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Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Mobile Ad Targeting

In Mobile on February 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Smart phone deviceAs mobile begins to move into high gear it’s becoming apparent to many media players that there are certain limitations to the medium’s ability to target with the same flexibility as online. Cookie targeting has been a go-to option for most behavioral advertising and retargeting in the standard web format. However on mobile web and in-application it is a different story.

Cookie’s in mobile have limits and do not work ubiquitously on iPhone, however have had some success in Android environments. Device identifiers are also becoming a challenge. Apple has planned for example to deprecate the UDID (unique device identifier) in their next version of iOS 5 for iPhone. This leaves Android which for now shares it’s Android ID however that too, at some point, could be obfuscated. There’s recently been some  questions about how best to target and track mobile users as highlighted in the WSJ.com article. There’s some unease about the data being transmitted through the ecosystem and exactly what is shared and with whom. However most mobile exchanges have devised innovative approaches that both protect user privacy by encoding the UDID. At the same time they can incorporate user interests based on app or content viewing activity and related demographics based on region of geo-location. This provides a solution that is private and of value to advertiser, the best of both worlds.

What should be noted behind all this concern on mobile tracking is that two of the largest ad networks, namely iAd and AdMob respectively, are owned by Apple and Google. Having a valuable combination of device, mobile OS and ad ecosystem could pose a true challenge to mobile network incumbents and new comers. Effectively, without cookies, the device ID becomes the defacto touch point for retargeting and the only solution for targeting beyond geo-location and context. If either of these networks begins creating a walled garden around their users and respective device IDs, it will create many challenges for advertisers and networks to target efficiently without going through their services.

Apple is recently noted for having submitted  a patent for enabling mobile ad targeting based on a persons web history, search history or media library. This could make for an even more fertile targeting environment should iTV become a widely adopted service. This is looking more likely also with the recent announcement of Apple to partner with a number of Canadian ISPs.  Additionally, Google’s recent consolidated privacy terms  opens up a slew of interesting ways that Google could target logged in users on mobile. And don’t forget their recently announced Chrome browser for mobile.

For now the mobile ad network environment remains an evolving one and a little murky with respect to methods and approaches for targeting ubiquitously. Whomever can capitalize on the data and identifier while providing a safe and privacy-centric ecosystem for users and advertisers will certainly have their day in the sun. With iPhone at a US smart phone market share of 43% and Android at 48% it’s still a horse race, but my money is on Google by a nose. 3 out of every 5 new smartphones purchased now according the NPD research is Android.