Mobile Advertising IDs, explained

You want to create the best experience possible for your users and make sure they’re getting served with ads they actually care about. That can get tricky on mobile devices.

Enter the MAID.

Mobile Advertising IDs — or MAIDs, for short — are strings of digits assigned to mobile devices. Android assigns them. So does Apple.

If you’re into cooking, news apps use them to float food-related content to the top of your feed. Instagram will use them to serve you ads for blenders. Marketers use them similarly, to target their messaging to folks who actually care.

MAIDs help make the (people-based marketing) world go round

If you’re running a marketing campaign, you need to know what’s working so you can do more of it. Without a reliable way to track user behavior, there’s no way to know if you’re messaging is sticking, and who it’s sticking to.

But with people on so many different devices, and consuming media in so many ways, tracking their behavior over the entire digital landscape can be tricky.

If you’re using MAIDs, and match up someone’s mobile habits with their desktop, connected TV, and even their offline habits, you start to see a fuller picture of who they are and how to market to them.

This is true “people-based marketing,” and MAIDs are an important building block. Think about it: how often do you use your phone? This is important stuff.

There are some things to be aware of

A key to utilizing MAIDs is to have multiple IDs for a given user and to cross-reference it against existing data. You need a partner with a large data pool, to make sure the person you’re seeing… is really the person you’re seeing.

Don’t forget about privacy. We’ve talked a lot about the need for app developers, publications, and marketers to be honest with people about how they use their data. This extends to mobile IDs. There are no uniform regulations around how marketers use mobile user IDs (there should be), but here’s a tip: be transparent.

If you’re using MAIDs to better understand user behavior or to target advertising to people, be honest about it. Include it in your terms of service if you’re an app developer or news website. Do the same if you’re a marketer. Offer people plenty of opportunities to opt in or opt out of how you use their data. With laws like GDPR already in place and California’s privacy law soon to be enacted, being less than 100 percent honest with people about how you use their data is no longer an option (and really, it never was).

A valuable tool in the kit

You need to know what people are looking at your ads, even if they’re using different devices. The days of people only seeing your message from a single screen are over (and have been over for, I don’t know, decades?)

You need to know who someone is, and then resolve their identity across multiple devices. If you have MAIDs, and can then link that MAID to other identifiers across devices, you get a full picture of who someone is and what they want.

At that point, you’re no longer marketing to devices. You’re marketing to people.

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