The Science of the Device Co-Op: How We Measure Multi-Screen Audience Activity

As a marketer, you’re keenly aware of the value of delivering the right message to the right audience. Controlling and optimizing the reach and frequency of your message to your audiences has been drilled in your head so much you can probably recite the optimal frequency required to move your customers from consideration to intent or intent to purchase. You probably even know the point where creative fatigue sets in for your audiences. Reach and frequency is so fundamental to advertising and marketing it’s taught in Advertising 101 courses at universities throughout the country every year. It even forms the basis of the GRP calculation, which powers somewhere around $75 billion dollars of TV advertising in the U.S. on an annual basis.

Yet, when it actually comes to controlling reach and frequency in the real world, good luck. Accurately controlling who sees your ad and how often they see it is a challenge to say the least. Even when you move away from the mostly panel-based measurement of TV and go to a more digital and census-based platform, tracking a viewer across multiple devices is a nightmare. Marketers are desperate for a service that accurately maps devices to individuals and lets them control their reach and frequency. Fortunately, we’ve created a solution to this challenge: the Adobe Device Co-op.

We launched the Adobe Marketing Cloud Cross-Device Co-op last year. Now, more than ever, companies need to focus on people-based marketing and give consumers a consistent experience. In the last year, we’ve made strides with our partners in doing just that. These efforts could serve as a model for how brands and media companies can regain control over their data and establish a one-on-one relationship with their customers.

Adobe’s Device Co-op: power in numbers

We can do more with audience targeting today than we could a decade ago, but it still isn’t yet sophisticated enough to give us a unified view of the customer across devices.

As my colleague Jon Viray put it, “It’s not that we don’t have the right product, we don’t have the right context.” As marketers, we sometimes bombard consumers with messages they don’t need and “with products that solve problems they don’t have.” Simply understanding a customer’s behavior on one device doesn’t give brands the ability to deliver true personalization, especially considering that the average customer owns more than three devices.

But, the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op, a program built around the Adobe Experience Cloud, addresses the issues marketers now face in this fragmented ecosystem.

The Co-op allows participating Adobe customers to recognize customer devices that are linked so they can provide a consistent experience across channels. Let’s say a consumer visits a travel company’s website on her phone and desktop, but never registers or logins. That company wouldn’t be able to link that person to both devices, forfeiting valuable information about that consumer and her preferences they could use for retargeting or sending personalized offers. But, if that same consumer logins into a clothing retailer’s website on her phone and then on her desktop, that retailer would be able to link the consumer to both devices. Now, with Adobe’s Device Co-op, companies who participate in the program can share these device links in a privacy-friendly way.

Devices don’t buy products, people do, so brands need to be able to reconcile identity across different devices. The Co-op gives brands access to more robust data sources that can be used to effectively target consumers across mobile devices, desktops, and the web by pooling aggregate data and linking datasets from different Adobe customers who use its Analytics, Audience Manager, Advertising Cloud or Target products into a single graph. Everything is done in a very privacy-forward way with each customer’s buy-in — the Co-op anonymously looks at how different devices are related and which ports link to the Co-op’s members. Adobe essentially acts as a central governance player within the Co-op, sharing all the data collected back to all the participants so they can reap value from what they’ve contributed and share people-based metrics they can leverage to add relevance and personalization to the customer experience.

The Adobe difference

We can link up to an estimated 1.7 billion devices globally and are steadily expanding this capacity as we’ve reached a co-op membership of over 50 members and growing. Not many cross-device solutions have this capability, but what also differentiates us from the broader market is our ability to offer a deterministic scale.

Adobe’s customers have a significant collective digital footprint, and pooling all those resources together allows us to take much of the guesswork out of who the customer is and what his or her preferences are. Most companies want to do deterministic linkages, but lack the skill to do it, so we’re fortunate that through our customer base, we can work on a very deterministic basis.

Our device graph helps customers overcome three major challenges when it comes to tracking and measuring multi-screen activity:

Scale: A device graph is only effective if it’s robust. Our device graph offers enough scale to truly understand consumers across applications. A system that only shows a certain population isn’t really useful across every customer’s particular business case, but our device graph addresses this challenge. We have a wealth of device link information from participating Adobe customers that you can feed into your marketing data.

Accuracy: We offer the most accurate cross-device graph. It starts with deterministic data on scale sourced from not one source, but all the Co-op member brands. This creates an overlapping lattice of data that gives the Co-op the ability to sort signal from noise joining the devices. From there, Device Co-op blends the best probabilistic sources atop its deterministic strength. While four of five links are made deterministically, the combination of both algorithm and hard links blends to create a superior result. Finally, we test against Analytics and Audience Manager data — providing not just a product, but also a truth set that leads the market.

Transparency: Clarity about what’s happening around co-op systems is generally lacking, so it’s important that all the companies involved ━ and consumers ━ understand who is participating and where the collective data is coming from.

With the Device Co-op, we took a strong stance on consumer advocacy, education, and privacy. We actually built and managed our own centralized opt-out tool, which is written in simple language that is easy for any consumer to understand and access. All companies that participate in our network are required to use this tool. We also don’t allow individual brands to morph the data, which is why we manage everything holistically. All these efforts have allowed us to take a huge leap forward in advancing the rights of consumers, while giving brands the data they need to drive profitability and deeper customer engagement.

Within the cross-device landscape, we’ve seen an increasing shift of companies embracing this more holistic, central governance role, which can drive significant value for brands who want to understand and take advantage of other datasets.

Co-ops are giving brands the capability to do something that is increasingly important in today’s fragmented advertising ecosystem: take control of their data and their own identity assets. Brands fundamentally want to be able to control identity in a centralized way so they can better engage the customer across channels and platforms. Adobe’s Cross-Device Co-op provides that level of control.

It’s clear that companies crave better cross-device solutions. Our Co-Op will continue to nurture this appetite and empower brands and media companies to own their data and their customer relationships.

Read more stories in our blog series on Advanced Advertising or learn more about Adobe’s solutions for Media & Entertainment here.