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August 17, 2016 | By Adelphic

Adelphic’s Director of Product, Dr. Justin Pniower, lends his perspective on 3 questions media buyers should ask about cross-device advertising.  

Ad buyers have grown accustomed to siloed campaign strategies – separate budgets for mobile, desktop and television. But an audience-based approach executed across the devices of a consumer can be a powerful tool, allowing you to interact with and follow users as they move between devices and channels. But it can be hard, even for experts, to evaluate the quality and scale of these solutions, and industry standards do not yet exist. To determine whether the promise of cross-device solutions can deliver, here are some questions you need to ask.

How is quality measured?

Precision, the percentage of links that are correct with respect to a test dataset, is typically the key metric for assessing the quality of a cross-device solution. But, as is the case with other forms of measurement, values can differ substantially based on the details, like what counts as a correct or incorrect link with respect to the test dataset, or how a link is counted if one device is outside the test dataset.

The test dataset itself also has an effect on the precision measurement. You should inquire about the source and quality of the test data, but you should also inquire about the size of the dataset. By shrinking the size of the test dataset, vendors can inflate precision measurements.

How many connections?

When it comes to cross-device measurement, precision does not indicate anything about scale.  You can have perfect precision with just one link. Generally people consider the central metric for scale to be recall, the percentage of links in the test dataset that the solution was able to identify. But you can still have good recall without good scale, and vice versa. For that reason, you also want to know the total number of connections associated with a given level of precision in order to get a better sense of scale.

But the number of connections alone won’t provide all of the information you need. It’s important to understand the number of each type of connection – intra-device, cross-device and cross-channel – as well.

Not all connections are between different devices. While “device graph” is the common term for a map that links individual consumers to each of their own devices, it’s actually a bit of a misnomer. At the most granular level, the nodes on the device graph are unique device identifiers, not unique devices, and there can be multiple identifiers for a single device. When vendors characterize the size of their graphs, they may be sharing the number of links between device identifiers (intra-device), not the number of links between devices (cross-device). When it comes to your return on ad spend, the difference is important.

A user’s browsing and location history can be very different on a mobile device and a desktop making these links, across channels, among the hardest to establish. In order to identify a cross-channel connection, a robust dataset for each channel is required. As such, the majority of links within a graph are likely between devices in the same channel. Inquire about the percentage of connections that are truly cross-channel as well as their relative precision.

What is the effect on my data and KPIs?

While the counts are important indicators, they do not guarantee scale for your data. First-party data is the ad-buyer’s “holy grail,” so it’s important to know the match rate for identifiers you want to extend using the graph in order to truly optimize your ad spend – and your campaign – across specific consumers’ devices.

But if a cross-device solution cannot improve your KPIs, then other metrics do not matter. Performance KPIs like awareness, engagement and conversion rates work well to measure a cross-device campaign. Solutions that enable sequencing and frequency capping across devices can help bolster these KPIs and reduce a consumer’s urge to activate an ad blocker.

While cross-device technology has been around for a while, we’ve only just begun to activate it. As the number of screens in front of consumers continues to grow, the industry must work quickly to develop standards that empower media buyers to evaluate and leverage this technology to shift to a true audience-based approach. In the meantime , it’s important to be educated on the topic in order to make the best possible buying decisions.