For Targeted Advertising, Mobile Device ID Crumbles the Cookie

mobile device ID

Location data is now able to give marketers a wealth of information to better target consumers; and the use of mobile device IDs has helped gather extremely detailed data. This data gives advertisers information to create a better advertising experience for their consumers. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Brooke Willcox (pictured below), director of digital business development, MNI Targeted Media, explains why the traditional cookie is being overpowered by the mobile device ID, and has become a better option for targeting people at the right time, with the right message.

The advantages of mobile IDs over cookies for tracking are numerous, but the inclusion of location data might be the most significant. Knowing where people go and how they spend their time tells us a lot about them. For example, advertisers are always trying to reach that 'household CEO'. Mobile data can reveal when someone is routinely visiting schools (for example, twice a day, five times a week for school drop-off and pickup) and when they typically go to the supermarket (twice a week Sunday and Wednesday). Even more can be learned if that mobile device typically visits a gym, a dance studio, or a coffee shop on a regular basis.

Data like that can give advertisers the insights they need to better target consumers: knowing that 'Mom' goes shopping Wednesday nights gives brands the opportunity to offer coupons or other offers at exactly the moment she’s most likely to respond. That’s information device IDs can reliably deliver, but cookies cannot.

How the cookie was baked – and why it crumbled

Back before mobile, cookies were the ideal way to gather consumer data in the digital world. Those little snippets of code told us all we thought we needed to know in the days before we could even envision the smartphone and its disruptive impact.

However, as smartphones gained popularity, cookies proved to be insufficient. They were designed for desktop use, and could only track information from website to website. Mobile data is inclusive of web content, but it also includes app engagement, location, and so much more. Even mobile-specific cookies weren’t up to the task of collecting meaningful data. Devices themselves were becoming walled gardens; data from activity generated within apps could not be gathered with cookies. Apple ultimately finished the cookie when they blocked all third-party ad-tracking technology to protect their users. While it’s a decision that makes sense to Apple and its devotees, advertisers were flummoxed: blocking cookies wouldn’t prevent them from serving ads, it would only prevent them from collecting and analysing the data that would allow them to serve relevant ads.

Device IDs kill the cookie

Cookies are still around, and they’re useful for certain mobile applications, but they don’t deliver the holistic view that mobile device IDs do. Device IDs provide better and more reliable data. For one thing, cookies only track a single session; mobile IDs stay with users for as long as they have their handset. And, while cookies can’t track activity within apps, device IDs can – and they can track location as well. Additionally, considering how reliant people are on their mobile devices, troves of data are collected every day – all of it non-PII. That can help advertisers deliver more relevant user experiences while also improving their own mobile advertising results. Best of all, because device IDs represent actual handsets used by actual humans, opportunities for fraud (particularly bot fraud) are dramatically reduced.

Device IDs are also helpful for cross-device targeting. When users set up their phones, they enter an email address, and that address stays inextricably linked to their mobile. Of course, that email is also linked to their online habits – sites where they have accounts like social networks, music sites, news sites, and more. That means marketers can glean more relevant behavioral data, which in turn means they can surface relevant messages at ideal moments across screens. It also allows marketers to attach that information to an attribution model, even when transactions occur offline. Marketers can actually determine when a person who has bought an item, in-store or online, was influenced by online advertising. That’s huge.

Location targeting goes further with Device ID

Location targeting has come a long way in a short time. Just a few years back, geotargeting was based on device registration location, meaning that if a person in New York City signed their contract there, that was their location. Any geotargeted ads they saw were based entirely on their presence in New York, even if they actually lived in New Jersey or were on vacation in Florida.

MNI Targeted Media

Brooke Willcox, Director, Digital Business Development, MNI Targeted Media

Geofencing was the next logical step in location targeting. Marketers could essentially draw a circle around a particular point – say, a shopping mall – and target people within that area. It wasn’t very precise: you couldn’t know for sure if someone was shopping for mattresses at Macy’s or just grabbing a coffee at Starbucks, but it was better. From there, geospatial targeting made things a little more precise. It allowed for the drawing of a specific shape – like the parking lot outside the Macy’s – to give marketers a slightly tighter target.

Today, the use of device IDs has brought us to geobehavioural targeting. This allows marketers to leverage historical location data as a proxy for behavioural data – and it can be amazingly accurate. Let’s circle back to that 'Mom' we referenced earlier in this article. Demographic data and purchase history can give us clues to her identity as a parent, but geobehavioural data delivers a much richer profile. We can learn from her mobile device ID that she drops the children off at daycare at 8am and picks them up at 5:30pm. She shops for groceries Sunday mornings and then again Wednesday nights. She works at a school less than 15 miles from home. She goes to the gym near work three times a week. The more we learn, the more relevant the content and offers we can deliver. We can surface a coupon for juice boxes when she checks the weather Sunday morning before heading out to the store.

This data is not personally identifiable, of course, but it is accurate. The user’s data is perfectly safe, but having access to it in aggregate allows advertisers to deliver messages that are both timely and relevant. That’s good for the advertiser and for the user.

There are a million reasons why mobile IDs are a vastly better option for targeting people at the right time and with the right offer: the reduced risk of fraud, the fact that IDs last so much longer than cookies, and the ability target and measure across devices. There was a time when we believed that cookies were the ideal choice for delivering relevant and useful ads to consumers. Cookies still have their purpose, of course, but device IDs seem a lot closer to that silver bullet we’re always seeking.