People Based Marketing: Who Else Would You Market to?

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Ian Davidson, Vice President, Platform Demand at OpenX

By now, you have probably heard of one of the biggest breakthroughs we’ve seen in digital marketing. It’s called people based marketing, and it lets us more accurately show ads to users for products they want when they’re most interested in seeing them. It’s also referred to as cross device marketing, which is delivering targeted ads across digital devices. So why don’t we simply call it cross-device marketing? Because what really matters is the person behind the devices.

The biggest driver of people based marketing is mobile. I don’t just mean your mobile phone. I mean mobile in the broader sense – your car, your watch, pretty soon your clothing. In the very near future, the Internet of Things (IoT) will connect almost every material object to the Web, and that offers the potential to provide users valuable ad content in a powerful way that fully respects their privacy expectations.

The significance of mobile is amplified by the effects it has on non-mobile devices. Before mobile, TV viewing time was reserved for TV. People generally didn’t multi-task when they watched. Mobile, however, is entirely different. Anyone watching TV, or even listening to a podcast, is highly likely to be looking at a mobile device. According to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), more than half of U.S. consumers cross between devices to augment first screen content.  They’re also likely using it to research or make a purchase, more than 40% of consumers cross between devices during the conversion process, according to a recent Atlas study, Mobile is the ultimate catalyst, driving unprecedented cross-device usage.

As with any new technology, there are challenges. People based marketing is particularly complicated due of the number of players involved in digital advertising across all digital devices. Creating a seamless way to track and capture intra-device and cross-device performance; use people-based IDs to control ad exposure, organize messaging, and optimize the conversion funnel; and create a single user profile while honoring and protecting privacy rights will be central to the success of the industry. How do we get there?  There are three principles every advertiser, agency, publisher, and technology partner must embrace in order to address the inherent challenges of digital marketing in a cross-device world.  

1. Ensure media buying strategies are appropriately consolidated and coordinated. The actual person receiving the message should be the thread that ties all screens together. Splitting out campaign budgets and management by device creates fragmentation that diminishes campaign effectiveness. Not only will fragmentation lead to inconsistent messaging and over saturation, it will also lead to wasted spend.

2. Leverage both deterministic and probabilistic targeting. This could be the most fundamental action to bolster people based marketing, and it’s the most important step forward from a technology perspective. Both approaches have advantages, and both are complemented, and made stronger, when combined. Deterministic targeting, which can only be done in closed systems and with proprietary and non-portable data, is more accurate but has limited reach. Probabilistic targeting uses a different set of non-proprietary attributes (e.g., IP, geo-location) resulting in superior reach and scale but with lower accuracy. Combining the two methods gives us the best of both worlds, and is the only path to delivering a 360-degree view of the user.

3. Build DMP strategies based on people rather than cookies. Cookies don’t work on mobile. (They work in theory on mobile browsers, but are rendered almost useless in apps.) Today mobile users spend 86% of their time in apps.  Over the long term, the future for cookies looks even grimmer with the projected explosion of IoT devices. It’s estimated that by 2020, we’ll see 50 billion internet connected devices, up from 15 billion today (a 233% increase!). It’s safe to say that these devices will not be using cookies.

The take away?  Build future-proof strategies that are based on people.

The importance of protecting privacy rights merits emphasis here. With the windfall of data that mobile delivers to the advertising industry comes a serious responsibility to honor users’ privacy. As we all gravitate toward a people-centric view, we have the opportunity to humanize consumers. We have an opportunity to see that we are not targeting a device, we’re connecting with a person. That person expects stewardship of their data, and we should ensure they get it.