Here’s a nice little video that explains in non-technical (phew) terms how a really important piece of marketing technology works. The technology is called “cross-device tracking.” It’s a way for companies to advertise to consumers in a consistent way regardless of which device they’re browsing on: phone, laptop, desktop, tablet, watch, or virtual reality goggles. OK I’m not sure about the last two items … but if they’re not included yet they will be soon.
In the pre-smartphone reality, advertisers tracked users with a “cookie”— a bit of text that sat on your hard drive (until you cleared your cookies). This allowed, among other things, advertisers to follow you around from one website to the next. You’ve almost certainly had that experience. You visit a new website, and then its products/services follow you around the web in ad format for weeks afterwards. Some privacy advocates get freaked by this, but advertisers tend to find it really useful. We’ve used it for clients (and ourselves) and it’s a good thing.
The reason following people is important has to do with a basic tenet of advertising: frequency. People need to see an ad (or various ads from the same company) several times before it even really registers. And moving people from noticing you to actually purchasing takes even more frequency. And finesse.
But what if a customer (usually a potential customer) first finds you on their phone? Then they go to work and browse on their desktop computer. In the evening they come home and mess around on their iPad. Until now, there wasn’t an easy way to remind to seamlessly target your ads to them. Why? Because you had no “cookie” that lived “between” these devices. So you had no way to know about them from one device to the next.
Several companies are working on solutions to this. One is Drawbridge. They’re actually the sixth fastest growing tech company in the valley according to Silicon Valley Business Journal. They’re clearly doing something right, but this video is a bit odd.
The ad tells a nice story about a young guy who starts his day at home while browsing his tablet and eating breakfast. It’s Valentine’s Day and he sees an ad for a florist.
On his way to work, he see’s another ad on his phone.
As he’s leaving work for the day, he see’s one more ad.
Of course, he then goes and buys some flowers to take to his Valentine, hiding them behind his back as he walks to their house. Cute. And it makes the point. BUT… watch the video. Something key is missing.
The Missing Element
Which florist is he buying from? The one in the ads? Or any old one on his way to his Valentines’ house? Or Sears?!? We don’t know from the video. And while this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it exposes (inadvertently) one of the biggest holes in digital advertising—and advertising in general. The direct link between an ad and an actual (in the case of digital, an offline) sale. It would not have been hard to mockup a storefront, or at least the flower wrapping, with a logo to match the logos in the ads. That would have been a good call. Hole filled!
Also. Dude. Wear a helmet. And lock your bike!
Thanks again Emer for making this post better.