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Is the mobile tracking issue improving?

Tracking mobile users presents several challenges for marketers, a fact that threatens to hamper growth in mobile marketing. Several recent developments promise to address these issues and to open the door for more effective mobile ads.

It is clear that the industry understands the need for better tracking methods if mobile is to grab a bigger portion of marketing budgets. This is why, over the past couple of months there have been several advancements, such as a new identifier for iOS 6, a unified view of Web and mobile audiences from comScore and a new targeting method from upstart Adelphic,

?The gap between mobile?s share of online minutes and ad spend isn?t only down to tracking difficulties, but tracking is definitely a barrier,? said Andrew Shebbeare, founding partner and chief strategist at Essence Digital, New York.

?I?ve lost track of the number of times a client has ditched a mobile effort because of measurement difficulty or ROI skepticism,? he said.

?I think that answering that challenge is key to driving up eCPMs in mobile for publishers. The medium dictates that more ads are not the answer - we need better ads.?

Replacing the UDID
Advertising on mobile is a growing business dependent in part on the ability of marketers to measure the success of their efforts so they can determine ROI and optimize campaigns. However, because of mobile?s relative immaturity compared to desktop advertising and issues related to privacy, tracking users in mobile has been a thorn in many a marketer?s side.

Recent developments meant to address some of these problems include the new Advertising Identifier introduced with iOS 6. It is supposed to replace the UDID, which, although widely used, has increasingly been a focus of privacy concerns.

The new Advertising Identifier tries to addresses some of the concerns with UDIDs by being a non-permanent, non-personal device identifier.

Another development is the introduction of a new unified view of Web, smartphone and tablet audiences from comScore. The beta release of Media Metric Multi-Platform in the United States hopes to provide better audience measurements for publishers that better represents the shift toward mobile for digital media consumption using proprietary methods that account for multi-platform audience overlap.

In some cases, the overall audience increases for media properties with a strong mobile presence are substantial, potentially making it easier for them to sell mobile ads.

There is also a new player on the scene called Adelphic Mobile, which claims to use a combination of targeting techniques and data-collection to identify mobile users. The company recently raised $10 million in a new round of funding lead by Google Ventures.

A great view
At issue for marketers, which for direct response or brand efforts in the mobile space, is how to gain the most complete view of mobile users. In general, there is a need for cross-platform approaches, which are starting to emerge.

?Right now there is no getting away from the fact that every technology has gaps in coverage, and limitations in scope,? Mr. Shebbeare said. ?The solutions we?re most excited by are the ones that bridge technologies to deliver the most complete view across the many user journeys we need to answer for in mobile.?

Mr. Shebbeare also points to the emergence of cross-publisher platforms as a step in the right direction.

However, there needs to be more unified solutions from ad-serving companies in order to move mobile advertising ahead even further.

?I?m expecting to see the major ad serving players start to offer unified solutions,? Mr. Shebbeare said.

?That?s good for everyone, because they are trusted by advertisers and understood by marketers, so they can play a really useful consolidation role,? he said.

?When this starts to happen - hopefully through 2013 - I think we?ll see more standardization of measurement practices in mobile.?

Beyond cookies
One strategy for providing a better view of mobile users that Essence is taking with its clients is to bring IP addresses into the measurement mix, especially for campaigns that span devices. Done correctly, such a strategy can help prove mobile?s contribution.

?With the right selection parameters, we see this as a potential solution to the cross-device challenge - for a user watching connected TV, a Wi-Fi connected tablet is the most likely conversion point,? Mr. Shebbeare said. ?We are increasingly able to tie those events together, and to design robust experiments that prove the incremental lift we?re generating.

?Of course this whole question is not really about mobile at all,? he said. ?It?s about your phone but also your console, your set top-box, your tablet, your ereader and quite possibly your computer as well.

?Cookies are a shrinking part of an increasingly complex equation, and we all need to be ready to work with hybrid technologies.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York