Adobe announces new data-sharing effort for cross-device ad targeting

Adobe unveiled a new push for cross-device targeting today at its Adobe Summit.

Amit Ahuja, the general manager of data management for Adobe Marketing, explained the product to me beforehand, and he laid out the problem in a pretty straightforward manner: “If you don’t know who the user is across different devices, clearly that’s broken.” So at a basic level, the aim of cross-device tracking is to identify when the same person is using multiple devices.

Ahuja acknowledges that Adobe isn’t the first company to address this issue, but he argued that existing approaches are lacking. They generally fall into two categories — you’re either using login information (the “deterministic” approach) or you’re making an educated guess based on user behavior (the “probabilistic” approach).

Using logins sounds a lot more reliable. After all, if someone signs into Facebook from a laptop and then they sign into the same account on their phone, there’s a pretty high chance that both devices are used by the same person. The problem, of course, is that not every company can be Google or Facebook or Amazon. So Ahuja is pitching the new Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op as a way to combine the accuracy of the deterministic approach with the scale of the probabilistic  one.

To achieve this, members of the co-op will share data with each other. So if Company X has been able to use login data to establish that two devices belong to the same person, other members of the co-op take advantage of that fact and tailor their advertising accordingly.

So yes, that means if a business wanted to target ads at you on your laptop, they could now try to reach you on your smartphone, too. The ads can also get smarter in other ways; for example, if you looked at a product on your laptop and then bought it on your tablet, if the advertiser connects those devices, it knows that it’s probably not that useful to bombard you with retargeted ads for something you’ve already purchased.

AdExchanger first wrote about the program last year, when it was hearing rumbles about privacy concerns from potential participants. On the question of privacy, Ahuja noted that advertisers using the Adobe Marketing Cloud will only participate in the program if they explicitly opt in. He also said that no personally identifiable information is being shared about individual users — only the fact that certain devices are associated with each other.