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The Key Players in Cross-Device Advertising

Meliah Cranmer

We know that using multiple devices to research and book travel is now becoming an inherent behavior among travelers. Each consumer uses an average 3.4 devices. Mobile now captures two out of every three digital media minutes. Fifty percent of all purchases take place across multiple devices. Cross-device advertising is now a requirement for travel advertisers to stay in the conversation. But the question is not whether an advertiser should target travelers across devices, but rather, how they can target across devices.


One of today’s most debated topics is how data should be used. Advertisers are looking for scale with their cross device campaigns – but when they ask for it at the expense of accuracy, a major problem arises. Should advertisers use deterministic data at a small scale or use deterministic data to build look-alike modeling at a large scale (also known as probabilistic)? Yes, deterministic almost guarantees that an advertiser is reaching the same person across all their devices, but it lacks scale. Probabilistic, however, only works to a certain degree of accuracy, therefore, is less efficient. Right now, it’s hard to have your cake and eat it too.

What is the industry doing to come to an agreement? In the midst of this debate, Facebook has made great strides and hasn’t been shy about its cross-device intentions for the future. In 2013, at the time of the Atlas acquisition, Gokul Rajaram (ads product director), mentioned that Facebook’s goal is to “be able to measure cross-device insights” and “to be the best ad-serving platform on the Internet.”

Facebook Leads the Way

The race to having the largest set of deterministic data has started to accelerate. Facebook has been widely rumored (but not yet publicly confirmed) to bake logged-in user IDs into its rebuilt Atlas ad server. Knowing that cookies are becoming increasingly irrelevant, this move will allow Facebook to track ads along the path to purchase across all logged-in devices. It also allows advertisers to track the same person across all devices. This connection could possibly result in duplicate impressions and, at best, campaign measurement and conversion attribution. Instead of typical survey methods or relying on one source of data, we could possibly get real time data on how potential travelers interact with advertising across devices and then ultimately book a trip.

Facebook’s desired position and objectives are clear: Allow advertisers to target the same person on all connected devices resulting in a holistic one-to-one message strategy. The question is: What about the other behemoth, Google?


A Google Hypothesis

Google has historically been gun shy to talk about technology that would lean on personal identification information. But with or without confirmation on how many logged-in users Google has across devices, it’s possible to hypothesize.

One industry source that spoke with AdExchanger estimated Google’s logged-in cross-device user count as somewhere between 600 million and 1.2 billion. Keep in mind that this number is mainly aggregated from email logins, YouTube accounts and the Google search app versus the use of Google Plus, which has been rumored to be sunsetting soon. Research released by comScore ranked six Google app offerings in its list of the top 25 apps by unique viewers: YouTube (#2 right behind Facebook at 83.4 million users); Google Play (#3 at 72.2 million users); Google Search (#4 at 70.2 million users); Google Maps (#6 at 64.5 million users); Gmail (#7 at 60.3 million users); and Google Plus (#16 at 28.8 million).

With industry pressures, the question is not if Google will come out with a cross-device solution, but when.


The Other Players

Google and Facebook aren’t the only kids in the cross-device sandbox. Companies such as Amazon, Twitter, Yahoo, and Pandora have the technology, deterministic data and scale to jump in as well. Pandora has recently rolled out a cross-device solution that will allow advertisers to target their audience with sequential messaging in a way that is uniquely Pandora by using audio. Any other attempts of cross-device deterministic advertising other than with these companies, is a compromise between getting it right and getting it right at scale. In order for cross-device recognition or targeting to be successful, you need both of those cylinders firing.

In the meantime, we will continue to watch other players and work with technologies such as Tapad and Conversant and companies such as Pandora to reach travelers in a cross-device world. And perhaps while we are waiting, Google will not allow Facebook to beat them at their own game (for once). 

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