The One Where Adtech and Martech Get Married

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We’ve all heard about the looming potential marriage of adtech and martech. The topic is mentioned whenever there is an adtech merger or acquisition or any other kind of large change or transformations in our industry.

It’s been discussed so long that it’s become akin to the quintessential “will they or won’t they” romantic storyline that pops up in sitcoms and repeats, season after season, with no resolution.

After all this time, we may have arrived at our final season, and we’ll finally see how the story unfolds. All it took was a third party to intervene. Scratch that — this isn’t a love triangle. It’s the removal of a third-party, the cookie, that is finally pushing these two star-crossed lovers together, giving them a chance to transact off of the same ID and come together in a union we’ve talked about for years.

Targeting will look like personalization and vice versa

It’s impossible to have any certainty about the de facto cookieless targeting solution of the future or what solutions will emerge from Google’s privacy sandbox. But what is clear is that the ability to precisely target audiences in adtech without cookies will likely have very similar applications for personalization use cases in martech.

In order words, the data used to show a targeted ad to a person without cookies could simultaneously power the way a digital experience is personalized for that same person.

Take this “one-to-one” example. Let’s say that hashed emails (HEMs) are used to target people when they visit a publisher while logged in. A marketer could show relevant ads to the HEMs and also be able to personalize content for the same person when they visit the marketer’s homepage while logged in.

There could be “one-to-many” examples as well. Let’s say a FloC (Google’s proposal to group together people with similar browsing habits) is used to target a group of people with certain interests when they visit a website. A marketer could show relevant ads to the FloC and also be able to personalize content for the same group when they visit the marketer’s homepage.

Onboarding goes away, and adtech and martech will play in the same ID space

Past attempts at marrying adtech and martech solutions relied heavily on an onboarding step of bringing offline data online. Whether it’s converting PII to cookies or using an identity solution to make a probabilistic match, there’s always an extra step that makes the solution not as seamless as it could be.

Whether it’s hashed emails, a FloC, a combination of IDs, or something else entirely, in the near future adtech will likely play in the same ID space that martech transacts in. As this happens for the first time, it will also remove the need for the convoluted leap of the onboarding process. This lack of hops and complexity adds simplicity to the buying process and will finally be the reason advertisers decide to use the same datasets for both adtech and martech campaigns.

Anonymous IDs becomes more like PII

With GDPR and CCPA bucketing anonymous identifiers in the same group as PII, the strict walls that existed between the anonymous and PII world have already come crashing down. Our industry will be expected to treat any new cookieless identifier with the same amount of consent and regulatory care required of an email address or phone number.

With the same criteria, advertisers can fully leverage adtech data sources for martech, knowing very well that these vendors are all following strict regulatory requirements. This extra piece of confidence is what’s required by advertisers to comfortably use the same data asset for both adtech and martech opportunities. To be clear, adtech and martech could get married right now, without the disappearance of cookies. But it would be a sordid affair, full of the baggage cookies carry. A new unified ID space would make things far less complicated in several areas, especially user consent.

We’re not done just yet

There are still some foundational differences between martech and adtech that we won’t get into now — for example, agency relationships with adtech tend to be transactional, while brand engagements with martech tend to be more recurring and SaaS-based.

However, these business-model and operational challenges feel like smaller hurdles compared to the massive technical and mental model shift that the deprecation of third-party cookies is bringing to our industry. For the first time, we no longer have to force fit the language of adtech and cookies to work within the martech landscape. We can start scaling people-based personalization efforts effectively and seamlessly. With cookies out of the way, and something else taking its place, we have the rare opportunity to see adtech and martech unified under one identity source and finally get married.

Taejin In is VP of product management at Dstillery.