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The Trade Desk spoke with Index Exchange’s Will Doherty on the company’s support for Unified ID 2.0 and the growing number of identity products entering the marketplace, as well as when the industry will ditch cookies in favor of a better solution.

The number of identity solutions entering the market has reached a watershed moment, where companies ranging from Verizon to Google are aligning behind the goal of replacing third-party cookies with products that improve addressability, measurement and consumer privacy. With several initiatives already in play, it doesn’t mean one identity solution will rule them all.

“There will not be a singular solution,” says Will Doherty, chief of marketplace development at Index Exchange. “What we need is an agreed upon standardized industry framework that allows publishers to preserve their data while also allowing marketers to use their data.”

Index Exchange is a sell-side platform that helps publishers such as Hearst, Meredith and the Washington Post sell their ad inventory. The company recently announced its support for Unified ID 2.0, joining other players like LiveRamp, Nielsen, Criteo, PubMatic and Magnite.

Regardless of how many solutions the marketplace adopts, UID 2.0 is in a strong position to garner widespread adoption thanks to its interoperability, a critical, but often overlooked feature that’s key to its long-term success, says Doherty.

“There’s a lot of friction without interoperability,” he says. “Imagine if every cell phone manufacturer had a unique charging cable, you couldn’t borrow someone else’s charger unless you had the same make and model. Proprietary approaches like that slow down adoption and make ease of use incredibly hard.”

Interoperability is key, says Doherty, because it will reduce costs for all players, help drive scale as well as boosting digital ad revenues. “Standardizing the basics and fundamental architecture will actually drive market growth significantly more than any proprietary solution,” he says.

Preserving the open internet

To hear Doherty tell it, UID 2.0 is the right solution at the right time, “a framework that would allow you to log into the open internet the same way you log into Netflix or social media. It’s highly personalized and would allow the user to better control what kind of information they share in exchange for free content and ad personalization. It also keeps the open web free.”

A solution like UID 2.0 puts the consumer back in the drivers seat, he says. Prior to this, much of the data collected happened passively, behind the scenes, where it lacked transparency. “Standardizing a single approach will give more control and choice back to consumers and preserve the value exchange of the open internet,” says Doherty

Unified ID’s development is vital, as industry leaders widely expect cookies to cease functionality once Google disables them from its popular Chrome browser in 2022. Until then, marketers will continue to use cookies in areas such as addressability and measurement, says Doherty.

"Ultimately, adoption rests on these solutions providing greater value than the status quo,” says Doherty, who points to Covid-19 as an example of how malleable and flexible the industry is. “Our industry just tends not to pick things up until it has to, but that doesn’t mean we’re slow.”

Doherty insists that all this activity around developing identity solutions is a good sign that the industry is preparing to meet the challenges ahead. He points to other industry-wide challenges, such as the European Union’s Global Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, as instances where many marketers and technology companies waited until the eleventh hour before making adjustments, but still achieved compliance.

“Right now, agencies, publishers and marketers are looking at these identity solutions and seeing if they can prove they actually work,” says Doherty. “They are understanding the basic principles so when that day comes — and cookies expire — they’ll be ready."

Identity