PPIDs (publisher provided identifiers) are used to identify users without relying on third-party cookies. It enables publishers to serve targeted ads through Google Ad Manager (GAM).
For years, marketers heavily relied on third-party cookies to gather user data, essential in tracking user interests across various websites. This method significantly enhanced ad targeting across GAM, aiding publishers in audience segmentation and facilitating targeted ad requests while enabling programmatic ad buyers to identify optimal ad targets.
However, the increasing concerns over data privacy led to the phase-out of third-party cookies. In response, PPIDs emerged as a viable alternative.
PPIDs enable the collection and use of user data in a privacy-compliant manner, bypassing the limitations of third-party cookies.
What is a PPID?
PPID is an acronym that stands for publisher-provided identifier. It’s an anonymous identifier without personal information, third-party or device IDs. PPIDs have been around for a while and are getting more popular as third-party cookies disappear.
Publishers can create a PPID that consists of an alphanumeric string and assign it to a logged-in user the publisher can identify.
How do PPIDs differ from cookies?
A PPID functions as an additional identifier rather than a replacement for cookies or other existing identifiers. This means an ad request enabled with a PPID is multi-faceted, carrying the PPID as the primary identifier and another form of identifier (e.g., cookies) as a secondary layer.
This dual-identifier approach enhances the precision and effectiveness of ad targeting and measurement while maintaining user privacy.
The need for PPIDs in Digital advertising
PPIDs are a move towards greater data privacy and user-centric advertising. They align with the trend of leveraging first-party data, allowing publishers to gather and utilize user information directly from their platforms.
In November 2021, Google introduced a significant update for publishers, revolutionizing the use of first-party data in targeted advertising. Steve Swan, the product manager of Google Ad Manager, announced that PPIDs can now be efficiently integrated into Google’s programmatic demand.
This shift ensures compliance with privacy standards and enhances the accuracy and relevance of ad personalization, leading to better user engagement and ad performance.
End of third-party cookies
2024 marks the initial phase-out of third-party cookies. More refined strategies for adapting to a cookieless environment will become apparent, but publishers should explore alternative identification methods and targeting techniques, such as PPIDs.
Third-party cookies created by domains other than the one directly visited by the user have been fundamental in cross-site tracking, retargeting, and ad serving. They enable functionalities like chatbots and tracking users’ online activities, primarily used by advertisers and social networks.
For example, when users visit a website, they encounter both first-party cookies from the site and third-party cookies from advertising networks.
Privacy regulations and the impact on advertising
While the phase-out of third-party cookies is challenging for Google’s advertising business and other industry players, this move responds to increasing demands for user privacy and regulations like GDPR and CCPA.
PPIDs offer a more privacy-compliant way of tracking user behavior. They rely on first-party data collected with the user’s consent, aligning with the global shift towards greater data privacy.
Adapting to a Digital Advertising Landscape Without Third-Party Cookies
PPIDs enable the collection and utilization of first-party data in a way that respects user consent and privacy regulations. By facilitating user identification and behavior tracking directly through publisher platforms, PPIDs maintain relevance and precision. They also allow cross-device tracking and consistent user experiences.
Challenges for marketers during the transition period
During the transition away from third-party cookies, one of the main challenges is finding reliable alternatives that balance user privacy with effective targeting. This shift requires adapting to new technologies (e.g., PPIDs, contextual targeting), which may involve new learning curves and integration efforts.
Additionally, the uncertainty and variability of regulations across different regions add complexity to compliance efforts. There’s also a possibility of disruptions in data flow and audience insights as traditional methods of tracking and personalization become less viable.
Maintaining ad performance and ROI during this shift and convincing stakeholders to invest in new systems and strategies is challenging.
PPS, PPIDs (Publisher Provided Identifiers), and LiveRamp
PPIDs focus on user identification, while publisher provided signals (PPS) emphasize content and audience segmentation.
- PPIDs are primarily used to identify unique users, ensuring that ads aren’t over-delivered and that frequency capping is maintained. These identifiers are specific to individual publishers and aren’t meant to be correlated across websites.
