Q&A with ID5: Verve Group

  • Posted by Alex Taylor
  • On May 05, 2022

In this issue of ID5’s Q&A series, we sit down with Verve Group‘s Director of Product Marketing, Anish Aravindakshan, to discuss the developments, challenges, and opportunities facing the digital media industry today.

What is the series all about? The Q&A with ID5 series invites publishers, advertisers, and platforms to share their insights on the hot topics and big questions circulating the digital media industry today. Tune in each month for new editions featuring thought leaders and experts from across the space.

Read the full Q&A with Verve Group below:

  1. Tell us about yourself and Verve Group, including its audience?

Verve Group is a consumer-first advertising suite and a leader in consolidating data, demand, and supply technologies to create better business outcomes for advertisers and publishers. With a privacy-first approach, Verve Group’s full-stack programmatic solutions are built for brand-safe environments. 

We cater to both demand and supply audiences across channels and formats in the digital advertising ecosystem. Verve Group offers advertisers access to premium, brand-safe inventory from direct integrations with all major publishers across channels, as well as a layer of future-proof audiences built on contextual signals to drive performance. On the other hand, publishers benefit from our open-source, modular mobile SDK, called HyBid SDK, which can be implemented as a standalone or via all major mediation and in-app bidding partners. Our monetization solutions also extend to CTV, with easy and efficient client- or server-side VAST or OpenRTB integrations. We offer a variety of controls for publishers to optimize ad placements to ensure monetization efficiency, brand safety, and a flawless user experience.

  1. How do you view the deprecation of traditional identification methods such as third-party cookies and MAIDs?

The deprecation of traditional identification methods was a long time coming, and we view this as a positive step towards a privacy-first advertising ecosystem (one of the core tenets of Verve Group’s solutions). Embracing user privacy by design through anonymized targeting is the path of least resistance for consumers, content creators, and advertisers. 

Google recently reported a multi-year initiative to build the Privacy Sandbox on Android, with the goal of introducing new and more-private advertising solutions. This is likely the first step towards the eventual deprecation of the Google Advertising ID (GAID), the company’s device identifier equivalent of Apple’s now-deprecated Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). 

With these changes, businesses now have to confront what the loss of a growing number of audience identifiers means for how they operate and communicate with consumers and prospects in the future. With that in mind, targeting methods such as contextual, cohort-based or those based on alternate identifiers are viable solutions to de-risk the impact of ID deprecation, enabling marketers and publishers to move forward confidently.

  1. What challenges are you seeing with audience addressability today?

Addressability has come a long way since the early days of our hunt for a solution that allows us to still reach relevant consumers, albeit in a privacy-first manner. However, there are still important challenges to overcome. 

  • There is a significant lack of adoption of cookieless and identity-less solutions in the market — among both publishers and marketers — which points towards a desperate need for education for all players. This impacts the ability to meaningfully scale campaigns through anonymous targeting means.
  • Further, marketers continue to be hesitant about getting measurable outcomes from newer solutions that are not dependent on cookies or identifiers. There is a fear that results decrease as access to data diminishes. 
  • The challenge is also compounded by the absence of an agreed upon industry standard for addressability and measurability.

While we have made huge strides to come to where we are today, we still have a long way to go in terms of educating the ecosystem players of the benefits of newer privacy-first technologies, which can potentially deliver similar outcomes to that of traditional ID- and cookie-based solutions. There is no way to turn the clocks back and the time to act is now, so embracing alternative solutions will remain key to overcoming addressability challenges at a larger scale. 

  1. As a global advertising suite, what steps have you taken to ensure the continued support of your clients in the cookieless future?

The switch to a cookieless or an identity-less future can’t take place overnight. We advise our partners to start preparing for alternative solutions as early on as possible to ensure that they continue to maximize outcomes by reaching relevant audiences (for advertisers) or that they are able to reach their monetization goals (for publishers). 

To that end, Verve Group offers a number of solutions for both advertisers and publishers, either by collaborating with external partners or by building our own privacy-first solutions. 

Externally, Verve Group is actively collaborating with leading identity solution providers like ID5 to support a privacy-compliant and interoperable way to reach consumers. 

In addition, our proprietary solutions are also available for advertisers and publishers. Advertisers can benefit from Moments.AI, our contextual platform to reach consumers in meaningful moments. With Moments.AI’s breakthrough pre-bid technology, content is analyzed and broken down by multiple dimensions to allow for instant, precise, and accurate audience targeting — all without cookies or any form of PII. 

Verve Group is also currently collaborating with select advertisers and publishers for private beta testing of our proprietary on-device audience solution. On-device audiences are generated locally on the device, and only the audience segments are available for targeting. The user data does not leave the device, ensuring absolute anonymity. These anonymized audiences are built by machine learning models that layer contextual signals to probabilistically infer behavioral characteristics or interests, without the need to access personal information such as email address or a mobile device identifier. 

  1. What are the challenges and/or opportunities for publishers and advertisers as traditional identifiers continue to disappear?

Publishers and advertisers are faced with a number of challenges which can impact them in numerous ways, and it’s time for everyone in the advertising ecosystem to prepare for an inevitable world without cookies and identifiers. Having said that, there is a real opportunity for both publishers and advertisers to start adapting to alternative solutions in a future-proof manner. 

