Device targeting for advertising: what you need to know

With the rapid growth of 'digital media time' spent on mobile, it is now extremely important to make sure that the ads reach the right people at the right time. The majority of ad budgets are now spent on carefully targeted rather than wide-reaching campaigns intended for anyone. Device detection is an essential ingredient to make this possible.

Companies measure the accuracy of their ad targeting

According to a study by Forbes Insights and Quantcast, over 50% of companies surveyed spend more than half of their ad budgets on targeted campaigns and 84% expect budgets on targeting to increase in the near future.

Interestingly, according to the research, half the companies don't just allocate budgets on targeting ads but also check that their campaigns actually reach the targeted audience. The most common ways of validation include customer surveys and third-party validation services, such as comScore or Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings.

How device detection fits in the ad tech space

The fact that a lot of brands have an excellent understanding of how targeting works means that more accurate and granular targeting techniques are required to stay on top in the ad tech business. A solution for detecting all devices is necessary for every piece of the ad tech puzzle, including DSPs (advertisers and ad agencies), ad exchange platforms (marketplaces), and SSPs (publishers).

From an advertiser’s perspective, more granular device targeting options make it possible to reach a carefully selected audience that is the most likely to engage with the ads. It is also important to ensure that the ads actually work and look great on target devices.

From an ad tech provider’s point of view, accurate and up-to-date device data minimizes the margin of error in terms device targeting, especially new models that can get widely popular overnight. Building and maintaining your own device detection method for this purpose is a time-consuming effort that is prone to errors in the form of misdetections.

In the RTB (Real-Time Bidding) environment, a device detection solution should be deployed locally in order to take advantage of the highest speeds and the lowest server footprint available (see the short guide to choosing between cloud and local device detection).

How device detection works

Device detection solutions, such as DeviceAtlas, typically work by parsing User-Agent (UA) strings which is the standard way for the device to “introduce” itself to the server. They analyse UA strings and then look them up using high-speed APIs to return any property for any device. In order to detect devices, sometimes it is necessary to analyze other HTTP headers as well.

Which device properties should be available for ad targeting and campaign reporting

Device targeting and campaign reporting can be as detailed as the number of data points available. In terms of today’s standards, it is essential to support targeting using at least the following properties:

  • Device type (which can get as granular as IoT, smart TVs, cameras, game consoles, etc.)
  • Mobile operating system and mobile browser
  • Screen size and screen resolution
  • Device make and model (e.g. Apple iPhone 6)
  • Carrier identification and connectivity level
  • Device year of release (e.g. targeting the newest devices available)
  • Device capabilities such as NFC, LTE band, etc.

According to the DeviceAtlas Mobile Web Reports, device fragmentation is still an issue and it is growing rapidly. There are hundreds of different screen resolutions and diagonal screen sizes, from a 4-inch phone (iPhone SE), to a massive 5.7-inch phablet (Samsung Galaxy Note). There are now over 1,000 device manufacturers producing phones and tablets.

With an accurate, high-speed, low server footprint device detection solution, it is possible for ad tech players to provide advertisers with a great understanding of today's complex device landscape, so that they know exactly where their ad dollars are spent.

Add device awareness to your platform

All advertising and web analytics solutions need a high-speed, accurate, low server footprint solution to detect devices.

For this purpose you can use DeviceAtlas device detection available as a locally-deployed solution.

Learn more

Related tags


Ad TargetingRTB