As media strategists, our goal is always to target our client’s desired audience and generate results in an efficient manner. The proliferation of the internet and computing power continues to make this process much more accurate, and I believe we are on the cusp of the next revolution in customer insight.
In the beginning an analyst could pull log files, parse them, and then collect insights about users (browser, OS, etc…) but nothing more about the person that would really be useful from a targeting perspective.
With the introduction of cookies into web communication, browsers were capable of learning cross-site user behavior, websites were able to remember information about returning users, and data companies were able to build audience profiles based on all sorts of data points.
This dramatically improved the ability build useful audience profiles, and in turn, the efficiency of digital campaigns. But as many know, the downside to cookie-based data is that people are suspicious of them, they have a shelf life, and at the end of the day they are eventually deleted.
As an industry we need a more stable data source, and after seeing how a handful of companies are building audience profiles, I believe that IP addresses could be the answer.
What makes it a viable option in my opinion is the shift of local ISPs moving towards more static IP addresses (keep the same address until your router is replaced) and away from dynamic IPs (different address every time you connect), which allows data providers to build long-lasting profiles for a household or business.
Over and above that, each machine that connects to an ISP has a device ID that can be tracked across multiple ISPs. So if a data company sees your device on your home network, and then sees you on wireless networks at airports across the country, we can assume you are a business traveler of sorts.
Similarly, if there are two devices connected to an ISP, one consistently visits G4, IGN, and Gamespot, and the other frequents The Wall Street Journal, Outdoor Life, and Google Finance, we can tell which one should get the video game ad and which one should get the Cadillac ad.
I always forget how frightening all of this is, until I’m talking to someone who doesn’t work in this field like it is no big deal and I can literally see the fear washing over them.
But there’s nothing to be afraid of! We’ll use these powers for good, provide better ads to more qualified customers, and make consumers and clients happy at the same time!