Director of Business Development, Mobile Solutions | TRUSTe
The “Year of Mobile” is finally here! The advertising industry has been predicting this milestone for what seems like the last decade – but I truly think this prognostication could prove correct in 2013. Given the one billion (and growing) smart phones and tablets worldwide (and remarkably high number of hours users spend on these devices) – the potential is certainly there like it’s never been before. Couple the reach with the emerging and increasingly sophisticated geographic, contextual and behavioral targeting capabilities – and marketers surely will want to allocate budgets to reach those audiences.
But before we place any bets in Las Vegas, let’s consider the three big reasons for hesitation by advertisers: attribution, efficacy and privacy. Remember that the desktop display advertising industry is nearly 20 years old – and so are the performance and attribution measures, tracking mechanisms and many of the privacy controls like third party cookie clearing. By contrast, mobile advertising is only about five or six (if we consider the launch of the iPhone in 2007) – and those same standards are not universal, particularly given the Apps vs. Web divide, multiple operating systems and myriad of devices. Mobile clearly has some catching up to do.
Given this gap, the TRUSTe team made a strategic decision to do what we do best: analyze the regulatory, business and technology privacy challenges of mobile ads, and then work with leading industry players to build and deploy a mobile solution that will benefit both consumers and the companies who serve them. After building and quickly scaling the AdChoices program for desktop browsers, we embarked on a mission a year and half ago to replicate the AdChoices program for mobile devices (TRUSTed Mobile Ads). TRUSTe provided additional support by launching the TRUSTed Data Certification, helping ad tech providers to build partner confidence and stay on the right side of regulators. The core purpose of our technologies, as always, remains focused on transparency, choice and privacy by design.
Since the details are what matter in mobile, let’s take a quick look at the technology. Smart phones and tablets are fundamentally different from the desktop web in how they track, identify and target users. For example, the Apple mobile operating system (iOS) allows a number of unique identifiers for apps, and limits the use of third party cookies by having them turned off by default on their widely used Safari web browser. The Google Android operating system allows the use of third party cookies for web, but faces the similar challenge to iOS with apps. Also, the app and mobile web systems operate largely in isolation on each device – so a unified preference setting is difficult. As such, TRUSTe works closely with leading mobile ad companies to determine both the constraints and needs of these devices that use apps and mobile web browsers.
Taking into account these complexities, TRUSTe designed TRUSTed Mobile Ads to provide consumers with transparency into the process of interest-based mobile ads, and choice with respect to the types of ads that they want to receive. The choice can be made from an in-app ad, an ad in mobile web, or within the app settings, and these preferences can be unified across apps and web if the user so chooses.
Furthermore, TRUSTe built this system to work in real-time bidding environments as well as in planned ad campaigns. The system is built to be open and flexible as technology changes and the industry, and the Digital Advertising Alliance’s AdChoices program, evolves. TRUSTed Mobile Ads is now deployed with more than 15 ad networks, exchanges, demand side platforms, sell side platforms, and app publishers – and allows for detailed choices at all levels of the mobile experience.
We have learned first-hand that the relationships between all the players of the mobile ad ecosystem are complex and ever-changing. Companies have many direct and indirect partners, and multiple dependencies exist within the delivery of an ad unit. Providing a flexible solution and easy-to-implement privacy controls of this complex system is our service to our clients and contribution to the mobile ad ecosystem.
Yes, it really could be the “Year of Mobile” – let’s continue to work together to make that a safe bet.