PPID is an acronym that stands for publisher-provided identifier. Unlike a cookie or MAID (mobile advertising identifier), a PPID is assigned to a user by a publisher. Publishers typically tie a PPID to a logged-in user or customer profile that relates to a single identified user. Publishers determine the actual PPID value, but it must be unique to distinguish one user from another.

Who uses PPIDs?

Any publisher can use a PPID as long as they have a method for identifying a unique user. Services that require a login have a direct path to PPID-creation since the user must individually identify themselves to use the service.

Why are PPIDs important?

When third-party cookies go away, and Apple restricts access to the IDFA, establishing a persistent identifier gains immense importance to frequency cap ad delivery and audience target using data. The lack of a cookie or device advertising identifier severely hampers a publisher’s ability to facilitate these two features used for digital ad delivery.

Uses of PPIDs

Cross-screen frequency capping

Publishers and advertisers leverage PPIDs today to frequency cap advertisements across devices.

Hulu, for example, allows access to content through its website, smartphone app, and connected TV app. Hulu can use PPID to track user exposure to an individual ad across all these devices. Hulu can do this using a PPID tied to a user login since the individual has to log in to every device to access the service.

Hulu wants to ensure that the users do not see any ad too many times, which would degrade the user experience. Advertisers desire precise control over how many times a user views a specific creative on Hulu, so they don’t waste their budget or annoy their potential consumers.

Publishers will have limited options to implement frequency capping on web and iOS when Google finally kills the cookie in Chrome, and Apple effectively kills the IDFA on iOS. Publishers with user logins can fall back to using PPIDs to frequency cap ads on their property at the individual user level.

PPIDs on the web provide a transparent method of tracking user behavior relative to more opaque techniques such as device fingerprinting. On iOS, PPIDs could serve as an alternative to the Apple IDFV. Publishers are turning to the IDFV in the wake of Apple’s new IDFA restrictions — although the IDFV is a more attractive option to some due to its passive nature, requiring no user login.

Audience targeting

Publishers can use PPIDs to build custom data sets based on information provided when users create an account or based on user behavior on an app or website.

DMPs need an individual identifier like a cookie or IDFA to create unique user profiles. Publishers then tie demographic or behavioral data to these profiles and build custom “segments” of users based on the data.

Returning to the Hulu example, users provide their first name, last name, email address, and billing address when creating an account. Hulu can feed this information into a data broker’s database and determine a user’s household income and purchasing behavior based on credit card history.

Hulu also knows a user’s video consumption habits. They can ascertain that a user is a sports-enthusiast based on the amount of sport-related content that the user consumes.

Hulu needs to tie all this information back to a user profile, and a PPID is that value that persists across the web, iOS, Android, Roku, and all of a user’s devices. Publishers feed this data to their DMP and tie it to the PPID values categorized into segments like “sports-enthusiast” or “Household Income over 100k,” and then those segments are pushed to an ad server or SSP.

Publishers include the PPID value in an ad request sent to an ad server or SSP to match ad calls to audience segments.

The case for PPIDs

Publishers can use PPIDs today to power cross-screen frequency capping and audience targeting, but with user privacy rising in importance, the case for PPIDs becomes even more compelling.

Publishers will have no way to frequency cap on the web when Chrome removes cookies, and the IDFV may provide a stopgap for frequency capping on iOS, but Apple could remove that capability at their whim. Even though PPIDs do not solve for frequency capping across multiple publisher properties, they can preserve user experience and sentiment within the context of a single property.

The restrictions on cookies and identifiers inhibit publishers and advertisers from using data to target users, but PPIDs provide a way to keep audience targeting viable. PPIDs present the opportunity to establish a stable identifier necessary for publishers to build user profiles.

PPIDs provide value in the current state of digital advertising but will create even more utility in the future. Prudent and savvy publishers should certainly include PPIDs in their audience targeting and frequency capping strategies to retain these features in an increasingly privacy-centric advertising environment.