Fun with Acronyms – MD5 Hashing and 3MS

June 03, 2014

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In our Sisyphean task to keep up with the latest news and trends in digital marketing, we subscribe to numerous daily e-mails covering the industry. MD5 Hashing and 3MS (Making Measurement Make Sense) are two topics we couldn’t resist sharing.

MD5 Hashing

Most people understand cookies (small text files that are stored on your computer and track who you are and your online behavior) enable the majority of today’s digital campaigns. With the threat of “Do Not Track” legislation, users’ cookie deletion and the fact that web usage is moving to mobile devices which do not accept cookies, means forward thinking digital marketers need to identify alternative tracking technologies. Additionally, with the proliferation of cross-screen and cross-device media consumption, there is a need to target the same user across all of the devices being used. One viable alternative to cookies is using a consumer’s email address to identify and track their activity across channels. Think about how many times you enter your email address every day, logging onto social networks, registering on websites and making online purchases.

Of course, maintaining the privacy of one’s e-mail address and using non-personally identifiable information is very important; and MD5 Hashing provides the technology to encrypt a user’s email address and convert it into a 32-character hexadecimal string (e.g., ed394c25f45986766ce2bd69389d9b1a). The hash string functions as a unique identifier for the user across devices and screens. That is, every time a user’s e-mail address is run through a hashing algorithm, the same hash string will result to uniquely identify the user. This hash string can be shared between companies to match database records.

Marketers are using MD5 Hashing for the following types of digital targeting:

• CRM Retargeting: The e-mails within a marketer’s CRM database can be hashed and then matched with a digital publisher’s hashed 1st party e-mail records. Further demographic data can be appended to the hashed data to create customer segments. Digital campaigns can be developed to target these customer segments across the sites within an ad network on a cross-channel basis. Specific Media has just launched its Custom Audiences solution which using MD5 hashing technology: (

• Dedicated e-mail campaigns: Companies can match the hashed e-mail addresses with publishers’ e-mail lists to determine contact strategy. For example, rather than renting an entire e-mail list, marketers can mail to either “matches” for retention messages or “non-matches” for acquisition campaigns

• E-mail hash ad exchanges: LiveIntent, a company whose slogan is “email is no longer about sending mail”, has created an ad exchange with more than 300 publishers based on e-mail hash data

Expect to hear much more about MD5 Hashing and its marketing applications in the future.

3MS (Making Measurement Make Sense)

Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) is a partnership between the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) to improve digital media measurement. Specifically, the mission of 3MS is to “define and drive—across the marketing ecosystem—clear standards-based metrics for digital advertising that are comparable to existing media.”

We applaud 3MS’ initiative for industry standardization and their objectives as follows:

• Define transparent, standardized and consistent metrics and measurement systems to simplify the planning, buying and selling of digital media in a cross-platform world

• Drive industry consensus around the solutions

• Establish a measurement governance model to support ongoing standards development, ensure compliance and manage change in a rapidly evolving media climate

Furthermore, the measurement standards that 3MS develops will be validated and implemented by the Media Research Council (MRC), an independent organization that ensures measurement services are valid, reliable and effective. The MRC will also audit and accredit vendors to verify compliance with the measurement standards.

3MS’ first major news is the adoption of viewable impression measurement guidelines. Viewability or lack thereof (e.g., industry estimates have been that 1/3 of digital ads cannot be seen) has been “all the rage” in articles about digital advertising. In a recent press release, 3MS has states that “the shift from a “served” impression to a viewable impression standard will provide marketers with a more accurate way to quantify their investment and deliver increased value for all parties involved in brand advertising.”

We believe these industry standards will help us in the negotiation and management of digital advertising for our clients as they create a common framework for measurement.

We look forward to 3MS’ next initiatives for measurement, which are listed on their website as follows:

1. Introduce an online Gross Ratings Point metric, providing reach and frequency reporting of viewable impressions
2. Implement a classification system and taxonomy for banner, rich media and streaming video ads
3. Define, standardize and accredit metrics for view-through reporting and cumulative social activity
4. Establish standards and vendor accreditation to improve the methodology for online brand attitudinal studies

As we say at NorBella, what gets measured gets optimized, and what gets optimized, gets funded.