- PPS is a signal that links a specific request with a particular segment or category. It enriches the traffic with audience and content segment information, aligning with industry standards.
When PPS is passed along with PPID, it allows for a more precise connection to a specific user rather than just a single request.
LiveRamp’s solutions offer a broader approach to user identification using email addresses.
In October 2020, LiveRamp integrated its authenticated traffic solution (ATS) and IdentityLink ID products with The Trade Desk’s ID solution, creating Unified ID 2.0. ATS assists publishers in identifying users for targeted advertising, thereby increasing CPMs.
This collaboration enhances the scale and effectiveness of user identification, improving ad yield for publishers. Unified ID 2.0 primarily uses email addresses for user identification, offering publishers more independence in the face of web browser tracking decisions.
How can PPS/PPID and LiveRamp be integrated with your existing marketing tech stack?
This integration would enable more precise ad targeting and better audience insights within your existing marketing tools and CRM systems.
Firstly, marketers should implement PPIDs to uniquely identify users and PPS for audience and content segmentation on your platform. Then, they should incorporate LiveRamp, particularly its ATS, to enhance user identification using email addresses.
Who needs PPIDs?
PPIDs are essential for entities prioritizing user privacy while seeking effective ad targeting and personalization. They’re crucial for publishers, advertisers, and ad networks, especially navigating the post-third-party cookie era.
The role of publishers in the PPID ecosystem
With PPIDs, publishers can gather first-party data directly from their audiences, ensuring compliance with privacy regulations.
The data gained enables publishers to maintain detailed user insights, crucial for personalized content and ad experiences. It also helps to manage ad frequency more effectively.
PPID impact on advertisers
For advertisers, PPIDs offer a more privacy-compliant way to target and measure ad campaigns. They enable precise audience targeting based on first-party data provided by publishers, leading to potentially higher engagement and conversion rates.
Ad networks and DMPs
Ad networks and DMPs benefit from PPIDs as they provide a reliable first-party data source in a privacy-focused advertising environment.
PPIDs enable these platforms to perform advanced audience segmentation and targeted ad placements without relying on third-party cookies, ensuring their continued relevance and effectiveness in digital advertising.
PPID in the Context of Google Ad Manager
When publishers share PPIDs with Google’s demand, GAM converts them into unique, per-publisher partitioned IDs. This ensures that users remain unidentifiable across different publishers’ sites and apps, maintaining user privacy.
Google then uses this anonymized data from various publishers to create audience segments. These segments enable advertisers to deliver relevant ads programmatically on publishers’ sites and apps, leveraging first-party data.
This helps publishers increase the auction revenue and provides advertisers with essential functionalities like cross-device reach and creative optimization.
Note: Publisher provided identifiers are an optional Google Ad Manager 360 feature.
PPIDs and user data in the GAM ecosystem
Advertisers using these PPID-built segments cannot access the underlying user data or the IDs themselves. Since PPIDs are unique to each publisher, matching identifiers or creating user profiles across different sites is impossible.
- Audience segments created with PPIDs are only used in programmatic auctions when no other identifiers are available. This means PPIDs don’t affect programmatic inventory where third-party cookies or other identifiers exist.
Furthermore, PPIDs passed to GAM don’t include personal information or device IDs, and Google cannot access the original data behind these identifiers. This system ensures a balance between effective ad targeting and privacy standards.
Google emphasizes that they will never reveal the underlying PPID values, which cannot contain personal information or device IDs. In other words, privacy is at the top of the mind.
How Do PPIDs Work?
The work flow of publisher provided identifiers is very straightforward.
The publisher creates a unique string of an identifier for a user. It’s based on the first-party data that the user gives voluntarily or a log-in. PPID is hashed or encrypted so that it has no meaning to Google.
Then the ID is uploaded to GAM 360, and publishers choose who to share the identifiers with.
Limits and Requirements of PPIDs
Failure to meet the requirements described below might cause PPIDs to be ignored or discarded by Google’s systems. The main requirements state that a PPID must:
- Be alphanumeric.
- Have a minimum of 22 characters and a maximum of 150 characters.
