answered some of our questions, to give us a sense of how this conversation at the PubForum will play out.

Brandon 200When we were planning out your session, you mentioned deterring users from downloading ad blockers. How does identity marketing help in those efforts?

Users don’t care about the match rate increases that identity solutions can provide, by leveraging a single identifier instead of many different ones. But users do care about seeing web pages load fast. An identity solution fully implemented means that publishers will be able to remove dozens of calls, if not more, from their pages while still enabling their ad partners’ ability to monetize. This means less requests made, less bandwidth consumed, and less time to load a page. And that means happier users more likely to engage with my sites.

There’s a lot more behind identity, from reducing the likelihood of data leakage to providing mechanisms for user consent in an age of GDPR–but at the end of the day, everything we do is for our users. And, right now, our users are making it clear that the current ad ecosystem isn’t optimized. Identity is a very large first step in the direction of fixing it.

My core competency is delivering great content to our users, not maintaining ad systems.

Brandon Seltenrich CBS Interactive

You also told us you were handling 30 different sites right now. As far as identity marketing is concerned, what advantages do you have from that scale, and what challenges arise from that scale? And where are you focused right now in the identity marketing-related conversations you have with your tech partners?

To an extent, there’s a bit of a chicken vs. egg thing going in the identity landscape, just like with any nascent technology, really. Publishers aren’t willing to commit if their ad partners aren’t there, and ad providers aren’t willing to commit if their publishers aren’t there.

At CBS, we’re focused on moving ahead and actively communicating with all of our partners on what our plans are, and how we’d like to work them on integrating into our roadmap.

My core competency is delivering great content to our users, not maintaining ad systems. When we choose partners, be it for identity or any other initiative, picking the right one isn’t just about picking a great technology. It’s about picking one that’s seamless to implement and easy to maintain across an extremely disparate set of sites and infrastructures powering them.

What tech solutions are you looking for, to help bring identity marketing into full bloom? What’s the next big challenge that you need to solve?

From a purely technical perspective, the challenge is simple and straightforward: What platforms do you work with and how fast can you get into more of them? Our users are no longer on what we consider the traditional web. They’re consuming our content on AMP, in app, and elsewhere, like OTT.

When you pitch me an identity solution, how much of my audience are we talking about it working for? Does it only work for users visiting my sites from computers and phones? Or can it also benefit users on the next wave of devices, like gaming consoles and set top boxes, that we’re now seeing surges of activity from?