The user token (AKA user ID) is the single most important component of the digital marketing ecosystem. User tokens allow companies to recognize their audience (while not necessarily *identifying* them). Without effective audience recognition, the entire foundation for our industry is reduced to guesswork — negatively affecting everything we do:
- Website analytics
- Content personalization and monetization
- Personalization of ads (single device, intra-device, cross-device and cross-channel targeting)
- Consumer privacy settings and preferences
- Consumer data collection
- Frequency capping of ads
- Programmatic ad delivery
- Ad measurement and reporting
- Attribution and campaign optimization
We believe that industry leaders must carefully scrutinize efforts to standardize the user token so that it is governed appropriately, used responsibly and not controlled for isolated shareholder benefit. DigiTrust believes that its operational and organizational design sets the bar, and as such we think it’s important to communicate our key organizational tenets.
CONSORTIUM DU JOUR
While the industry begins to understand the importance and benefit of standardizing the user token, a battle has quickly emerged over who will “own” this standardized user ID and therefore dominate all related activities. We now know of at least four different efforts to “standardize the user token” and we’re seeing the words “consortium” and “cooperative” thrown around like Powerpoints at a TedX event. These efforts are by for-profit companies who have reasons to form their own consortium, instead of working in collaboration with others within existing efforts.
Choice is a good thing — except when it comes to standards.The point of standards within an industry is to form a common layer upon which we can accelerate innovation, and therefore have more products and features to choose from. Imagine what the Web would be like today if every time you opened a web site you had to choose which Internet you wanted to use. Think about how frustrating our devices would be today if there wasn’t a standard for USB, WiFi, Bluetooth or even the electrical outlets you plug into.
DIGITRUST KEY ORGANIZATIONAL TENETS
The challenge of ID standardization is not so much a technology challenge as it is about cooperation — it’s difficult to get many companies (partners and competitors alike, and all with intense profit and competitive motivations) working together. This cooperation is best done within a trusted structure. Whether you choose DigiTrust to provide that structure or not, it’s time for leading publishers, advertisers and platforms to take a stand and support one standard user token.
To aid in your consideration, let’s convey what DigiTrust stands for. Here are our key organizational tenets, which we believe best serve the entire industry without bias to one company or category.
DigiTrust is Open and Transparent
DigiTrust communications, code, perspectives and product/feature roadmaps have been and will continue to be open and transparent to all members and participants. Membership and involvement within DigiTrust is designed to be global and available to all industry participants — publishers, platforms, marketers, analytics and attribution vendors, across all formats, geographies, devices and channels. We are positioning DigiTrust to be a standardized industry “container” (and utility) which travels with the user and may contain not just a standardized ID but whatever else helps our membership as a whole, raising the tide and all boats with it. We encourage members to join working groups and conference calls to influence the evolution of DigiTrust, which we shall encapsulate within an open process and “request for comment” periods.
DigiTrust is Neutral and Independent
DigiTrust is organized so that there is no bias towards, influence or control by any specific companies or categories. We aim to provide uniform value to all industry parties that rely on user tokens, with the only exclusivity being to companies compliant with self-regulatory principles. While our board is currently comprised of several founding platforms, we’ve drafted a new governance structure that represents the interests of the entire industry while eliminating the perceived or actual possibility of influence tied to Directors’ commercial self-interests. All vendor relationships are arms-length, and there are no related party transactions.
DigiTrust has No Profit Motivations Nor Shareholder Obligations
DigiTrust is a Delaware non-stock corporation, meaning it has no shareholders. DigiTrust has also achieved non-profit status with the US government, under code section 501(c)(6), which means we’re obligated to act in the interests of our members and industry. We also believe it’s important that our Board of Directors don’t have shareholders, further insulating us from any potential bias of commercial self-interests and shareholder obligations. Additionally, DigiTrust cannot be acquired by a for-profit company.
DigiTrust is Funded by its Members Uniformly
DigiTrust believes the industry does not need a new tax on every transaction, and we aim to offer our services to be as close to free as possible (like the cookie is today). DigiTrust feels it’s important that our funding for operations comes from all members who use the persistent user token, rather than sourcing its funding (and therefore control/influence) from just a handful of members. We believe funding should be evenly distributed, not variable and tied to managed revenue (which can lead to disproportionate influence by the largest members), and we believe that all fees should decrease as more members join and value accretes. That said, since innovation within our industry is paramount, we believe startups should be provided free access to the DigiTrust ID until they reach a level of revenues that conveys product/market fit.
DigiTrust Focuses on Who Owns the Audience Relationship
The relationship with consumers is owned by the brands who earned that relationship through the provision of content, apps, products and services; it’s not owned by DigiTrust nor those brand’s licensed third-party platforms. As such, DigiTrust believes those brands should be at the center of a standardized ID effort and the resulting benefit, and that they should determine which trusted platforms share in that value — not the other way around.
Distributed Technology with No Member Dependencies
Delivery of the solution and storage of the user token is decentralized, so there are no disproportionate dependencies on one company, one technology vendor, one data center or even on the availability of any API service other than a CDN. In a working group setting, we have evaluated and mitigated all potential single-points-of-failure. The DigiTrust intellectual property is owned by DigiTrust and therefore all members. We do not have technology licensing agreements with members, nor any such member dependencies which could be used to exert undue influence or control.
DigiTrust has a Full-Time, Non-Biased CEO
DigiTrust believes that an effort of this level of importance needs a full-time leader that works on behalf of its members, and is not employed by nor financially biased toward any member. Prior to joining DigiTrust full-time, Founder/CEO Jordan Mitchell sold all shares in his previous employer (and founding member) Rubicon Project to eliminate perceived or actual financial bias or motivation. We expect the challenges the industry faces around user tokens and identity will continue, and we need a non-biased leader driving solutions in collaboration with members and trade associations. Open and regular communication is also paramount, and those involved with DigiTrust can attest to our history in that regard.
DigiTrust Must Work in Partnership with Others
DigiTrust believes that the challenges we aim to solve are not isolated, but rather inextricably tied to other industry challenges – consumer experience, ad blocking, fraud, privacy, regulation, the duopoly, etc. For DigiTrust to achieve long-term value within the industry it’s critical that we link arms with other industry trade organizations and initiatives.
We believe cooperation is necessary for standardization, and a trusted structure is critical to both. DigiTrust has a strong structure in place in accordance with the foregoing key tenets, and we’re proud of what this membership group has achieved for the industry as a result. However, and perhaps this is the final key tenet, we must not ever rest on our laurels. The only constant in our industry is change, and we will embrace each new challenge as a new opportunity.