Are Cookies Holding Back Mobile Programmatic?

Recently, Tobi Elkin accurately pointed out the dynamic nature of the programmatic marketplace and the challenges that are unique to mobile -- specifically, that most of the high-quality engagement in mobile is occurring in applications, but that programmatic budgets have been overwhelmingly directed at the mobile Web because it relies on the traditional technology that marketers are accustomed to: cookies.

Yet eMarketer estimates that consumers spend 203 minutes a day on average with apps versus just 52 minutes using their mobile browser. comScore published the following chart in their 2015 Mobile App Report. comScore data shows that mobile app time spent is growing much faster than desktop or mobile browsers.

Much of the traffic in the mobile Web is oriented around search, skewing the time-spent numbers if you are assessing where engagement is occurring for display advertising.



While marketers are now realizing the importance of mobile apps (Susan Boyle at eMarketer suggests that 73% of ad spending in mobile is going to apps), the adoption of programmatic buying for mobile app inventory has been relatively slow. Why?

Buyers are accustomed to working in a cookie-based environment, purchasing from the traditionally desktop-focused data vendors who have now begun collecting mobile Web cookie data. But the “currency” of in-app programmatic inventory is not the cookie, it's the mobile advertising ID (IDFA or Google Play Ad Id), which replaces and enhances cookies.

Both Apple and Google launched advertising identifiers to replace the old app-oriented identifiers: UDIDs. UDIDs were 40-character strings that were tied persistently to a specific device. However, both Google and Apple deprecated the use of UDIDs in favor of advertising IDs, which are 16-character strings that offer two new features for consumers: the ability to reset the identifier or turn it off altogether as part of the operating system, allowing the opt-out of behavioral targeting within applications.

But while this technology is somewhat foreign to buyers, it offers improvements for them. Advertising IDs are standard across all apps, requiring no cookie mapping. An ID is deterministically tied to a device; cookies need to be mapped and support is inconsistent among browsers. As such, cookies are often matched probabilistically based on IP addresses resulting in audience loss and inaccuracy.

The main headwind for in-apps adoption in programmatic has been the lack of third-party data providers offering targeting solutions. That is changing. Several companies are offering targeting solutions tied to mobile advertising IDs on DMPs and DSPs like the Trade Desk, Centro, Google DBM, Adelphic and MediaMath.

Many advertisers we work with want mobile-first data. The idea of starting with desktop-based cookies and then matching to mobile is quickly losing its appeal. The most relevant data in today's world originates in mobile. The highest-quality data is mobile advertising ID-based and is collected and used in a deterministic fashion.

Buyers looking for the highest-quality data should thus look to data that originates with mobile advertising IDs first, working with probabilistic cross-device vendors to map these deterministic data sets into cookies when needed. Companies like Crosswise and AdBrain are facilitating the mapping from advertising IDs to cookies in an increasingly effective manner.

In an increasingly mobile-centric world, marketers should start from truly native mobile data in order to hit their targets.

1 comment about "Are Cookies Holding Back Mobile Programmatic?".
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  1. Carli Visser from PushSpring, May 13, 2016 at 7:03 p.m.

    Looking for the chart referenced above? Find it here:

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