Lotame unveils Cartographer, its new approach to tracking user identity

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Lotame, a company offering data management tools for publishers and marketers, today unveiled a new product called Cartographer — described by CMO Adam Solomon as “our new people-based ID solution.”

In other words, it’s Lotame’s offering to help businesses connect their visitor and customer data across platforms and devices.

We’ve written about plenty of other cross-device targeting technologies — and in fact, Lotame acquired one of them, AdMobius, in 2014. But Solomon said the landscape has become more challenging given privacy regulations and especially updated browsers that place new limits on the types of cookies that can be used to track users.

“There’s been an explosion of first-party cookies,” Solomon said, referring to cookies that are stored on the domain you’re actually visiting (as opposed to third-party cookies, which are increasingly blocked).

He argued that these “short-lived” cookies then create problems for publishers: “If you’re in Safari visiting the same site every day, a new ID could be generated” each day. So Cartographer deals with this by using data science and machine learning to attempt to “cluster” different IDs together that likely belong to the same user.

“Every day when we see an ID, we’ll capture it,” Solomon said. “We’re graphing those cookies together, these dozens or hundreds of cookies that we believe, based on our technology, that these cookies belong to the same individual.”

He also said that connecting IDs in this way is crucial to the whole “Russian nesting doll” of how a publisher or advertiser understands identity on the internet: “Cookies ladder up to devices, devices ladder up to people, people ladder up to households.” So by connecting cookies to people, Lotame can also offer better household-level data.

And far from being an attempt to circumvent privacy restrictions, Solomon argued that Cartographer actually makes it easier for publishers to stay compliant with Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA rules, because they can do a better job of storing a customer’s privacy preferences.

Grant Whitmore, chief digital officer at Lotame customer Tribune Publications, made a similar point: “One of the things that I think all publishers are wrestling with right now is really the disconnect that is occurring in the adtech landscape and the legislative landscape and really managing the persistence of that consent.”

Whitmore continued, “One of the unintended consequences of that legislation and some of what is happening in the browser space is that we could be forced into a position where we are having to ask you every single time you visit a site whether it’s okay to sell your data, whether it’s okay to track.”

And he said that’s one of the big reasons Tribune is deploying Cartographer across all its properties, including its nine core newspaper sites. Though he acknowledged that it’s more broadly useful too.

“From the standpoint of our core business, getting a more complete picture of who a user is across these device types … That is of ongoing importance to us,” Whitmore said. “As we fight in this very competitive landscape, our ability to bring our understanding of who a user is, what their interests are … and providing good solutions — whether on the advertising front or whether that’s handling digital subscription offers — is just table stakes at this point.”

Solomon, meanwhile, said that Cartographer’s benefits go beyond “just figuring which IDs cluster together to represent an individual,” because it’s also ensuring that there’s proper ID synchronization with other data and ad-buying platforms.

“We make sure there’s maximum connectivity, maximum dial tone, with all the ecosystem participants,” he said.