How Merkle Is Navigating The Cross-Device Arms Race

crossdevicePerformance marketing agency Merkle is one of the first agencies to use Google’s cross-device measurement platform, as well as an early strategic partner with Facebook’s Atlas cross-device product.

As such, it has unique insights into what company CSO John Lee refers to as Facebook’s and Google’s “distinct pros and cons,” with the caveat that it’s still early days for cross-device measurement.

Lee sees the two products diverging along the lines of well-traced debates over Facebook’s deterministic audience and Google’s probabilistic intent, the scale of search vs. the precision of social.

Facebook is “further down the road” in terms of individual targeting and custom audience generation, Lee said, and “Facebook’s approach that’s really people-based will win the day vs. Google’s signaling approach.”

However, while Lee likes Facebook’s audience data, he also said that for a client looking to run a scaled performance campaign – from $10 million-$20 million or more – the Google/DoubleClick suite is “clearly more effective.”

Atlas has precision targeting advantages since its identifier hinges on a user login, but Lee said its ad serving is “not nearly as mature.” Google can further differentiate itself through the integration of Adometry, its algorithmic attribution service (and a preferred partner for Merkle since before the attribution firm was acquired last year).

Ruth Kirschner, director of platform sales for Google/DoubleClick, reinforced that point when she told AdExchanger “there are a lot of other providers out there tackling the marriage of data and a single view of the customer,” but what separates Google’s service is “the integration with our stack.”

By contrast, Facebook’s head of Atlas, Erik Johnson, said providing more attribution-level insights in its reporting is “where we’re headed,” but “we want to foster choice.”

Johnson expressed concern over forcing partners, many of whom are engaged with their own third-party attribution providers, to work with Facebook’s own attribution service, or to make budgeting decisions on behalf of advertisers already spending on the platform, which is a common contention with Adometry.

According to Lee, Google and Facebook’s dominance as advertising vehicles “provides cover” for third-party data and measurement restrictions that the market is likely to phase out in time.

With the world’s three most popular websites (Google, Facebook and YouTube) and the world’s most popular apps (all 12 apps that have crossed the 1 billion download threshold in the Play Store come from either Google or Facebook), Lee said he doesn’t anticipate change until one or the other feels someone “nipping at their heels.”

Lee said the scales could eventually tip, making it worthwhile for Facebook to allow marketers to use its custom audiences as a kind of CRM that can be applied to campaigns across open exchanges.

“Between Facebook and Google,” he said, “at some point I have to think that will be a competitive advantage.”

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