Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Mobile’s Identity Crisis

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By George Dixon, Head of Product and Strategy at Mobsta.

I don’t think it’s any secret that 2021 is shaping up to be a hugely significant year for digital media. Whether you are a publisher or advertiser you will soon see significant changes in the app and webspace due to the changes in iOS and Google Chrome. No doubt you’re well versed in them too, so I won’t labour them here, suffice to say that the digital currencies (3rd part cookies and IDFA’s) that have been relied upon by the advertising ecosystem for some years are changing or being phased out entirely. Tracking campaign effect, building audiences and targeting will never be the same again. Some major players are up in arms and on the offensive, most significantly Facebook who have been publicly opposing Apple’s plans to put a tighter opt-in to track in place in iOS 14 and beyond.

But whilst others heatedly debate the benefits and flaws of consumers increased control over their data and its impact on the industry, what is actually changing and what new opportunities will it bring in 2021? Is the future as bleak as some people would have us believe? 

Is context king?

A lot has been said about context making a resurgence due to the degradation of 3rd party cookies and IDFA’s. Perhaps a return to the early internet targeting options, where to reach men you bought Sky sports or to reach women you spoke to IPC. But the world has moved on from there – these sweeping generalisations are beyond old fashioned. So how is context still relevant? And what more can we do without existing digital currencies to identify an audience and measure a campaign’s effect?

Context has moved on a great deal; it is no longer the blunt tool it once was because now we have the smartphone helping to define it. Not in the sense that we can use mobile solely as a vehicle to advertise on but it provides the data that can connect online and offline channels and help identify areas of interest. 

People who dismiss context are not considering the bigger picture. As digital advertising appears to be less accountable against its previous metrics such as post-click CPA’s, mobile data allows us to understand other tangible metrics and show how they’re affected by all media channels offline and online without a cookie or device ID in sight. 

Want to know which audiences are behind increased visits to your stores? Or where in the country increased traffic to your website is coming from? Mobile data can do this. We’re already using it to show the impact TV, OOH, digital audio, video and display advertising has on driving visits to stores. This won’t go away when ID’s and cookies do.

As digital currencies go offline, currencies such as towns, cities, postcodes and even cell towers remain. Our data might not be quite as granular as we are used to, we might not be able to scrutinise every aspect of an individual’s consumer journey, but we can see how a media ecosystem is performing together to deliver customers to your properties.

But there’s more

Years after WEVE ceased trading, mobile operator data is once again becoming a hot property. In the post-cookie world, 1st party datasets become more and more valuable – they have a huge amount of potential to help inform consumer behaviour, online and offline, anonymously.

We are already leveraging mobile operator data. Its potential in the advertising space as a robust, reliable and persistent dataset that is built with privacy in mind is massive. Our work over the last few years as a benchmark to better understand the accuracy of datasets in the digital ecosystem has helped demonstrate where accurate data can be found. Now, due to our partnership with 3UK, we can begin to unlock this data to better inform the contextual insights, audiences and measurement mentioned previously. 

And, as you read this article, mobile operators are busy installing 5G into their networks. With the advent of the next generation of data connection, mobile operator data becomes even more valuable because even more devices will want to be connected to 5G to benefit from a low latency and speed to make faster decisions. 5G won’t just give a better internet connection to our smartphones but potentially every internet connected device, your PC, (self-driving) car, smart speakers, maybe even your oven. 

Couple the wealth of data that operators offer with a 5G connection, and predictive models become more precise than ever as they draw upon trillions of data points to power and refine these models. Predictive models live and die based on their training dataset; if that isn’t robust and reliable then nor will your predictions be. Operator data is second to none in this respect and we are already building predictive models that will help advertisers make informed buying decisions on digital inventory as they have done in the past but again, without a cookie or device ID.

When you consider all of this, you’ll hopefully come to the conclusion that mobile, nor digital, is not about to experience an identity crisis. It is, in fact, the start of a new era of potential. If you thought mobile was already an essential part of the media ecosystem, sit tight because it’s about to get a lot more interesting.


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