A Call To Mobile Browsers

tomdelsauniersData-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 Tom Desaulniers, co-founder and president at Go2mobi.

The mobile ad space is in transition. Mobile programmatic is exploding and global spend is at an all-time high. That has created a lucrative industry where the technology is getting smarter and the ad industry is following suit – with one exception.

The attribution problem is not a new one, and many would argue that there is a current solution available: cookie-based attribution. An alarming 91% of marketers still depend on cookie-based tracking that is probabilistically matched to identify mobile users, according to eMarketer.

But targeting across mobile web and desktop by probabilistically matching cookies is only a short-term solution. Cookie-based data and probabilistic methods are not good enough to create reliable persona-based audience targeting techniques on mobile platforms.

Apps, which take up almost 90% of users’ mobile time, already pass the unique advertising ID as a matter of protocol but mobile browsers do not. Mobile browsing still makes up an important part of the consumer journey, but without the advertising ID we’re mostly left in the dark.

Mobile browsers still use cookies for probabilistic matching and cookies do not work for advertisers or consumers in any way. Not only are cookies unreliable for advertisers, they’re not easily understood or accessible by consumers. Overall, cookies are a lose-lose situation within the ad world.

There is a better solution available if mobile web browsers would consider passing the advertising ID.


In today’s marketplace, every device comes with an identifier that allows developers and marketers to track activity for advertising purposes. These identifiers are then used by advertisers and publishers to create and run relevant marketing campaigns. Today, the identifier for advertising (IDFA) and the Google advertising ID (AAID) are the two big players in mobile application inventory bid requests.

Because mobile browsers are essentially apps themselves – and are exposed to the security concerns of the open web – the best solution to cross-device attribution would be for mobile web browsers to use and pass the advertising IDs in the same way that mobile apps do.

That’s because apps get users’ device IDs with permission during the download process. On the mobile web, mobile browsers can likely access users’ IDs but don’t expose them to publishers because users haven’t granted access for each website they’ve visited. If browsers were willing, mobile web publishers could begin asking consumers to share their device IDs to better customize each experience, including advertising.

Advertisers would get a persistent and fully anonymous ID that would allow them to deliver real value by serving more relevant and timely ads to their consumers. This focus on relevance would come at a great time.

A New Standard

Over the past few months, the topic of ad blocking has been everywhere. Will consumers continue to use mobile ad blockers? Are they at their breaking point? What will the publishers do?

Questions aside, one thing is proving to be true: Consumers are fed up with irrelevant and disruptive advertisements, and this frustration has only supported the rise in ad-blocking technology.

Using IDFA and AAID in mobile browsers could help the currently uneasy consumer-marketer relationship.

First, cross-device attribution using IDFA and AAID would create a high level of certainty that marketers have never been able to achieve. Instead of depending on probabilistic matching, marketers would be able to confidently map the consumer journey through multiple mobile-first data sources. With such an accurate and multidimensional view of the consumer journey, irrelevant and ill-timed advertisements would be a thing of the past.

Beyond that, consumers would finally have some control. IDFA and AAID allow mobile users to easily manage their IDs on their devices by making them untraceable or by refreshing their device IDs any time. They also have the opportunity to opt out of all remarketing by enabling “limit ad tracking,” which restricts advertisers from using the IDFA for advertising.

And while this part may sound bad for the ad industry, according to a recent report by Tune, limit ad tracking is at an all-time low.

So while the industry may have some work to do overall, there are still some opportunities for consistency and accuracy. But, in order to deliver value and keep every aspect of the advertising and consumer relationship alive and well, the industry must stand up and convince the browsers to catch up. Without them, true cross-device attribution will never be completely accurate.

Follow Go2mobi (@go2mobi) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. This industry needs to start looking much more seriously at Blockchain / Sidechain / Distributed Ledgers technology in it’s efforts to wire up the online media supply chain in a more secure manner. Think of all the inefficiencies that could be resolved.

  2. This article implies that exposing and collecting an IDFA/AAID from the browser will remove the need of probabilistic matching. That is only true for mobile browser to app matching, but what about desktop browsers? That is where the focus should really be.