- Be hashed and meaningless to Google. A DSP wouldn’t know the users’ interests in the open auction. However, it may identify that the users visit a specific website frequently by observing the PPID in the bid request. Thus, the DSP can understand whether users fit the ad campaign well.
- PPIDs can be created for users who can be identified for multiple sessions.
Further, the users should be provided with an opt-out choice when using PPID in GAM to avoid violating privacy laws (i.e., CCPA). If the user opts out or deletes his/her account, you must stop sending the PPID associated with that user to Google.
Worth mentioning that collecting enough data to create PPIDs may be challenging for small publishers. Their audiences aren’t large enough to provide the scale advertisers want.
However, Google is figuring out a way to address the issue and plans to automate the functioning of PPIDs for such publishers.
What Data is Eligible for PPID?
Here are the 6 main types of data that can be included in PPIDs:
- First-party data–data collected directly by publishers from their users through their websites or apps. It includes user interactions with the site, articles read, products viewed, etc.
- Consented data–any data used with PPIDs must be collected with the user’s explicit consent. This aligns with privacy regulations like GDPR, ensuring users know and agree to the collected and used data.
- Anonymized or pseudonymized data–refers to data processed to remove or mask personal identifiers, making it impossible (or at least very difficult) to tie the data back to an individual. This is crucial for maintaining user privacy.
- Behavioral data–information about how users interact with a website or app, such as pages visited, time spent on pages, and actions taken. This data helps in understanding user preferences and patterns.
- Device and browser information–data related to the user’s device (e.g., mobile, tablet, or desktop) and browser type. While not personally identifiable, this information helps optimize content and ads for different platforms and screen sizes.
- CRM data (customer relationship management)–includes information gathered about users through various touchpoints and interactions with the business, often used for more personalized marketing and ad targeting.
What are the Benefits of PPIDs?
PPIDs are at the forefront of adapting digital marketing practices to a more privacy-conscious and user-focused era, ensuring sustainability and effectiveness. The publisher-provided identifier can help with frequency-capping, audience segmentation, ad targeting, sequential ad rotations, and other audience-based ad delivery settings.
You can learn more about the benefits of PPIDs below, as they are showcased in the PPID use cases in greater detail.
PPID Use Cases
Publisher-provided identifiers usually come into play when other user-distinguishing services are inaccessible.
Publishers can expect their PPIDs to take over when the standard GAM cookies are inaccessible. The role of the identifiers in such cases is to distinguish unique users using first-party data and then relay their respective IDs to Google.
PPIDs are versatile enough to identify both logged-in and unregistered users.
The former group is reviewed based on their account data and user behavior, whereas the latter is identified according to their interests and surfing patterns.
The allocated values are eventually relayed to Google, which hashes the IDs before channeling them through its dynamic ad-serving system. As a result, you get to show each identified user relevant ads that are uniquely tailored to their needs and interests.
Audience targeting through composable CDPs (customer data platforms) and DMPs (data management platforms) allows publishers to utilize stored data to create detailed user profiles. These profiles can be identified across various devices, forming personalized audience segments for more targeted advertising.
PPIDs play a crucial role, enabling publishers to discreetly gather first-party user data. This data, collected over multiple sessions, can be linked to specific user profiles using PPIDs.
- For example, a user’s browsing history, content preferences, address, and on-site behaviors can be associated with a single PPID.
Implementing this system on a website with consistent traffic can accumulate a vast database of PPIDs, each representing a unique set of user interests and behaviors. While this might seem daunting initially, PPIDs simplify managing large volumes of user data.
Publishers can categorize users based on shared interests and other common characteristics. These categorized audience segments are then communicated to ad servers as groups of related PPIDs.
Ad frequency capping with PPIDs
Frequency capping enables publishers to limit how often a single user sees a particular ad, preventing ad fatigue.
With the anticipated phasing out of cookies in Google Chrome and the restrictions on Apple’s IDFA (identifier for advertisers) on iOS, publishers will face challenges in implementing effective frequency capping.
