I have said it before and I will say it again: Mobile devices represent for media and marketing the “people meter” that the industry has been craving for decades. From ad impressions to Web browsing to store visits, no other digital entity has yet shown so much promise in actually mapping the physical and virtual paths to purchase. But it is a mosh pit of competing operating systems, big blind spots in activity that can and can’t be tracked, with an ongoing issue of how all that device-based data gets integrated with desktop activity and ultimately offline purchases.
Yes, there is a long long way to go before mobile realizes the promise of closing the loop on digital activity, ad impressions and sales. But getting there is half the fun, isn’t it? And we are watching a mobile data, ad and tech industry trying to grow up to manage all of these potential inputs in some reasonable way.
And many of the talented folks from the desktop side of ad tech are migrating to mobile as quickly as to online. To wit: mobile DSP, app analytics and data platform Apsalar just appointed Matt Anthony vice president of data science & analytics. Anthony was senior director of analytics at ValueClick’s Mediaplex. Also from Mediaplex, Apsalar appointed Dayton Keane its head of sales and marketing.
Apsalar also announced a major milestone, saying it has touched over 1 billion unique devices with its mobile analytics platform and so has that many unique mobile profiles using first-party data based on app usage.
Anthony tells me that while Apsalar does offer a DSP, now its longer-term goals are to provide a platform and data layer. “The goal is not to be a mobile DSP in the traditional way. Apsalar wants to take a more ad tech platform approach, where we are providing DMP analytics and rolling that in, [which] allows for DSP interactivity on the platform. We’re not trying to be taking IOs in the long term, but be more of an intelligence platform.”
He envisions the platform connecting into a range of SSPs and exchanges so that clients can use the Apsalar analytics and bidding engine to help traffic campaigns. He points to a number of online DSPs that have been migrating their model to more DMP-like analytics and data functionality. “Most DSPs in their revenue create a dynamic where they are chasing IOs. We don’t want to be in that business. I don’t think anyone wants to be in that business in the long term. Every month you start over.” Platforms gain the trust and longer term relationships with the clients, he says. “Most of the DSPs are going to the platform model.”
And while most of the existing online ad tech companies are trying to extend their reach to mobile, Anthony argues, as do most mobile platforms, that the desktop and mobile realms are simply too different for full integration in the near term -- "because of the nature of using cookies versus IDs,” he says.
In the online space, he sees the field crowded with DSPs and exchanges trying to back into the platform model, but he doesn’t see this happening as widely in the mobile space yet.
Apsalar started serving mainly the gaming side, where a lot of the early analytics from mobile apps were richest. With the tech and sales expansion, Apsalar is hoping to extend into a larger range of verticals like travel, retail and financial services.
Anthony sees personalization as a next big step for many brands and their apps, especially as categories like retail bring their customer data into the mix. While location data can be used to target users in proximity to a store, for instance, it doesn’t tell you who is in front of the store and what her interests and needs are. To do that, more granular behavioral data becomes necessary. “Everyone goes to Walmart,”Anthony says. “But will you show all of them the same Walmart ad? Getting into a higher level of personalization around profiling is huge to tailoring the message.”
Compared to the online side, mobile has some distinct advantages, despite its challenges, he says. The persistence of device IDs, the granularity of in-app analytics and the deep levels of engagement with apps -- all these can serve marketers especially well when harnessed and made privacy-safe.