With traditional identifiers disappearing, publishers are faced with the challenge of a large black box of unknown users, resulting in restricted targeting, lower eCPMs, and diminishing ad revenues. There is a real opportunity for publishers to move towards anonymized targeting to overcome these hurdles. Anonymized targeting is based on device and contextual signals, and doesn’t rely on any form of cookie or identity for targeting. Contextual advertising is another viable alternative for publishers, as it is based on serving ads based on the relevance of content rather than by collecting identifiable user data to curate targeted ads. 

On the other hand, advertisers face restrictions in targeting, scale, and personalization without identifiers, thus making it more challenging and expensive to reach the right consumers. Embracing technologies such as contextual advertising can help advertisers mitigate these risks to reach consumers with accuracy, precision, and speed without the dependence on identifiers — and most importantly, in a contextually relevant way, at the right moment. Campaigns can be optimized towards relevant attention metrics in a brand-safe and results-oriented manner, thus ensuring that advertisers continue to maximize outcomes as they would with traditional targeting. 

  1. The digital media industry is constantly changing and evolving. What recent development has surprised you the most over the past 12 months, and what do you predict for the next 12?

The digital advertising landscape will continue to evolve to be more consumer-centric, focusing on solutions that can address growing privacy concerns globally. As a result, we’ll continue to see a surge in new products and technologies aimed at solving for addressability without cookies and identifiers — the new reality of the digital advertising industry that is here to stay. 

The coming year will also witness a continuation of the consolidation trend that has gripped the industry in the recent past. The consolidation we’re seeing right now is to be expected in markets like ad tech that have achieved a certain level of maturity after a couple of decades of rapid, fractured growth. What marketers and publishers need now are partners that can connect the dots for them, in flexible, compliant and scalable ways.

Lastly, we can expect to see the rise of connected TV (CTV) as a premier channel to complement spends on mobile. As noted in Verve Group’s 2022 Media Strategy Guide, which details the audience and media buying trends seen over the past year, our own CTV exchange saw a tremendous surge last year in average impressions by device, indicating that CTV usership has increased significantly — a trend that is expected to only become stronger and more pronounced in the next year as marketers continue to hone in on reaching audiences on CTV by leveraging mobile spending patterns.

  1. What is your advice to publishers and advertisers who have not yet started their cookieless preparations?

While the deprecation of cookies may have been delayed, publishers and advertisers have a small frame of time where they can test and iterate on alternate solutions. The time to act is now by being an early adopter of solutions that can offer scale and precision. 

Advertisers can start preparing in the following ways:

  • Revisit mobile strategies to ensure advertising dollars are being put to the greatest use possible, and recalibrate the breakdown of Android vs iOS advertising efforts.
  • Evaluate cohort-based behavioral audiences to tap into valuable consumer segments in a privacy-compliant and future-proof way.
  • Test contextual targeting, which represents another well-established means of ensuring your ads are relevant in the environments in which they appear—and no shifts to the identity landscape are going to change that.
  • Increase spending on alternative solutions such as cohorts and context-based targeting to leverage opportunities that can continue to deliver results. 
  • Maximize outcomes with identity resolution solutions in an ID-agnostic manner. While there will be no single “replacement for the cookie,” there are alternative identifiers rolling out to the market that could manage to reclaim a portion of audience identity in a privacy-compliant way.
  • Bring data management in-house and invest in first-party data. Evaluate new avenues to connect directly to customers and deepen relationships once you’ve established them.

On the other hand, publishers can start preparing in the following ways:

  • Identify a solution that puts users’ privacy first. We recommend anonymized monetization through secure on-device audiences rather than solutions that use emails or other forms of PII (gathered through authentication services).
  • For in-app monetization, publishers should evaluate if their solution provider understands the in-app environment and the monetization challenges. An in-app expert can offer more reliable solutions built for the native app environment compared to a desktop-first solution.
  • Any solution that publishers work with should be built to scale across markets and the changing compliance or regulatory requirements. A partner with a global scale of operations can de-risk such bottlenecks.
  • Ensure the solution offers effortless integration (plug and play), one that does not overwhelm publishers with contractual or integration bottlenecks that take additional bandwidth and associated costs.
  1. What needs to be done to ensure that the digital media industry continues to thrive?

The most important factor to ensure our industry continues to thrive is to never lose sight of putting consumers and their needs front and center of all products, technologies, and innovations. Consumer privacy is key and companies that don’t adapt to the changing landscape will be left behind. 

In order to reach this north star of a consumer-first advertising ecosystem, we need to place importance on developing more feasible and consistent industry standards — for both marketers and publishers — while also stressing on the need for education across the landscape to ensure all the various parts work in tandem. Additionally, the increased consolidation through M&A in the industry will further ensure that consumers ultimately benefit from complementary companies coming together. In other words, the companies that speak to those needs by default are going to shine brightest. And lastly, the value of combating fraud and improving trust and transparency — the age-old conundrums of the digital economy — cannot and should not be ignored in order for the ecosystem to grow and thrive in a healthy and sustainable manner.