ID or Not to ID: Mobile Tracking Demystified

Everyone is talking about mobile IDs but often in discussions, many people are not really sure what they are referring to and why mobile IDs are so much more complicated than online.  Advertisers hear that data and audience targeting are not really possible in mobile, a half-truth that prevents them from tapping into a growing wealth of information that is present and useful for advertisers targeting their audiences.

Much of the uncertainty around mobile IDs versus cookies is that mobile IDs are tied to the actual device.  IDs are persistent and can’t be deleted.  They can only be replaced with the purchase of a new device, whereas cookies can be expired and deleted by the user.  The persistency and permanency of the ID is what has the media and consumers up in arms: Permanency equals bad; temporary equals good (or at least acceptable).  Further complicating the targeting issue is Apple’s news of deprecating the UDIDs on Apple devices, originating from Apple 1) never intending to allow for cookies to be placed on Apple devices and 2) not offering up any other solution for advertisers to buy media within the parameters that are consistent with online practices.

There are several targeting options coming to market including using the Mac address and Open UDID.  The former is not really any different than a permanent UDID.  The Open UDID, being backed by 17 mobile companies, is more of a temporary ID copy and paste approach..

Overall, it is still unclear whether Apple will assist the industry by addressing tracking, or whether Google will push its own standards forward.  From DataXu’s point of view, adapting quickly allows us the opportunity to understand the challenges of identifying users and working with all kinds of technologies to help advertisers hone in on their audience.   With all of the options and the unclear backing by any big players, there is too much risk to pick the wrong solution — creating more fragmentation in the market.  The real solution is to understand what we can about the users and not tie it to a device but how they interact with media.