This article was originally published on December 7, 2016. It has been updated to reflect the International Advertising Bureau’s acquisition of DigiTrust.

What’s DigiTrust?

This non-profit collaborative organization grew out of an International Advertising Bureau (IAB) working group and is made up of both premium publishers and ad tech platforms (SSPs, DSPs and DMPs). DigiTrust’s mission is to improve the digital experience for consumers, publishers, advertisers and technology platforms. The consortium believes the industry should be built on the responsible innovation of advertising automation so that users can continue to enjoy access to premium, personalized digital experiences on their own terms. How can that be done? With the creation and widespread use of a universal ID. In other words, a first-party publisher cookie that will decrease the number of third-party requests on web pages.

It’s About User Experience

It’s clear that the number of third-party requests that take place on web pages is negatively impacting the user experience, and DigiTrust has made it its mission to dramatically reduce such requests, which slow down the online experience.

At present, there exists a single ID for mobile apps, but not for mobile web and desktop. As Sarah Sluis of explains, inertia has kept IDs separate on mobile web and desktop even though the rise of RTB has made tech more complicated and created latency. Programmatic has brought the issue to the forefront, and it’s expected to increase over time. However, a universal ID would remove the need for pixel synchronization and could be the solution to the issues programmatic has helped create throughout the years.

To tackle this issue, DigiTrust members will deploy and support a more persistent, standardized, anonymous user token across all screens to improve consumer online experience. After obtaining the consent of the consumer and notifying them of their actions, DigiTrust members use this token instead of proprietary pixels and trackers on web pages.

Technically, premium publishers must deploy the DigiTrust scripts on their pages in order to set the ID and receive consumer notice/consent.

Advantages for Publishers Selling Programmatically

In addition to improving user experience by increasing page load times, the universal ID will prevent both traffic and data loss that occurs when ID matching (cookie syncing) occurs. DigiTrust CEO Jordan Mitchell explains that a single ID would yield a 100% audience match as opposed to today’s 60-70% match. With a full audience match, advertisers would have more information about which users they’re bidding on. They could find more high-value users, and publisher revenue would increase as a result. In short, a universal ID would make monetization through this buying channel much easier for the sell-side.

Getting a perfect match is presently difficult for anyone operating without first-party data and outside of the walled gardens of Facebook and Google. The universal ID is, thus, the best solution for publishers who wish to keep control of their inventory and remain with an independent ad tech provider. As Mitchell explains, “Common identifiers happen to benefit everyone.” Moreover, it’s a standardized way to work with third-party solutions and an easy-to-implement solution.

Smart and the Universal ID

Smart is proud to be a member of DigiTrust and looks forward to committing itself to the creation and use of a universal ID. This is part of our continued support for publishers and their users. However, the single ID is more than that because it benefits the entire media industry.

Some might be concerned that DigiTrust will collect the data, but the user ID will be shared solely with DigiTrust partners, who are representatives of most of the media traded programmatically outside walled gardens. Most importantly, DigiTrust’s direct response to GAFA will help those on the other side of the gardens stand up to the behemoths of ad tech.

***Update: DigiTrust Returns to the IAB***

On April 23, 2018, the IAB Tech Lab announced that it acquired DigiTrust. It’s a bit of a homecoming, as the Trust was a spinoff of a 2014 IAB cookie standardization working group. The acquisition means IAB members will gain access to DigiTrust (the caveat being that buy-side members will still pay a fee to use the service).

Jordan Mitchell will take on the post of the IAB Tech Lab’s VP of members and operations. He explained the the change for Digitrust as a natural evolution, “ Moving to the IAB Tech Lab is the right thing for DigiTrust members and for the industry because the propagation of cookie-based IDs is weighing heavily on the online advertising supply chain…The IAB Tech Lab needs to own the kind of privacy and identity technology DigiTrust has developed and if it built its own solution it would add yet another consolidated ID to the market.”