Identity 2020

Changes to Cookies, Ad IDs, and Regulations Take Aim at Tracking

About This Report
Addressable advertising is the default for digital—but users are getting harder to identify thanks to governments and platform controllers stepping in. Read on to learn how advertisers and their partners are hoping to continue tracking users and measuring the results of digital advertising.

Executive Summary

Addressable advertising is the default in the digital display world—and it relies on being able to identify users in order to serve them the right message at the right time. But the identifiers that marketers and their partners use to do this are coming under threat as platforms and regulators work to improve data privacy and protection practices for consumers.

What are the major disruptions this year to digital advertisers’ identity practices?

At the beginning of the year, Chrome announced it was killing the third-party tracking cookie. Halfway through the year, Apple announced it was essentially doing the same to its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a device-specific ad ID. And that’s on top of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) going into effect and requiring marketers to let California residents opt out of having their data sold.

How are marketers and their partners responding to identity challenges?

They’re going to have to do so both tactically and strategically. Many are looking to ways to “replace the cookie”—which could be a doomed proposition if consumers don’t want to consent to being tracked and targeted by advertisers. More far-reaching changes include moves toward other forms of measurement and attribution, like panels.

How important is identity for advertisers today?

Very. US advertisers spent billions last year on data activation solutions and are investing across a range of tools that all rely (at least in theory) on being able to tell who a user is across devices and platforms. Research suggests many are spending more than 20% of their marketing budgets on identity solutions.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report explains three significant disruptions developing this year in how marketers identify and target users in digital environments and discusses tactical and strategic approaches for the future.

KEY STAT: The industry is definitely heading toward a cookieless future, but fewer than one-third of data professionals in North America were actively testing and investing in new solutions as of May, per Winterberry Group and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Here’s what’s in the full report


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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Marketers Make Big Efforts to Identify Audiences
  3. Identity Crisis 2020
  1. Identifying a Path Forward
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. eMarketer Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Steven Ahlberg
White Ops
Head of Product
Interviewed August 21, 2020
Mark Ballard
Vice President, Research
Interviewed August 13, 2020
Kerel Cooper
Senior Vice President, Global Marketing
Interviewed August 28, 2020
John Goulding
Head of Strategy, US
Interviewed August 27, 2020
James Heller
Co-Founder and CEO
Interviewed August 27, 2020
Anne Hunter
Head of Product Marketing
Interviewed August 27, 2020
Romain Job
Smart AdServer
Chief Strategy Officer
Interviewed August 26, 2020
Michael Nevins
Smart AdServer
Interviewed August 26, 2020
Dave Pickles
The Trade Desk
Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer
Interviewed August 25, 2020
Alasdair Pressney
Senior Product Manager
Interviewed August 25, 2020
Premesh Purayil
Chief Technology Officer
Interviewed August 25, 2020
Brian Quinn
US President and General Manager
Interviewed August 27, 2020
Maor Sadra
Co-Founder and CEO
Interviewed August 17, 2020
Sergio Serra
Senior Product Manager, SSP
Interviewed August 27, 2020
Abhay Singhal
Co-Founder and CEO, Marketing Cloud
Interviewed August 27, 2020
Kasper Skou
Co-Founder and CEO
Interviewed August 27, 2020
Philip Smolin
Chief Strategy and Revenue Officer
Interviewed August 27, 2020
Antonio Tomarchio
Founder and CEO
Interviewed August 27, 2020
Todd Wooten
Interviewed August 26, 2020

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Nicole Perrin


Ross Benes
Bill Fisher
Senior Analyst
Tracy Tang
Senior Researcher
Yoram Wurmser
Principal Analyst

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