Commentary

Chipping Away At Cross-Device Myths

Legend has it that when asked for insight into his revolutionary artistic craft, Michelangelo offered a memorable deflection instead.

“It’s easy,” he said, though probably not in English. “I just chip away everything that doesn’t look like ‘David.’”

Whether this is fact or folklore, I’m not qualified to say. But even as myth, it holds a fundamental truth.

There is a big push underway in the ad world to create true cross-device measurement, yet there is a lot of confusion on what constitutes cross-device.

But instead of writing an article about exactly what cross-device is, I thought it would be more fun to follow in Michelangelo’s footsteps and chip away at what cross-device isn’t.

True Cross-Device ≠ Cookies and Device IDs

It sounds like a paradox, but the fact is, true cross-device measurement has more to do with people than devices.

Many solutions can draw connections among devices belonging to one person. But they often do so without true knowledge of that person’s characteristics.

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This is just another name for cookie-based marketing, masquerading as “cross-device.”

Understanding and marketing to real people is different. It requires understanding things like age, gender, interests, behavior and purchase intent. Without a persistent record of these characteristics over time, marketers are stuck with expired, irrelevant data.

If your ad delivery and measurement isn’t based on the up-to-the-minute actions of real people, is it truly “cross-device”?

True Cross-Device ≠ Data Coops

Aggregated data may sound great in theory, but in reality, it poses huge risks to audience privacy and brand affinity. By allowing your own customer data to be pooled by others, you lose control over what happens to it and risk breaking trust with your audience.

We’ve all shared our personal information to receive ads, promos and announcements from the brands we trust. But when advertisers hand over this information to a third party without consumer knowledge, the bond is broken.

Don’t risk a long-term relationship with your audience for a short-term payoff.

It’s Time to Sharpen Those Chisels

The quest for true cross-device is ultimately built on validation.

Our single-minded pursuit of “accuracy,” “reach” and “scale,” while admirable, can be deceiving. Though these qualify as “good enough” indicators of device graph quality, they don’t bring us any closer to the heart of the matter: driving real outcomes.

Campaign-level evaluation is the strongest tool we have for chipping away at distracting data. Validation metrics such as on-target reach, on-target conversions, frequency and incremental impressions can help marketers assess whether a cross-device solution has delivered their message to the right audience in the right way.

There's real value to be had in leveraging true cross-device solutions to deliver and measure ads. We need to stop deceiving ourselves that consortiums and co-ops provide clarity, or that sample data sets, touchpoints and volume represent real-world engagement. We’re capable of so much more.

It’s up to us to chip away at the myths that hold marketers back from making true cross-device a reality.

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