Why Google And Facebook Won’t End The Need For Probabilistic Cross-Device Pairing

deterministicgorillasThe CEOs of Tapad, Drawbridge and 4INFO will appear at AdExchanger’s Omni.Digital conference on Sept. 10, an event designed to educate marketers on advanced solutions for building seamless cross-channel brand experiences.

It would seem that Facebook, Google and a very short list of others with access to login data at scale have cross-device cinched.

But it’s not as simple as that, said Are Traasdahl, CEO of Tapad, a company that uses a combination of deterministic and probabilistic matches to power its device graph.

“The fully deterministic players are not open and do not share their data with the rest of the ecosystem,” Traasdahl said.

Scale is another major factor, said Drawbridge CEO and founder Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, noting that the inherent Achilles’ heel of deterministic solutions is the fact that their effectiveness is tethered to the size of their respective user base.

“Probabilistic relies on technology and algorithms that push the limits of machine learning to build truly elegant solutions,” she said. “I would argue that probabilistic is ultimately more suited to real-world applications than deterministic methods.”

Below, Traasdahl, Sivaramakrishnan and Tim Jenkins, the CEO of 4INFO, muse on the question: Why and how is probabilistic relevant in a world populated by 800-pound deterministic gorillas?

Are Traasdahl, CEO and founder, Tapad

There are three reasons probabilistic has an important role in cross-device solutions.

No. 1: Openness. Our industry consists of large brands, large agencies, marketing cloud companies, marketing tech companies, ad tech companies, etc. It’s a vibrant ecosystem and each participant is in need of a common cross-screen identity technology.

No. 2: Scale. Conservatively, we assume 180 million people in the US are on two or more devices. Of course, many of those people who are logged in are on social media, but, more likely than not, they are posting from just one of their devices with 75 other tabs simultaneously open. This doesn’t even factor in traditional TV, which has almost no social login.

Given this reality, I don’t believe any company has cross-screen login data for that many consumers – and definitely not from within their own ecosystem. It’s more likely that they can reach 40 [million] to 50 million people across screens. For most marketers, that’s still not enough.

Bottom line: Scale becomes increasingly meaningful the closer you get to the 180 million number, and it’s hard to see how any deterministic player gets there.

No. 3: Accuracy. True cross-device insight requires a combined approach, where algorithms predict connections based on probability and then test accuracy with privacy safe deterministic data. This gets you to very high accuracy levels, achieves scale and, when done right, fosters a healthy, thriving market for the entire industry.

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, CEO and founder, Drawbridge

Deterministic is obviously highly accurate, since the data comes directly from the consumer. However, now we’re seeing probabilistic solutions being independently verified at over 90% accurate. This shows that probabilistic has indisputably arrived as a capable method of determining cross-device identity.

In terms of potential scale, probabilistic wins, hands down. Any deterministic platform will be limited by the size of its user base. Against all but the very largest of platforms (i.e., Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Google), probabilistic will win on scale because these limitations don’t exist.

However, if we compare Facebook’s mobile users against mobile-only users for Q1 and Q2, their cross-device reach is shrinking. This increasing single-device behavior will be a problem for even the “800-pound deterministic gorillas” as they try to solve for cross-device applications, such as attribution.

The final point is around the democratization of data. The notion of “walled gardens” stems from the fact that the consumer identity is not owned by the marketers – it resides within those environments. Probabilistic, and its inherent openness, enables marketers to truly own the consumer relationship.

Tim Jenkins, CEO, 4INFO

The implied question is: What value do other ad tech platforms bring that you can’t get from one of the dominant players?

Working exclusively with an “800-pound gorilla” doesn’t give you a 360-degree view of or access to prospects and customers. Marketers should work with multiple sources and reach people at all the touchpoints along the customer journey. Big players dominate in certain activities that people do on their mobile devices, but not all of them.

Worse, you end up with a one-dimensional, restricted view of your customer without yielding rich data from interacting across multiple applications, locations and times during the entirety of the customer journey. This, of course, assumes that you even get the data, which big players often do not share with advertisers.

Advertisers risk losing control over pricing and data in a world operated by just one or two players. You’ll be contributing all of your customer interactions to build someone else’s business, while suffering from rising media costs and declining ad effectiveness.

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