Looking at the history of digital advertising, mobile advertising identifiers today offer a much more personal glimpse into your mobile identity than the infamous website cookie.
Cookies, your silent followers and fans on the internet, enabled online advertisers to have a fairly consistent view of your lifestyle preferences, demographics, and interests based on the websites you visit. Then the world took a radical shift towards social networks and mobile where cookies were no longer the basis of identity.
The foundation of adtech was that major publishers would each create 1st party profile cookies based on their onsite audience understanding of you and 3rd party data providers would create cookies based on your global web visits. Today, Facebook, Twitter, and Google use sharing widgets to measure how you convert to website traffic from their networks. Each Facebook Like button around the web tells Facebook that you visited a particular publisher’s website, how frequently you view their content, and it’s all tied back to your individual Facebook ID.
In mobile, your phone is your personal identity. Mobile web browsers stopped supporting or never natively allowed cookies which made tracking conversions from mobile users a difficult task for early mobile marketers. On the mobile web, you’re not always logged into Facebook or other social networks and users in-app can choose if they want Facebook as their mobile identity login, which limits Facebook ad tracking.
In turn, advertisers began using your phone’s Unique Device Identifier, also known as UDID. Difficult to change at the user level without reseting your phone and also highly personally identifiable because a phone typically only has one user. This raised many privacy red flags. Apple in 2012 stepped in an disallowed apps access to the iPhone’s UDID and created a separate Identifier for Advertising, the IDFA. Google’s Android will adopt similar Android Advertising ID standard requirement in April 2014 for all new devices. Currently most Android advertisers use a SHA1 hash of your Android device ID.
Using exclusively Identifier for Advertisers (IFA) on mobile has created a system where your 1-to-1 actions are directly linked to a single ID. Your IFA can be passed when you make mobile searches, in-app through ad network SDKs, or grabbed by an app developer at anytime. Mobile advertising identifiers are also being used to tie together other metadata such as your current location or create a bridge between a retailer’s CRM database and your mobile identity. IDFA’s can be reset at anytime to create a fresh new ID or zeroed out all together to disallow mobile tracking, but this is highly irregular behavior from mobile consumers. Savvy marketers are starting to using your IFDA in-conjunction with your current location and mobile history to deliver you real-time advertising.
2014 will prove the year that mobile advertising will be more than just cost per install app advertising. We are going to see retailers and brand advertisers start delivering product messages at the right time at the right location targeted personally to your mobile device and its mobile history.