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Tags: Data, Privacy, Technologies, Publisher, Cookies, Relevant Digital, Relevant Yield

Updated: May 3, 2021

It is not clear yet what will happen to targeting and measurement in digital advertising in the future when the use of third-party will end, but it is clear that there will be changes. It is comforting to know, however, that no one is facing these challenges alone, but they apply to the whole sector and all stakeholders. Underlying the change is growing pressure on supply chain transparency and respect for user privacy.

Google’s idea is to replace the features of third-party cookies with the Privacy Sandbox interfaces it has developed. According to the plan, third-party cookies would be replaced by several different API interfaces, where all behavioral data would be stored in a browser and web pages or technologies would call this information through the interfaces. You can find out about the planned interfaces of the Privacy Sandbox here.

In March 2021, Google confirmed that once third-party cookies are phased out, they will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web and will not use them in their products. Just a week later, Google shared a post on its Ad Manager blog in which they announced plans to expand Publisher Provided Identifiers (PPIDs) from private marketplaces to open auctions.

Google's opt-out opens the market for other independent players, and there are already several Universal ID solutions on the market. Such are e.g. Unified ID 2.0 created by Trade Desk and managed by Prebid, ID5 Universal ID, Merkel Merkury ID, and LiveRamp's Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) and IdentityLink Consortium (IDL).

In this post, we’ll explain a bit of what Universal IDs are, why they are needed and what their purpose is.


What is a Universal ID and why is it needed?

Universal ID is an identifier that identifies the user in the digital marketing ecosystem and allows the information associated with the user to be passed on to approved partners in the supply chain.

Universal IDs are cookies or persistent IDs stored in the html5 storage space of a user's browser, which is limited to first-party use only, i.e. they will work only when staying on the same site. In order for cookies to be passed on in the digital advertising process, cookies typically need to be synchronized between different technologies. Utilizing Universal ID does not completely eliminate the need for synchronization, but when third-party cookies are typically synchronized in a browser, the synchronization of ID tags takes place at the solution of the ID service provider. 

That is, in practice, if the login information is known, then the user's ID is retrieved from the ID service provider that it is based on, and if there is not yet an ID for the user, one is created for them. Some service providers (such as ID5) also do modeling on their own platform, i.e. if the result of the modeling is estimated with a sufficiently high probability that it is the same browser on two different sites, then the service provider returns the same ID for both sites.


Watch the ID5 explanation video of Universal ID:


Video source:


What is the purpose of Universal ID?

Universal ID provides publishers, advertisers, and ad technology providers with an alternative way to improve user identification and thus reduce the need for third-party cookies. Similar to the third party cookies, Universal IDs are used to enable e.g. targeting and measuring advertising and improving the user experience on the site.

The ID allows publishers to enhance the value of their inventory and allow advertisers to run more targeted campaigns. Universal IDs open up the ability to create and share an ID with first-party information for the needs of the entire digital advertising ecosystem, while respecting privacy.


ID5 is a partner of Relevant Digital

ID5 was created to improve online advertising for consumers, media owners and advertisers, with the ultimate goal to help publishers grow sustainable revenue.

ID5 provides the advertising ecosystem with a transparent, scalable and privacy-compliant identity infrastructure. Its solutions improve user recognition and match rates and provide a stable, consented and encrypted user ID to replace third-party cookies and MAIDs. This enables publishers to better monetise their audiences, advertisers to run effective and measurable campaigns, and platforms to maximise the value of data and inventory for their customers. Created in 2017 by seasoned ad tech professionals, ID5 services clients globally.

Read more about the collaboration here.


Universal IDs are not a new thing, they have been on the market for some time. But they have clearly grown in popularity now that we are moving towards the future without third-party cookies. Time will tell if Universal IDs will act as the backbone of advertising targeting in the future, but it is a possibility.

We at Relevant Digital follow the development of the situation. Join our monthly newsletter subscribers to stay on the map!

Suvi Leino
By: Suvi Leino

Responsible for marketing and communications at Relevant Digital.


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