AT&T Readies Trove of Data for Cross-Channel Ad Targeting

AT&T AdWorks, a burgeoning advertising network that reaches across mobile, online, and television, is entering the next phase in cross-channel ad targeting. AT&T AdWorks Blueprint is essentially a new algorithm developed by the storied AT&T Labs to comb through the company’s troves of data to improve segmentation and provide marketers with greater ability to target specific audiences across its platforms.

Few companies can fully understand the unmet potential that these changes could bring to digital advertising like AT&T, says Maria Mandel Dunsche, VP of marketing and media innovation at AT&T AdWorks. “AT&T is one of the largest digital ad spenders in the world,” she tells ClickZ. “Over time, what that gives us is a very broad and deep sense of what users are doing.”

AT&T hopes to lure more ad spend its way by increasing the amount of data it holds on its customers and applying the Blueprint algorithm to gain deeper insights for the purpose of more relevant and efficient ads. The new platform can be overlaid with third-party data from other providers, and while Mandel Dunsche says “data privacy is paramount,” AT&T AdWorks also allows customers to opt out of receiving targeted advertising.

“Now we can get a much better sense of what the audiences are interested in. As such, we can create much smarter types of ads,” she tells ClickZ. “We have a lot of really rich types of data that allows us to get at much more accurate audience segments.”

AT&T’s efforts online spread out to more than four billion data signals including search activity, browsing patterns, Wi-Fi hotspot data, and viewing. “In online, we can pull data from anywhere an AT&T ad runs, search data through and AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots,” explains Mandel Dunsche. “We are not tracking browsing behavior here. We are just profiling and segmenting audiences based on their interests depending on their behavior, then targeting them through our Online Audience Network, which reaches roughly 85 percent of all online users.”

On mobile, AT&T extrapolates data from at least 250 attributes including any device type and demographics. That data is used to target ads on AT&T’s Mobile Audience Network, which reaches more than 140 million unique users per month. Mandel Dunsche also clarifies that the platform only tracks mobile browsing and app behavior on AT&T-owned properties, but there is no limit to the types of AT&T devices that can be targeted and served ads. “As one of the major carriers here in the U.S., we have a significant advantage because we own that relationship with our customers,” she says.

On television, the third and shortest leg of AT&T AdWorks, the company is tracking behavior across 12.7 million households with active U-verse TV subscriptions. One financial services advertiser that recently used AT&T AdWorks TV Blueprint experienced a 27 percent increase in targeted impressions and a 21 percent decrease in CPM rates from their previous campaign, Mandel Dunsche tells ClickZ. “We were able to reach more of their audience at a lower cost and we are confident we can deliver these types of results on a consistent basis.”

Because of AT&T’s billing relationship with its customers, it also knows their credit history, score, and other data points of great interest to brands. “The quality of having that subscriber relationship” is part of what differentiates AT&T AdWorks from other ad networks, says Mandel Dunsche. “A lot of the ad networks are using inferred data or self-reported data,” she adds.

“There’s a lot of noise in the marketplace in terms of advertising, and consumers are seeing a lot of irrelevant ads,” she says. Indeed, AT&T AdWorks is banking on the hope that more consumers will pay attention to ads that are truly deemed relevant and placed more precisely across our mobile, online, and TV screens.

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