How to Employ Cross-Device Targeting Without Losing the Big Picture

By Team Writer - Last Updated on December 10, 2019
cross device targeting and tracking

Guest Contribution by Julian Baring, GM, Adform

People have long lamented the role of screens in society. In the 1980s, books like Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” and Jerry Mander’s “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” complained that TV was a menace. The intelligentsia agreed: Technology was to be feared.

Not much has changed today. But while we might bemoan our attachment to our devices, we continue to introduce more of them into our lives. Looking ahead to 2025, Cisco projects that the number of networked devices is expected to climb to 75 billion. Of course, marketers must prepare for this continued proliferation. But more importantly, they should think about how they can employ tactics that cause less lament and more celebration of the role of technology within our daily existences. 

The Peril and Power of More Devices

With today’s glut of devices, advertisers face even more challenges in getting their messages seen and heard. There are more screens, more ads and more competition for consumer attention. The more complex the ecosystem and number of devices, the more important advertising becomes as a way to help consumers find interesting products. There are also more opportunities to connect with potential customers than ever before, and we can’t underestimate the role of technology in finding new ways to identify users across this cavalcade of devices.

Say that you wanted to target a 40-something male. As a data-driven marketer, you would likely have some identifying information from his desktop and some from his phone. Ideally, you’d be able to pool data from both to create a better composite picture and target messaging accordingly. That is the goal of cross-device marketing, and its superpowers include:

More Insights:

Marketers appreciate the idea of cross-device targeting because it allows them to learn more about their target customers. For instance, an auto brand may be able to intuit that a desktop user is in the market by his browsing. But without the association of a device with the demographics and behavior of the user’s device, it’s hard to tell whether or not he is actively visiting dealerships. That data is an additional signal to automakers to target ads to this person because he is likely to make a purchase soon. 

Better Stories and Ads: 

Aside from heightened targeting abilities, cross-device targeting lets marketers tell stories across a wider canvas than in the past. If a consumer shows interest in a particular product, you can show her more ads for that product. Most consumers prefer this approach compared to untargeted, irrelevant advertising. In fact, IAB research has shown that three out of four consumers prefer ads that are fewer in number but more appropriately personalized.

Fresher Messaging:

Finally, cross-device targeting fights ad fatigue. Ad fatigue occurs when consumers get overexposed to the same ads. Inevitably, they develop a negative feeling toward the ads. At that point, advertisers need to pull away to preserve their reputations. In addition, capping the frequency of ads saves advertisers money that they’d otherwise spend on ineffective advertising.

Target People, Not Devices:

Of course, advertisers should remember that although cross-device targeting is an effective tactic, what they’re really using the devices for is to connect with real-life customers. Ideally, a sequence of ads should charm an individual while making them aware of a particular offering.

It’s easy to get so mired in the minutiae of the possibilities of cross-device targeting that we can forget the end goal: to win over a customer. To do so, there needs to be steady messaging, but not so much that it overwhelms a consumer—just enough to let them know what you’re offering and sway them to think of it positively. As the number of devices the average consumer carries continues to grow, that goal should remain front and center.


Julian Baring is Adform’s General Manager – Americas, based in New York and has more than 20 years of digital media experience. He started his career in agencies at BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi before co-founding travel-site and riding the dotcom wave all the way to the bottom. Julian has worked across the UK, US and APAC in senior executive roles at Vodafone, Operative, Facilitate Digital and most recently, Adslot. He has an MBA from Oxford University and a BA in history from Brown University and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children.

Team Writer

Team Writer | is an ambitious publication dedicated to the evolving landscape of marketing and technology in business and in life. We are dedicated to sharing unbiased information, research, and expert commentary that helps executives and professionals stay on top of the rapidly evolving marketplace, leverage technology for productivity, and add value to their knowledge base.

Team Writer

Team Writer | is an ambitious publication dedicated to the evolving landscape of marketing and technology in business and in life. We are dedicate...

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