Dentsu’s John Lee, Global Chief Strategy Officer at its Merkle unit, is joining NBCU in the newly-created role of Chief Data Officer, sitting within the company’s Global Advertising & Partnerships division.

The announcement was made today.  The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Late last year we spoke with Lee about publisher uses of “identifiers” in audience targeting.    We have re-published  that video and story with today’s news.

Our report from November:

Little by little, inventions and partnerships are working to heal a digital advertising world wounded by the erosion of third-party identity tracking.

In the latest, MediaMath’s Source buying DSP is integrating another identity solution, purporting to support the identification of consumers across devices on premium publishers’ sites, without cookies.

The solution is Merkury, the ID graph from Dentsu’s Merkle. In this video interview with Beet.TV, Merkle’s John Lee outlines the opportunity.

From third to first base

A recent Digiday survey found 38% of publishers will not have a solution for identifying audience targets after third-party cookies are turned off.

“Identity has been really third-party conversation in the past – third-party cookies, device IDs, things that could be rented and managed by a few companies that maintain these big identity graphs,” Lee says.

“With cookie deprecation, with increasing consumer privacy regulation depending on which market we’re talking about, the ability to rely on these third-party identifiers is obviously becoming obsolete.

“So the conversation’s needing to shift inherently for the buy and the sell side of the equation, the clients, the brands and the publishers to take ownership of their own identity, which is primarily based on first party data as we go forward.

“We are transitioning towards a world in which brand and publisher ownership of first party identity is going to be the key to maintaining addressability in the ecosystem.”

Identity crisis

Merkle has recently been building out its identity chops, off the back of its Merkury, an identity graph platform covering 96% of US adults aged over 18 that includes associated email addresses, device identifiers like cookies and device IDs.

It recently acquired 4Cite Marketing, bringing in a first-party identity engine, allowing Merkury to incorporate first-party data like web and email traffic, helping ad buyers and publishers enable personalisation and targeting.

Lee hails it as “a huge step forward” in a world where traditional third-party identifiers are drying up. More than that, in MediaMath’s Source, ad buyers have more extensive information available about their ad supply chain.

“The marketers can go in and see how all the different pieces connect and where all the handoffs are,” Lee says. “That applies not just to the programmatic bidding pipes, but it applies to the identity pieces as well.

“So with Source, MediaMath welcomes us to say, ‘Hey, bring your Merkury ID into source and we will use it being a cookie-less ID as the currency that we allow advertisers to use to manage reach frequency’.”

Here is the press release on today’s news.