Research: Alternative Identifiers are Working

By Debra Fleenor Debra Fleenor has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on July 29, 2023

Our team at Adapex recently returned from Cannes Lions. The annual creative festival that draws the world’s advertisers has overtaken the popularity of the namesake Cannes film festival in recent years. 

As media evolves, publishers are increasingly showing up in these creative rooms in order to best serve their advertising clients. Our mission was to connect with publishers and the technology companies that partner with us to serve them in order to get a pulse on the industry and continue to evolve the ecosystem on their behalf. 

We weren’t surprised by the themes this year. There’s no doubt that publishers are struggling to adapt to a new ad ecosystem that’s marked by the impending deprecation of the third party cookie, looming issues with generative AI, and increased competition with Big Tech. 

But there were silver linings through our conversations which light the path toward a profitable independent publishing ecosystem that’s within grasp. Namely, for the first time since inception, publishers are showing revenue gains with alternate identifiers. 

Our research

Going into Cannes, our team had been A/B testing the success of alternate identifiers since October of last year – we wanted to understand the identifiers that were lucrative and the difference between their success on respective search engines. 

Of the twelve alternate identifiers that we utilize on behalf of our publisher partners, we looked at six for which we have the technical ability to test. It was our hypothesis that as the deprecation of the third party cookie looms in both timing and conversation with publishers, we’d start to see a marked increase in bids associated with these identifiers.

We were right. As we approach a year’s worth of data, we saw marked increases in bid gains, in the form of CPM uplift, beginning in October of last year. Put another way, publishers that aren’t using alternate identifiers are now leaving money on the table. 

What it means

This is consequential. Publishers, from blogs to important journalistic news outlets, have been struggling in recent years for a number of reasons. Foremost, in the early ages of the internet, they opted to give away their audience data, making them beholden to the incentives that drive Big Tech. 

Publishers employing alternative identity solutions in their own first party data strategies have an opportunity to reclaim their seat at the table in our media ecosystem. The stakes are higher than we may think. The ability of independent publishers to operate has important implications for free information and democracy. It’s good news, then, that alternatives are coming to market to enable publishers to survive and thrive in a new internet climate. 

Some good news from Cannes

While previous events have been marked by a daunting tone, our time at Cannes felt cautiously optimistic. 

One of our partners, Audigent, hosted a Monetization and the Future of Publishing panel that featured industry leaders from APS, New York Post and Microsoft. Across the board, the adtech ecosystem is seeing a path past the third party cookie. For the first time, everyone seemed hopeful. 

“Audigent’s mission is to create monetization solutions that fuel the future of the open internet. It’s so incredibly exciting to get direct feedback from partners like Amazon and Adapex that our products, especially Hadron ID, are growing addressability and bringing demand to publishers today. This is something that pubs need to be doing now… leaning in, paying attention, futureproofing their revenue,” says Jake Abraham, the Chief Commercial Officer at Audigent.

Next steps

There’s still work to be done to protect our publishing ecosystem. Foremost, we need to enable publishers to adopt new technologies without burdening them with unreasonable tech constraints. 

There’s room for a new model in publishing where adtech solutions and publishers partner to craft a media ecosystem that’s ready for a human-centered future.


By Debra Fleenor Debra Fleenor has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Debra Fleenor is the founder and president of Adapex Inc., an adtech leader recognized by Deloitte as one of the fastest growing companies in North America and listed to the Inc 5000 in 2021. A serial entrepreneur and sought-after consultant, Fleenor is credited with two successful exits of 8-figure companies and more than 20 years driving disruptive innovation for tech startups. She’s an Admonsters and Folio: Top Women in Media honoree, and sought after thought leader on tech topics - from web 3.0 and the metaverse to artificial intelligence and the evolution of data privacy.

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