Focus On People, Not The Device

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kurthawks“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Kurt Hawks, general manager of mobile at Conversant.

If I had a dollar for every time a brand asked what percentage of its budget should go to mobile, I’d be a rich man.

We need to stop thinking about smartphone allocations and tablet dollars. When I hear that sort of talk, I must resist the urge to channel my best Charlton Heston impression from the 1973 movie “Soylent Green.”

Soylent Green is people,” he famously says. Well, cross-device is people, too.

In response to the growth in mobile usage, lots of brands started allocating a certain percentage of total digital spending to the channel. Back then, you couldn’t have a comprehensive profile of a user’s activity across all devices or deliver a coordinated campaign across devices. Separate PC and mobile campaigns were the best we could do and were preferable to not reaching people at all on any devices other than a computer.

But times have changed. Brands need to change their strategies with them to unify data across all of their devices to a single anonymized profile. Thanks to advances in user-to-device mapping, it’s now possible to listen to what consumers want across devices. We need to stop thinking about devices and put our focus back where it belongs: on the consumer. Brands must learn to plan and execute programs “person-first.”

Real-Time 360 Insight

We can best reflect the consumer in our marketing by understanding all of their digital behavior, not just PC behavior. Since more than half of the average person’s digital time is spent using smartphones and tablets, as comScore first reported in 2013, brands that only use PC-based data for targeting are missing out on more than 50% of online user activity.

Even if you are planning and buying a campaign for just one channel, you need cross-device behavioral data to identify the best audience and advertising opportunities to reach them. True customer understanding requires that you bring all of the data from PCs, mobile and tablets together in united profiles. Further, it needs to be done quickly before the insights grow too old to be valuable.

Once you understand the user’s behaviors and interests, you need to identify and leverage the best media opportunities to reach, connect and convert. It’s the classic case of being in the right place, at the right time and with the right message. The media exchanges make it easier to reach people in more places, but you need to be able to evaluate the relative merits of an impression in one medium vs. another in order to get the best value for your advertising investment. Real-time profiles are essential here.

Once a program is in place, dig in and uncover both the individual and interconnected value of each channel in conversions. About two-thirds of us start the purchase process on one device but complete it on another, according to a 2013 Google study. Without understanding the role of each channel in the user’s decisions, you can’t make informed decisions on how to optimize future campaigns.

People Vs. Pipes

The device is ultimately a pipe that allows people to consume content. Each pipe is better for some things than others. Phones, for example, are great on the go. PCs rule for content creation. Tablets excel at viewing content.

People expect consistent brands across devices. They want access to information on their terms and on the device they choose. You can’t deliver a great communications strategy if you focus on the screens, instead of the people viewing them.

Such efforts must start with the person. Because cross-device is people.

Follow Conversant (@conversant) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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2 Responses to “Focus On People, Not The Device”


  1. Good piece. It’s absolutely true that the focus needs to be on people rather than on the hardware they happen to be using in a given moment. There are challenges though. First, the fact is that we live and operate in a device-mediated world. Virtually every engagement, interaction and transaction happens though one device or another. Marketers are flying blind without the ability to accurately associate an individual’s behaviors (but not their identities) with a specific device. We’re also in an environment of unprecedented device fluidity. Most people change phones every 12 to 24 months, tablets – especially at the low end – are taking off and wearables are expected to see strong growth in the near term. The result is a patchwork whose pattern that can be very difficult to discern.

    Marketers need to think about connecting with customers as a three-part process:

    They need to be able to know their customer. That means being able to recognize a customer though their device(s). They need to be able to understand their customers. That means being able to append information about a customer with their device to build the best possible picture of them. Finally they need to be engage their customers. This means being able to reach a customer – with a high degree of confidence – regardless of the device being used.

    - Martin Gilliard, General Manager of North America, AdTruth

  2. George Norsig says:

    Agree with this important point-holistic, real- time data. I would like to supplement this point with another- focus on the issues, not just the data. There are powerful structural forces at work that will require creative problem- solving to deal with them effectively- illustrative issues: young peoples' apparent lack of interest in cars(data will help), significant disintermediation of many middlemen between manufacturers and consumers, degradation of service across numerous industries, despite big IT spending. The data alone- even asymmetrical info is crucial, but insufficient. I'm optimistic that over time superior data and creativity will " crosshair"... But we have a way to go.

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