The mobile advertising industry has long lagged behind its desktop counterpart in a key category: data. But new device matching techniques are breaking down the wall between desktop and mobile activity, and a bevy of desktop-derived data is starting to become available mobile marketers.
The latest example comes from YP. The company has announced a new partnership with Tapad that will allow marketers to use the company’s desktop search data to target ads to the the same user on their mobile device. The move should help open the impressions in the firm’s mobile ad network to the billions of dollars spent annually by marketers on retargeting campaigns.
Here’s how it works. Companies such as Tapad have developed massive databases of devices that they believe are owned by the same user by analyzing everything from IP addresses to frequently seen locations. YP is using that dataset to match desktop users who have searched on their property with the devices seen in the billions of mobile impressions that run through its mobile advertising network each day.
The idea is to blend the measure of intent implicit in a search with the advantages of mobility, says Luke Edson, senior vice president at YP.
“We find that searchers often start a search on one device, that could be desktop or mobile, and finish on the other,” says Edson. “Even if marketers are thinking mobile-first, this allows them to starting thinking about mobile outside of its silo and with their other initiatives.”
An auto maker, for instance, could target users, who have searched for a mechanic or dealership on their laptop, with an on their smartphone urging them to schedule a test drive.
The strategic and tactical rationale for YP is clear. There’s a lot of redundancy in the mobile advertising industry, and the first-party search data provides the company with an asset that competitors cannot replicate. Tactically, it allows the firm to upsell advertisers who already buy desktop advertising to mobile inventory as an audience extension without convincing the advertiser to shift money from one medium to the other.
For the mobile advertising industry as a whole, the adoption of cross-device targeting will likely have some interesting consequences. The locally-focused mobile firms have developed audience products, derived from location, that have thrived in the absence of the more traditional cookie-based profiles online. The ability for marketers to use desktop data like searches to target on mobile devices could undercut the value of those products.
More likely than not, it will only accelerate the shift in advertising spending toward mobile. As the targeting capabilities become more comparable and the vendors converge, the dollars spent on mobile will more accurately match time spent by consumers and the so-called mobile gap will close.
There’s also interesting implications for the desktop advertising industry. Edson says the company is not using data collected on a mobile device to inform desktop ads, but the potential exists and it could allow mobile firms the capture some of the desktop advertising spending as well. It creates a much larger market for mobile advertising firms to develop or spin-off data business based solely around the location data which they collect on users in the advertising exchanges.
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.