Why IP Addresses Aren’t Going Away Anytime Soon (Yes, You Heard Me)

On television and videois a column exploring the opportunities and challenges of advanced television and video.

Today’s column is Andre Swanston, Senior Vice President, Media and Entertainment Vertical, Trans Union.

Over the past few years, amid the turmoil that followed the cookie disapproval announcements of Apple and GoogleI’ve heard industry experts sound the alarm about the viability of IP addresses as an actionable identifier.

But when it comes to streaming media advertising and monetization, which relies heavily on IP addresses, there’s still more good news than bad.

Home devices such as smart TVs, streaming media players, smart speakers and game consoles are the Bifrost to connected media audiences. Many of these devices do not have unique identifiers, or their identifiers are not persistent, which means that a device issues different identifiers for each streaming application used. This alone makes IP addresses the lifeline for engaging connected households at scale in an increasingly fragmented ecosystem. In fact, IP addresses are still the most widely used identifier to enable audience-targeted advertising on connected television (CTV), smart speakers, and game consoles in the United States today.

However, to succeed in streaming media, the key for advertisers, publishers and technology platforms is to balance today’s capabilities with long-term adaptability. Here’s how.

Don’t be too charmed by the alternatives

Many will argue that email addresses can be used to establish identity on connected media. But email is an individual identifier, whereas most streaming media consumption happens on devices shared by multiple people in a household.

Additionally, most free ad-supported streaming content is not available to logged in and registered users, which means publishers or ad tech platforms could never come close to an email address. .

Publishers that keep their free content behind an email sign-up door see higher acquisition costs and rates of users opening the app without streaming content.

Don’t assume the end of IP is near

Some recognize that server-side ad insertion – a process that obfuscates IP addresses in the supply chain as a whole – already reduces the viability of IP addresses. But major identity resolution providers can identify server-side IP addresses and bypass the masking process to pass home IP addresses to the streaming publisher via direct integrations.

Overall, although identity currency changes in many cookie-based environments like display media and mobile advertising, there is no immediate threat of a major identity change. in the media continuously.

More recently, Apple announced its Release a paid service with opt-in VPN functionality. To date, this service is only available on Safari, limiting its impact on mobile and desktop users. With features that only come from a paid service (iCloud+) and require an additional opt-in, the cost implications would be difficult to support at scale.

Similarly, in an effort to strengthen privacy controls, Google Analytics shared, it would no longer store IP addresses. But even this change has no bearing on the activation of connected media advertising. Google’s advertising products have not allowed direct IP address targeting for years.

Know what you are facing

In the streaming landscape, we’ve seen nothing but noise around IP debasement. From a technical point of view, a browser can disable cookies with relative ease. IP addresses are much more deeply embedded in the workings of the Internet. Under no circumstances can IP addresses be disconnected like cookies.

It is possible to mask IP addresses through a VPN, which means redirecting internet traffic through servers so that the IP address is associated with the company performing the masking rather than the customer. But if you take streaming TV as an example, where up to 70% viewing occurs on the big screen, it’s critical to note that VPNs are simply not commonly used by consumers. Many major streaming apps actually block access to content from devices behind a VPN to comply with territorial and other content distribution contractual rights.

For advertisers, using location data from other sources is simply not efficient. I experienced a lot of poorly targeted local ads after a trip: my smart TV was correctly associated with my mobile phone, which was still associated with my travel destination. So, I received ads from local car dealerships from a car group in Florida at my home in Connecticut. That wouldn’t happen with IP-based geofencing.

Could connected TV VPNs possibly be implemented by the device manufacturer? Sure, but that’s not a realistic threat right now. In addition to astronomical infrastructure costs, this move would come with significant antitrust scrutiny and significant technical and privacy implications.

The IP address is the rising star of the best customer experiences

Looking at other intersections of advertising and technology, such as digital media advertising technology, it is often difficult to draw a convincing line between the value of advertising and the free flow of information.

As ad-supported streaming subscriptions and free ad-supported services grow popularity with consumersone could argue that this value exchange is even clearer in environments like connected TV and audio streaming.

Identity resolution strategies will continue to evolve

With this in mind, the future of connected identity will not require an either/or approach – abandoning IP for a distant alternative – but rather a “yes and” strategy that considers how to see identity through a fragmented landscape. many devices, applications and identity signals.

Identity signals such as user agent strings and even email addresses will continue to be important. But since they are not consistently supported by streaming devices or applications, IP addresses will continue to provide much-needed context to create a holistic view of the connected household.

All signs point to the IP address remaining for the time being. After all, the alarm bells signaling the disappearance of cookies have been alarm for a decade.

Gone are the days of depending on a single channel or ID. Understanding people, households and devices at scale and over time now requires in-depth coverage of a range of identity keys: people-based identifiers like name and address, household-based IP addresses , device signals, proprietary IDs, etc.

The companies that prevail thanks to this revolution are those able to provide a variety of reliable signals.

Follow TransUnion (@TransUnion) and Ad Exchange (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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