Mobile Targeting 2.0

By: Jonathan Mellinger, VP Enterprise Partnerships at Goodway Group This time last year the debate was raging over the death of the third-party cookie. We wondered: How will we track mobile conversions given the app sandbox? And will clients have first-party data at scale to target media? These questions, at the time, were relevant. But it seems I haven’t heard them much in the last few months. It could be “viewability” just seems to dominate every conversation in the online media world these days. Or it could be there’s a new crop of companies thinking about mobile targeting and attribution that may be allaying the concerns a cookieless world presents.

The Problem with Cookies on Mobile

Audience targeting on the desktop uses cookies to infer user behavior and assign attributes based on that behavior. Basically, those attributes are packaged into targeting segments like, “Monster Truck Fanatics”. Mobile audience targeting presents two challenges that cookies on a desktop browser don’t. First, some mobile browsers, i.e., Safari, don’t allow third-party cookies by default—a user must opt in via the phone’s settings. This presents a challenge for marketers because Apple’s smartphone market share is about 50% and prevents accurate attribution. The second challenge is the sandboxing of mobile apps. “Sandboxing” prevents apps from sharing cookies with mobile browsers. This also makes tracking conversions difficult.

Going “Native” with Mobile Audience Targeting

We often hear one of the greatest benefits of mobile targeting is the ability to do so based on location or hyperlocation—messaging a customer or prospect when he or she is right at your store’s doorstep. This may be a successful tactic in certain circumstances, like when there’s scale, or when first-party data also is being used. But location doesn’t equal intent. And for mobile targeting to resemble behavioral targeting we can do with cookies, there has to be an element of intent. I’ve recently evaluated a number of companies that have accomplished this. Their approach is to analyze signals other than location and device ID, time of day, app-usage habits, other signals in the ad call, and, sometimes, registration data. When these attributes are processed and segmented into audiences we can access in our DSP, they create a richer profile of a prospective customer rather than relying on location alone. This is a significant step toward developing a more “native” approach to targeting on mobile devices. Using the technical components (Wi-Fi networks, device IDs, and ad-call information) native to the mobile format takes advantage of how we all use our smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, it reinforces Goodway’s goal of ensuring our clients can successfully reach their target audiences. Adding context and intent to location gets us closer to achieving that goal.