Cross-Device Targeting Establishes Good Aim--But When to Take Your Shot?

Five years ago, targeting mobile audiences at scale was a major challenge.  Today, a new set of industry players has developed the ability to deliver scalable audience targeting through cross-device user identification technology and the ability to link mobile consumer profiles to first party and third party data. 

Targeting capabilities alone, however, have not convinced marketers to shift significant budgets to mobile. Why? Because targeting is just the first of many processes required to successfully engage a mobile audience and achieve great marketing outcomes. 

What else is needed? Targeting allows marketers to define rules that state the types of consumers that are qualified to receive an ad. But what else is needed to drive great performance and ROI in mobile?  Below are key steps necessary to get a mobile campaign to perform well, especially in a real-time bidding (RTB) environment. 

Identify users and evaluate incoming ad requests against targeting rules 



Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) handle billions of incoming ad requests every day from multiple sources.  Adding to the complexity, the format of these ad requests vary from one source to the next, making consistent user identification and audience segmentation much more challenging than the standardized, cookie-based desktop bidding environment.  To find the users that meet the targeting requirements of a campaign, a DSP must process these billions of ad requests, accurately decipher the multiple data formats to identify individual users and decide within milliseconds if a bid should be placed.

Determine the relevance of a consumer to a campaign 

An ad request that meets targeting rules can be considered ‘in play’ or qualified for a bid. Beyond explicit targeting data, advanced DSPs look at additional data (real-time and historical) to determine the relevance of an ad to a specific user, on a device, site or app, in a certain location at a given moment in time.  Automated referencing of historical campaign performance data can provide additional insight into the types of consumers that have engaged with an ad. 

Determine a bid price 

Once the degree of relevance has been determined, a DSP must figure out (a) the value of the user for the campaign and (b) the bid price required to win the impression in the auction.  If the two are aligned, a DSP will issue a bid in an attempt to win the impression. If the two are not aligned, despite targeting rules being met, a bid should not be issued in order to optimize campaign performance. 

Track and Measure 

If a bid is won and an impression delivered, all activity originating from the impression must be tracked for performance measurement, optimization and reporting.  At least two systems, a DSP and a 3rd party ad server, usually handle tracking. There are many complexities involved with the compatibility of tags and pixels in mobile - across exchanges, devices, browsers and apps. Finding sufficient 3rd party (served or tracked) compatible mobile inventory can be a major limitation for campaigns. It is critically important to understand the reach that a DSP can provide when using third party ad serving and tracking.  Extensive compatibility testing can help inform the best way to structure a mobile campaign for successful delivery, measurement and attribution. 

Feedback for learning and optimization 

All data originating from an impression should be fed back into a DSP for ongoing learning and optimization.  Feedback should be continuous so that new performance drivers can be identified. In contrast to manual analysis and model building, which are unlikely to lead to high performing programmatic campaigns, predictive models can optimize campaign performance in an automated manner. Automated optimization, driven by machine learning algorithms, is an essential component of top performing DSPs.  

Everyday Innovations are Getting Us Closer. The mobile advertising industry has come a long way toward improving targeting capabilities for marketers.  In order for mobile to truly deliver against its promise as the most effective, always-on marketing channel, we must continue to push toward comprehensive solutions that provide marketers with the ability to reach data-rich audiences and drive strong ROI at scale. 

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