The Future of Cross Device

The cross-device landscape is one that’s rife with widespread misunderstandings. Anyone who gazes into their crystal ball and claims to have all the answers is likely wrong, writes Keith Petri (pictured below), chief strategy officer, Screen6, exclusively for ExchangeWire. Those who follow the news are able to see patterns emerge and understand how vital issues are likely to resolve. For example, for those closely following GDPR (the hot topic du jour), the recent announcement by Drawbridge that it would be withdrawing from the EU came as no surprise.

GDPR: Watch & learn

All eyes are on the GDPR in Europe and its massive implications for marketers’ collection of personal data going forward. While there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the implications of GDPR on advertising technology vendors in the 28 EU countries, it is clear that significant changes will be required across many companies, especially those whose practices have not always prioritised privacy and data protection. Even when consumers grant implicit consent to collect their data, there will be restrictions surrounding its usage.

Drawbridge’s withdrawal was expected by many in the industry. As a master graph provider that co-mingles data among clients, and decisions off data provided by others, Drawbridge was already pushing the privacy threshold long before the GDPR was being debated by the European Commission. The GDPR would have required significant disruption to the company’s business model in the EU.

For other identity graph providers, the GDPR is an area that will need to be watched closely in order to understand impact. The adoption and implementation of the GDPR, however, will be fluid.

Cookies are crumbling – or are they?

The demise of the cookie has become the new 'year of mobile'. Everyone has been predicting it for years – sounding the alarm, calling for preparations. But here’s the deal: the cookie isn’t crumbling. In fact, it’s not going anywhere. The landscape in which the cookie exists, however, is shifting dramatically, and our industry needs to adapt.

Although many people perceive that mobile is a cookieless environment, that’s not correct. Cookies do exist in mobile, but they are difficult to wrangle. Each browser represents a completely siloed environment; and device IDs aren’t accessible to website publishers, even when being accessed in-app through a mobile view.

Keith Petri, Chief Strategy Officer, Screen6

Furthermore, Apple’s new iOS 11 mobile operating system is dramatically affecting the ability to use cookies to track users across sites and devices, and the cookie decay problem facing our industry will only continue to worsen. And yet, many of the solutions in the marketplace being developed right now are iterations on top of the cookie, disguised as replacements. For example, the Advertising ID Consortium, which is looking to develop an open-identity solution for the ad-tech ecosystem, is proposing a plan that would rely on a third-party cookie pool – this does not address the hurdles faced by the industry, but instead masks them and will eventually lead us to another dead-end where we will have to turn around and reinvent ourselves.

In 2018, marketers will need to adapt their cross-device strategies for the new reality of growing cookieless environments; but that doesn’t necessarily mean the extinction of the cookie. In reality, the cookie still plays a vital role in our complicated cross-device landscape, and our industry will continue to collaborate on new means of improving the digital experience for consumers, publishers, advertisers, and technology platforms.

An emphasis on data

The effort that our industry is putting into declaring the death of the cookie would ultimately be better served focusing on greater concern for the quality and freshness of data, which would put our industry’s cross-device efforts leagues ahead of where they are today. Without a doubt, given the rising rate of cookie decay, we will see a necessary rise in the emphasis being put on data freshness.

Most cross-device graph providers are updating their client graphs on a weekly basis, which is an increasingly insufficient – if not irrelevant – rate. Research conducted by Screen6 (based on the analysis of trillions of server-to-server events) found that 40% of cookies decay within the first 24 hours due to the growing impact of cookieless environments. With news items around Apple’s new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature increasing awareness of the limitations of cookies, we’re going to hear more demand within our industry for fresher data this year.

New environments: The rise of OTT

It goes without saying that over-the-top (OTT) video content is seeing, and will continue to see, massive growth, with ad support for OTT video growing in corresponding leaps and bounds. Indeed, wherever viewers go, advertisers must follow. But, as with so many emerging channels, attribution is sorely lagging as it relates to being able to understand OTT viewership as a piece of the larger measurement puzzle.

The pressure is on to change that in 2018. Today’s digitally savvy marketers are rightfully focused on quantifying the entire customer journey. As they up their investment in OTT, they will demand a seamless way to track and understand their audiences across all devices and platforms, including OTT. Advances in identifying audiences on specific devices and deduplicating audience viewing across devices will help to fuel greater investment in OTT by year’s end.

Measurement & attribution: People over IDs

Finally, this coming year, our industry will be putting greater emphasis on improving reporting methods to move past the ID level and focus on identification at the true person level. At present, more than one identifier might be applied to a single device, or an identifier might reference multiple devices per person. This creates a serious challenge as it relates to getting a practice, like frequency capping, right.

At present, marketers are using disparate data sets by which to judge their campaigns; and an inevitable result is that desired frequency caps are being greatly exceeded. As with better cross-device reporting for OTT content, we expect to hear a growing call within the industry for a standardised, improved understanding and application of audience identification. The goal is to enable marketers to truly understand, at scale, how many times a given person – rather than a random identifier – is being exposed to their messaging and precisely measure the effectiveness of their campaign.