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Adobe will track you across all your devices with new co-op project

Everyone loves flinging their data into our marketing machine, says firm

Adobe has announced what it calls "cross-device co-operation" at its Summit digital marketing event under way in Las Vegas.

The goal, said Adobe Target Director Kevin Lindsay, is to "provide the ability, through all our marketing solutions, for marketers to be able to market to their consumers as people rather than as separate devices. Typically this is viewed as a cross-device problem. How do I take this group of devices and treat them as the person they actually represent?”

This task is easy for large firms such as Google and Facebook, since users are generally logged in across all their devices, but not so much for those using other marketing channels.

Adobe's solution is to create a "co-op" from the businesses using its marketing solutions.

"Each of these brands has a piece of the puzzle," said Lindsay. "Take two brands that will be members of the Adobe co-op. One brand sees a login, another doesn’t. The co-op communicates one piece of data alone, that those two devices are linked. The co-op can link up to 1.2 billion devices worldwide."

The company is offering several privacy safeguards. It does not share data about the person using each device, only that one or more devices are linked. In addition, a co-op member only receives information about devices it has already seen. "It doesn’t give you information about new devices," said Lindsay.

"What’s more, every cooperative member is required to host a link to an Adobe-created opt-out," he added, "at which point they can see all the devices linked to the one they are visiting from, as well as all the participating brands. Finally they may opt out their devices."

The initial roll-out will be in the US and Canadian markets, with the rest of the world to follow.

How will marketers make use of this new information?

"The value is realised through the Adobe marketing cloud solutions," said Lindsay. Four of Adobe's cloud-based marketing tools will be enhanced, these being Adobe Analytics, Media Optimizer, Audience Manager and Adobe Target. For example, in Target, "offers can be customized for consumers across their various devices."

Separately, Adobe is opening APIs for marketing products including Target so that developers can create custom solutions, via a new resource site called Adobe.io. "We’ve exposed APIs that allow our customers to do any number of things from multi-variant testing with a custom campaign management portal, or something like targeting within an Apple Watch app, or a refrigerator or some other kind of IoT device," said Lindsay.

Adobe's co-op initiative will be welcomed by marketers and will do a tiny bit to level the playing field with Facebook and Google, with whom our privacy is already thoroughly compromised. It is not such good news for the privacy or security conscious, since it means more data shared with advertisers. Although linking devices sounds a small thing, it is a thread from which marketers can make other links, potentially including location.

According to an Adobe survey published today, most consumers are only too happy to share their data.

"Consumers are becoming more comfortable sharing info for a more personalised experience," it declares, with that level of comfort being greater the younger they are. 75 per cent of millennials welcome "having apps automatically personalized to fit my needs and interests", compared to just 46 per cent of those 55 and older, we're told.

Whether consumers fully understand the implications of data sharing is a different question – and is hard to answer, since the risks are difficult to quantify.

Where will Adobe store device linking data? "We'll get into the storage details as we get closer to launch", said Adobe's chief privacy officer MeMe Rasmussen. What about privacy protection in Europe, now that the validity Safe Harbor privacy principles are in doubt?

"We're still looking into Safe Harbor," said Rasmussen.

Questions remain, then, but Adobe's move is yet another advance for targeted marketing – even, perhaps, to your refrigerator. ®

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