The Cross-Platform Divide: Who Benefits?

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Today’s column is written by Bob Walczak, general manager of mobile and video at PubMatic.

For those of us in the digital advertising community, there has arguably been no development that has inspired so much simultaneous hope and trepidation as the rise of the cross-platform divide.

It’s a fancy term for a common phenomenon: With people now consuming content across three, four or even five devices, with laptops, iPhones and iPads being the most obvious examples, how can advertisers avoid confusion and redundancy? Are they wasting money when trying to reach the same user on several other platforms?

The short answer is no.

For all of the challenges inherent in this shift in consumer behavior, the potential benefits are still immense. Ours, naturally, is an industry that thrives on data, which allows us to target the right users and help our partners maximize their advertising assets. The increase in mobile usage, for example, means that users are passing 10 times as much data as on desktops. Do some rough math, and you figure out that a person with three devices will generate about 100 times more data than they would on a personal computer. Needless to say, that presents challenges with storage and processing, but also fantastic new possibilities.

Tracking Cross-Platform Users

Still, the question of how we determine who is using what remains complex. We currently have two major solutions for that problem. The first is first-party registration data. It’s straightforward: When you sign up for a service or a website, it asks for registration data that allows the site to identify you when you log in from your phone, tablet or computer. That’s a solid way to handle the relationship between you and the particular site, but the information isn’t shared across publishers, which means that the next site you’re logging into is still going to have the same problem. The second solution aims to be more universal with statistical probability that uses techniques like matching the user’s home IP with the same IP popping up at other locations. This method is useful, but it is by no means 100% accurate.

While there’s no one optimal way of taking advantage of cross-platform opportunities, advertising technology companies have begun designing products and services to help publishers increase their targeted reach and maximize these new possibilities. What we need aren’t only better technologies, but a better understanding of this new multidevice reality and the way users apply it.

For example, 90% of users complete complementing tasks with one or more gadgets, according to as a Forrester study released this week. This results “in new patterns of engagement that blur the boundaries between customer interactions,” says the study’s author.

Maximizing Impact

The challenge for the digital advertising industry is to figure out the best place to send the right message in order to drive the impact of a brand, and to take advantage of engagement mapping or the ability to attribute performance across multiple impressions and devices.

If we do that, we will gain numerous valuable insights into how users actually behave. We may learn, for example, that the value isn’t always in first impressions, as a user is much more likely to click an ad that pops up on their tablet if the same ad popped up earlier on their smartphone. Or we may understand that users consume information of a different sort on one device as opposed to another.

These insights are crucial to our ability to enable our publishing partners to offer users a good and seamless experience that would keep them coming back. Of course, it’s important to be deeply mindful of privacy and remain committed to balancing this experience with user-driven privacy controls.

But by better understanding our new, multidevice-driven reality, collecting more accurate data and finding a way to deliver it back to the demand side, all players will reap tremendous benefits, including advertisers, publishers and consumers alike.

Follow PubMatic (@PubMatic) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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