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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Email Never Lies

Tell me lies
Tell me sweet little lies
(Tell me lies, tell me, tell me lies)
Oh, no, no you can't disguise
(You can't disguise, no you can't disguise)
Tell me lies
Tell me sweet little lies
- Little Lies by “Fleetwood Mac”

There’s a considerable amount of lying in the world of digital advertising. Unintentional…yes, however lies nonetheless. The lies being told are about your identity. Advertisers, who are looking to target specific audiences online, are being misled about who you are, what you’re shopping for and what you’re interested in. Which is why most of us have been targeted and served ads that make absolutely no sense based on who we “actually” are.

So who’s telling these lies? Cookies…cookies are like your local weatherman, if they’re accurate 50% of the time they’re doing a good job. Explained perfectly in this Digiday article “The Big Data Accuracy Myth”. It’s not that cookies are pathological; they’re just not very good at telling the truth. In the “Desktop” web, technology companies, publishers and advertisers heavily rely upon cookies to reach targeted audiences. Unfortunately the cookie by its very nature is not a highly reliable signal. Why? It’s quite simple, the way people use PC’s is vastly different from they way they use say Tablets or Smartphones.

Just think of the PC at your home…does it have more than one user? My wife and I both use the same PC at home as well as the same browser…so when I’m browsing the web, who am I? And when my wife browses, who is she? Can a cookie tell us apart? If my wife was on a designer shoe site, will an advertiser re-target me when I hop on to check the score of the Mets game? These are the little lies being told on the web. Advertisers are missing their mark because there’s just no way cookies can be 100% accurate.

In a world full of lies, who can you trust? Email…you can trust email. Email is something that is personal and unique to each one of us. Email is as personal to us as our Facebook account or social security number. And while I share many things with my wife; the computer, the television even dessert sometimes….I do not share my email account with her. Nor does she share hers with me and I suspect that this probably sounds very familiar to most. You just don’t share you email with anyone, it’s yours, period. Which makes it the perfect attribute for targeting because there is a 1:1 relationship between an email address and its owner. So whatever data you have stored against that particular email address now becomes the basis for how you segment and target and subsequently increases your accuracy two fold.

And as mobile continues to eat the world; the email address becomes increasingly important. Without the use of UDID’s and the overall decline of 3rd party cookies, mobile is scrambling to find a unique identifier that can be used to target consumers.  In a recent AdMonsters piece, “ID Is Key: Unlocking Mobile Tracking & Cross-Device Measurement, Part I” James Lamerti GM and VP of AdTruth had the following to say:

"Mobile inventory is less valuable than desktop because it's very difficult to build audience in mobile – we simply have no identification layer," say James Lamberti GM and VP of AdTruth. "We need the ability to speak to advertisers and confidently say, 'Here is my mobile inventory, here are my heavy travelers, here are males 18 to 25, here luxury brand buyers, etc.'"

The thing is…an identification layer already exists; it’s called the email address. And oh yeah….email is the app people access on their smartphones the most. A match made in heaven wouldn’t you say?  More people have email accounts than Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest combined. It’s cemented its status as the unique identifier of the web and if you’re not using it to target, you’re being lied to…