However, those with user logins can leverage PPIDs to maintain frequency capping at the individual user level. This capability is particularly important for implementing buyer frequency capping and interest-based ad personalization in programmatic traffic.
By doing so, publishers can enhance the user experience and potentially increase their programmatic revenue.
On iOS, PPIDs could emerge as a viable alternative to Apple’s IDFV (identifier for vendors), especially in the context of Apple’s new IDFA restrictions. While the IDFV is gaining attention due to its passive nature (not requiring user login), PPIDs present a more direct and user-consent-based approach for publishers to understand and engage their audience effectively.
The cross-screen ID feature, enhanced by PPIDs, ensures that the same ad is not repeatedly shown to the same user across different devices.
In GAM 360 without PPIDs, each new device the same visitor uses is often treated as a separate user, creating multiple user IDs for a single user. This can result in the same ads being shown repeatedly to the user across different devices, leading to a redundant and potentially annoying ad experience.
However, with the integration of PPIDs, GAM 360 can effectively track users as they switch between devices. These unique identifiers give the ad server the necessary information to recognize and link sessions from the same user across different devices.
This capability is crucial for maintaining consistency in ad displays and regulating frequency caps, significantly enhancing the overall user experience by preventing overexposure to the same ads.
Reducing reliance on third-party cookies
PPIDs are set and controlled by publishers and are based on first-party data, making them immune to the deprecation of third-party cookies. They are already functional in environments with restricted third-party cookies, like Safari and Firefox.
As major web browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari move towards phasing out third-party cookies, the reliability of traditional trackers is diminishing. This shift signifies a major change in online tracking and advertising practices, leading to a search for viable alternatives.
PPIDs bridge the gap left by the declining use of third-party cookies, enabling publishers to continue gathering valuable user insights from first-party data.
This data can then be effectively used for audience segmentation and targeted advertising, ensuring that publishers can maintain ad relevance and effectiveness.
Implementing PPIDs in GAM
The publisher creates a unique identifier for a user.
PPIDs come under ‘Encrypted identifiers’ and are uploaded using the cookie_encrypted file format–cookie_encrypted, list_id.
- Cookie_encrypted (represents the PPID)
- List_id (represents the ID of the audience segments with which the identifier is associated)
The setup of PPIDs in GAM is straightforward:
- Click on “Select Inventory” and then “Audience Segments” in GAM to get the audience segment ID.
- Once you create the PPIDs, upload them into GAM. This can be done using Google Cloud Storage API and gsutil. You can learn more about the process here.
- Add the PPIDs to Google Publisher Tags.
- Pass the PPID along with bid requests.
- Google Ad Manager will hash that ID and pass it to the DSPs or buyers.
Note: After short inactivity, Google may remove PPIDs if the websites or apps don’t send ad requests associated with particular PPIDs.
There are 2 steps you should take before you start integrating PPIDs:
- Connect with your Google Account Manager and submit the network code.
You can find your network code in GAM by clicking on “Admin,” then “Global Settings,” and finally, “Network Code”.
- Ensure you have an active first-party audience segment with which you want to associate the PPIDs. The audience segment will allow you to associate the identifiers.
Additionally, it’s important to note that:
- The user must have access to functionality to opt out of the personalized ads.
- If the user deletes their account, the publisher must immediately stop uploading the PPIDs associated with the user.
If a user requests the publisher to delete their user data, the publisher must send the user’s data deletion request to GAM to ensure that the data is deleted from Google’s internal storage systems.
Publisher provided identifiers strike a balance between upholding user privacy and achieving effective ad targeting. They enable publishers and advertisers to maintain meaningful engagement with their audiences within the framework of emerging privacy norms.
PPIDs enhance user targeting, enable the delivery of personalized ads, and facilitate a unified cross-device user experience. Beyond the user benefits, PPIDs provide publishers a compliant solution to navigate the growing restrictions on third-party cookies.
This period of change demands agility, innovation, and a keen understanding of evolving digital advertising strategies from marketers. While building user insights from first-party data through PPIDs may require more time and effort, the long-term benefits in ad targeting capabilities make this investment worthwhile.