'Journeying' Toward Cross-Channel, One-To-One Targeting

As the multiscreen world becomes real for both consumers and the marketers pursuing them, the big talk this year is about the increasingly complex, always-on-always-there “consumer journey.” Whenever I hear that trendy phrase at conferences and in interviewing executives in the marketing world, I recall George Carlin’s classic stand-up routine about the different languages of baseball vs. football.

Football is rife with precise and militaristic jargon (charges, timed quarters and halfs, a standard grid of yards, etc.) while baseball has bucolic aspirations (parks, innings, diamonds, etc.). The consumer “journey” doesn’t take place in a “funnel” that marketers “target” anymore, but on an imprecise “path” with “touchpoints.” One almost gets the sense that marketers imagine themselves prancing alongside these heroic consumer/adventurer/wanderers, guiding the way with walking stick and metal compass.

In reality, finding consumer touchpoints and intersecting with customers on this "journey" that occurs anywhere and everywhere will require some of the most technologically complex methods of matching data and users across platforms that continue to be incompatible. In fact the most personal of the screens, mobile media, will prove the most challenging, because of its legendary lack of consistency across the major operating systems and the general absence of reliable cookies.

According to Chad Gallagher of Advertising.com’s Mobile Sales and Operations, “Until six to nine months ago a lot of mobile targeting was smoke and mirrors. In the vertical markets folks were really targeting geographically. If someone wants to target for a car they end up being sold a campaign that targets a geo that has a slightly higher percent of that type of car buyer -- and from our perspective, that is not real targeting.”

To get us closer to one to one-to-one targeting via mobile, marrying offline data with online and mobile targeting is the long-term goal. In an interesting use of publisher’s first-party registration data and a proven database of auto intenders, the data management company Collider has partnered with Polk for what the companies describe as a “cookieless” cross-platform targeting technique. Polk’s Total Market Predictor data is able to target down to the household level auto intenders for specific makes and models of cars.

Collider works with premium publishers who have registration data, including user email addresses. As Sean Glynn, VP, Data Platform and Analytics, described the process, “The publisher is able to send us over a hashed version of that email. We then are able to have data partners like Polk and Acxiom match data to that hashed email and append it to us. Then the publisher can more effectively monetize their mobile universe. They can offer that level of targeting against the inventory on a household level.

"Of course this process assumes the publisher has users who maintain and sign into a consistent identity across platforms. But if the stars (or data) align as they should, then a publisher should be able to use the Polk data to find households that are not only most likely to buy a new or used car in the coming months, but can also predict with good likelihood the makes and models they are most likely to buy."

Gallagher will be using the platform to extend the campaigns he sells for Ad.com mobile sites to achieve greater reach. Collider is not using AOL user data, however. But Gallagher sees this kind of user mapping across channels as critical. “What we are focused on is true cross-platform user-level targeting for various goals. In this case, rolling out the Polk data gets to [a] very granular-use level [of] data. It gives us even more reach than we had before, and the ability to run some of the largest cross-platform Polk data campaigns online.” Gallagher says he expects to see more products like this come to market in the coming months, because the goal moving forward will be marketing campaigns that move fluidly across screens.

Glynn says that Collider has over 140 million emails against which to match other data. Gallagher says that this is the kind of start toward more precise mobile targeting that moves the industry necessarily forward. “No doubt there is scale in overall mobile volume," he says. "With this kind of user-based approach we are making positive movement towards scale. Every couple of months, there is an uptick on the scale side.”   

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