Why a Universal Ad ID can Transform the Industry

James Rothwell VP, Marketing, Comcast Advertising

Click here for the FreeWheel Council for Premium Video’s guide to a Universal AD ID

The advertising industry is fascinating in a number of ways.

On many fronts, the rate of change and adoption of new technology and data is astoundingly fast. In other ways, there is incredibly slow progress to move and adapt to these changes, in part because of legacy and a lack of aligned incentives.

However, there is one area where incentives are truly aligned across the value chain in this world of fragmented screens and media: the creative execution.

Advertisers want their message to be as impactful and as measurable as possible. Publishers want the creative to complement their content and delight their audiences. Viewers want to be informed and entertained by the commercials that air alongside the content they selected to watch.

There is also one simple solution that the whole industry can align on that could have the largest impact (other than perhaps a single currency) on this new media landscape: the Universal AD ID.

The standard mechanism is Ad-ID® and is jointly owned by the ANA and the 4As. More than 3,000 brands are currently registered to use Ad-ID® but today the standard is not being used universally throughout the value chain. In a September 2019 custom survey with Ad Perceptions, only 16% of agencies and marketers said there were consistently using a Universal AD ID.

Harold Geller

As Harold Geller, executive director of Ad-ID says, “This is the simplest and most effective way for the industry to move forward in a converged world of cross-platform video. Use of a persistent identifier can alleviate so many challenges caused by fragmentation and help all parties to realize the promise of cross-screen video.”

So why is adoption not happening today? In the same custom study, over 250 marketers and agencies cited the fact that it is not being asked for or provided as the top hurdle, followed by inconsistent standard adoption by both their organization and vendors/ partners.

Widespread adoption of a common identifier (as well as high-quality mezzanine files) for creative assets running across different screens, vendors and sales channels will create multiple benefits that all players stand to benefit from, namely:

By creating a persistent ID across fragmented channels and supporting vendors, you instantly reduce the need to re-identify the asset and the chance of human error.

Demand and supply-side vendors hosting and storing creative can avoid unnecessary storage of duplicate source media files.

Use of mezzanine and ready-to-serve files ensures quality rendering and a common identifier enables multiple systems to prevent the same ad or competitor from running back to back.

Using a common identifier allows for the efficient use of advertising inventory, ensuring all restrictions are observed and the right message gets delivered to the right consumer at the right frequency.

Knowing exactly where an ad ran and when are key to post-campaign reporting. More detailed information on the performance of creative assets brings improved analysis and planning for subsequent campaigns.

This single step can have hugely positive implications on downstream processes and the performance of cross-screen campaigns. The FreeWheel Council for Premium Video (FWC), a group of publishers focused on advancing the premium video ecosystem, are united in calling the industry to adopt this standard. We believe that all brands, agencies (both creative and media) and partners should explore whether their organization is utilizing Ad-ID® today, and if not, start to adopt it within their workflows.

The good news is that Ad-ID® is supported by other industry standards. The latest version of VAST (VAST 4.2) accommodates the identifier in the ad call, and there is work being done to find ways to accommodate Ad-ID® in earlier versions of VAST, for those who have not moved to VAST 4.x.

Bob Liodice

Alignment on this topic has also never been stronger. As Bob Liodice, CEO of the ANA, says, “By using Ad-ID, brands can deliver their vital advertising messages in a more efficient and accountable way, relieving friction and creating insights on performance that will allow them to adjust their investments.”




Marla Kaplowitz

Marla Kaplowitz, President and CEO of the 4A’s, is also a big supporter of this initiative: “When agencies use this simple mechanism, the management of today’s array of creative executions is instantly streamlined across all channels, freeing up more time for campaign strategy and optimization.”

To help spread the word on this effort, the FWC has created a guide to summarize the benefits and actions you can take today to move us towards a world of more effective creative management. We encourage you to share with your colleagues and start implementing processes today to propel the industry towards a meaningful advancement.


The Universal Ad ID Imperative