Soon it may be impossible for a user to avoid re-viewing the self-same advertising already seen on one piece of kit as he or she moves to and between other devices. Startup company Drawbridge, the brainchild of an ex-Google staffer, has developed a system that matches people across devices the better to serve targeted and re-targeted ads as individuals move between handsets, tablets etc. Martyn Warwick reports.
Advertisers, increasingly concerned that their messages do not get the same exposure and penetration on mobile devices as they do on PCs and TVs are desperate to pursue the consumer across myriad devices and platforms. They want an ad serving system that will target and follow an individual from a desktop device to a laptop, a tablet a smartphone and even to the smart TV in the lounge, living room, den or study at home.
A few companies have already tried to provide such a technology but met with little success, mainly because their solutions were based on siloed data applicable to each targeted device rather than being genuinely cross-platform. And then came Drawbridge, founded by Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, information scientist and a sometime Admob and Google employee.
Back in May this year Ms. Sivaramakrishnan raised US$6.5 million in primary investment funding from two of California's highest-profile venture capitalists, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital. The money is being spent on what is described on the Drawbridge website as "the first of its kind self-learning targeting and tracking cross-device advertising solution that brings desktop-like targeting to mobile advertising."
Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan says, "Today, targeting in mobile display advertising is more about the device than the audience behind it. Consumers now have multiple touch points across various screens. We want to leverage this emerging user behavior and unlock the power of cross-device data to impact targeting in mobile. The Drawbridge platform makes it possible to understand behavior on any device and use those insights to effectively reach mobile audiences."
Underpinning the new system is a mature technology - the cookie, or the latest iteration of them, including that elusive item, the mobile equivalent of a cookie.
They will power what the Drawbridge blurb refers to as a "unique approach built on a foundation of large-scale machine learning algorithms that correlate audience behavior across screens".
What is special (and perhaps scary) about Drawbridge is that it can link a person back to a particular, individually identifiable device rather than just targeting a mobile user by device type. Apps across iOS and Android don’t work on or even register the concept of a cookie, so Drawbridge uses the desktop cookie and, via complex statistical algorithms matches to different devices and form a kind of virtual bridge across which to serve re-targeted ads.
Apparently this technology "allows Drawbridge to draw from vast amounts of anonymous cross-device data to achieve extraordinary precision and granularity. This creates a more relevant and personalized experience for users, improved ROI for advertisers, and better monetization for publishers."
What this means is that a massive database gathers information from an individual's different comms devices and website visits and constructs what is claimed by the company to be a secure profile of a user by monitoring the browser type and device in use and the amount of time spent on different websites.
The company further claims that the data held (and which is added to every millisecond) is entirely anonymised and contains no login details, names, location data or any other private information. Drawbridge reckons that its system is so sophisticated and failsafe that an individual's habits and behaviour on the web are all that it needs to construct a profile and target and re-target him or her very precisely and to track that person across different platforms/devices .
Drawbridge claims that in beta testing with more than 50 companies (including gaming, ecommerce, media and travel sites) it has created profiles "connecting 200 million users". It adds that the number is rising by four million a day and test results show that ad campaigns using the Drawbridge system get between three and ten times the consumer response garnered by traditional online ads.
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