Adobe Positions Its Cross-Device Co-op As An Alternative To Facebook/Google

AdobeAdobe rolled out the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op – a cross-device system built around Adobe Analytics and the Audience Manager data management platform – at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

AdExchanger first reported on Adobe’s attempt to create the data co-op last July.

Adobe hopes to patch a big hole in the cross-device ecosystem. On the one hand, Facebook and Google offer scaled, cross-device matching capabilities – but only within their walled gardens.

On the other hand, numerous probabilistic tools promise reach, but not always accuracy. Adobe Marketing Cloud, which sees more than 41 trillion digital impressions each year, hopes its co-op will offer the best of both worlds.

“You can trust your future to Google and Facebook, but the thing we hear consistently is, ‘Is their incentive to sell you more media?’” said Amit Ahuja, GM of data management for Adobe Marketing Cloud. “Google and Facebook have great scale, but nobody can rival our digital footprint and the brands we work with.”

These brands include Disney, Coca-Cola, Comcast and McDonald’s, though the co-op is still in private beta and Adobe isn’t yet naming any customers.

According to Ahuja, the co-op looks anonymously at how different devices are related and ports that link to the co-op’s members. Early estimates show Adobe’s system has the ability to link up to 1.2 billion devices globally and Ahuja predicts that ability will only increase.

Adobe was clear that this is not a data free-for-all. In order to join the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op, brands must play by a few rules. 

First, all co-op members must clearly disclose their role as a member of the device co-op and provide a link and logo to an Adobe-created privacy portal, where consumers can opt out either individual devices or all their devices at once.

It’s an important step for Adobe because when it first introduced the concept of the co-op, prospective partners worried it relied too heavily on cookie-based opt-outs where, if someone clears his cookies, the system could forget that the person opted out (especially if he moves between multiple devices).

The Future of Privacy Forum provided input as Adobe developed the co-op over the past several months, said Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Washington, DC-based data privacy think tank and the former chief privacy officer for AOL.

Polonetsky said he was impressed by the co-op’s restrictions that keep partners from identifying consumers on anything beyond a device link (which is limited to hashed IDs and HTTP header data) and improved transparency about the participating partners, as well as the universal opt-out.

How It Works

Participating brands must follow also must contribute quality data of their own in order to get quality data out.

“We see ourselves as a centralized point of governance,” Ahuja said. “We are not going to bring any data into this co-op unless it plays by our rules. The size of what you contribute equalizes what you get back.”

It’s important to note that for privacy (and competitive) reasons, Adobe doesn’t allow the swapping of targeting segments or user-level data.

“This is not giving you net new visitors to go acquire,” he added. “This is not giving you access to the broader graph. If you have a user, you get device linkages related to that user. Every participant has to feel like they’re getting the requisite for their money back based on the value of their contributed data.”

For instance, a hotel brand could cross-reference its cross-device links with an airline’s. Say the hotel knows about a customer’s mobile phone and tablet, but not about her laptop.

If that customer also frequents a certain airline – and both the airline and hotel are part of Adobe’s cross-device co-op – the hotel can connect that laptop to the customer, thereby developing a full device profile.

Practically speaking, the hotel could offer better services and more relevant messaging because it will gain a fuller view of the customer journey.

Obviously, media activation is only one possible application of the data co-op. It could also power website and email personalization, noted Suresh Vittal, head of product marketing and strategy for the Adobe Marketing Cloud.

Cross-device should be a function for all marketing processes, not just media, he said.

Competition In Cross-Device

Certainly, Adobe isn’t the only company making big moves with its marketing cloud. Last week, Google revealed a conglomeration of tools – including a DMP – called Google Analytics 360 Suite. Vittal claims Adobe’s position is vastly different than Google’s, however.

“It’s great Google recognizes the opportunity in the market and validates the ways we’ve approached this market, but I would suggest their focus is still on advertising analytics and optimization,” Vittal said. “You can see they’ve added analytics, a yet-to-be-proven DMP-like capability, tag management and some nascent optimization technologies and called it Google Analytics 360.”

But of course, Google is also a media seller – and Adobe is not. And Adobe is emphasizing that distinction.

“We feel there is massive need and opportunity to have an independent platform apart from media for publishers and advertisers that’s not owned by anyone selling media or focused on only one channel,” Ahuja said. “We’re a neutral player and that resonates with the enterprise.”

Given the reach of its marketing cloud, Scott Denne, a research analyst at 451 Group, thinks Adobe has the potential to build a deterministic graph for identity matches cross-device since it extends beyond a single media platform or ad network.

There are, however, a few challenges it has to meet.

“For one, it needs substantial participation from its customers to be able to reach a scale where it could compete with existing offerings,” Denne noted. “Most existing cross-device ID services today provide probabilistic - that is not definitive - matches, however, they have a head start in accumulating data and honing their matching algorithms.”

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