Programmatic Media Buying 101: All About Cross-Device

Programmatic Media Buying 101: All About Cross-Device

ComScore reports that in 2008, only 12% of the 2.7 hours spent online per day in the US was spent on mobile devices. In 2015, that number soared up to 51%. But that doesn’t mean people are spending less time on desktop – in fact, online time spent on desktop also increased. Mobile hasn’t taken time spent online away from desktop or laptop computers – it’s increased the overall time spent online which went from 2.7 hours per day in 2008 to 5.6 hours in 2016. 

What Does “Cross-Device” Mean for Programmatic?cross-device marketing

Nielsen reports that the average U.S. consumer has 4 connected devices. For today’s digital market, this means that a cross-device campaign connects people, not devices.  Individually targeting devices results in a divided media spend and a reduced return on investment. In order for DSPs, or Demand Side Platforms, to run cross-device campaigns, they must either develop or partner with a vendor to map their data to a cross-device ID. This ID is developed by collecting device map data that anonymously matches billions of PCs, tablets and smartphones to their individual users.

How Does Cross-Device Work?

cross-device ID programmaticThere are 2 known methods for collecting cross device data and matching the individual users to their devices:


  • Deterministic Matching – connects user login information from apps and websites. Deterministic identification is more accurate. Companies like Facebook can track users without using any personally identifiable information (PII) by recognizing when a person has logged on to a site from different devices using the same name and password.
  • Probabilistic Matching – algorithmically analyzes thousands of different anonymous data points, like device type, operating system, time of day and so on. Employing analytics to guess that a smartphone user is the same as a desktop user is becoming increasingly popular. Though not a perfect science, this enables marketers to determine which user probably belongs to which device, without raising the privacy questions that tracking cookies do.


Cross Device Delivery

When marketers are unable to recognize consumers across all their devices, they’re not only faced with targeting challenges — but they also are faced with the challenge of losing out on data and insights as well as attribution tracking.

The cross-device ID allows marketers to target the same user across multiple screens with near-perfect precision. This provides consumers with a more relevant experience and increases the chance that they’ll convert.

With cross-device targeting, brands are now able to tap into more available knowledge, enabling them to create better, more engaging marketing campaigns.

Reporting & Datacross-device reporting

Not only can marketers target the same user across multiple devices, but they can also retarget users switching devices. This allows for them to collect better data coverage of users — as the data gained from mobile apps can support desktop web targeting and vice versa.

Essentially, think of cross-device marketing as if it were a loyalty card that treats every customer or prospect like a VIP by recognizing them every time they connect.


Just like programmatic advertising meets the demands of a growing industry, cross-device targeting meets the ways in which consumers spend time online — in or out of the home, however they connect, wherever they are.

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