Hotels.com Turns To Tapad To Take A Vacation From The Walled Gardens

On Wednesday, Hotels.com announced a year-long partnership with cross-device company Tapad after a multiple month bake-off against two other vendors.

The nature of that walled-garden bias is inherent and not dependent on size. Google might have billions of users, but the only cross-device connections it can legitimately claim take place within the Android ecosystem. An iPhone user might use Google, but not be logged into Chrome.

By the same token, most of Facebook’s usage is on mobile, leading to the inverse: far fewer users logged in on desktop.

Regardless, all of that raw data is tucked away behind the garden walls anyway.

“As an analyst, I find it difficult to work with data that I cannot validate myself,” Cameron-Heslop said.

It can be a fraught relationship.

“Facebook and Google are closed ecosystems with the goal of selling more ads to marketers and, in the process, increase the price of their product,” said Tapad CEO and founder Are Traasdahl. “A marketer’s goal is to drive the highest ROI, and we also see that the advanced marketers need full transparency, unification of identity across all media sources and, lastly, they need complete access to cross-device data so they can tie back to their own data.”

Which is why Cameron-Heslop was attracted to the concept of a more open relationship with a probabilistic cross-device vendor. But there were concerns.

After three months, each vendor returned a device graph created from a subset of Hotels.com’s users. Hotels.com then validated the graph against its overall data set looking for two types of matches – connections seen by both Hotels.com and the vendor and incremental matches the vendor could provide beyond Hotels.com’s own data.

Hotels.com carefully evaluated those incremental matches because while each additional match might seem like added gravy, “we also needed to strike a balance between that and making sure the matches weren’t … overzealous, that someone wasn’t getting a little creative with the matching process,” Cameron-Heslop said.

In other words, the matches needed statistical integrity.

Going forward, Hotels.com will work with Tapad to help quantify the success of its marketing efforts and put numbers behind gut feelings.

Mobile is clearly a critical part of the mix, even if the final conversion usually takes place elsewhere. But Hotels.com wanted to rely on more than intuition to inform its ad spend.

“By its very nature, mobile is more challenging in terms of the identification process because people move around between IP addresses, and that makes it more difficult to link anonymous users and behaviors together,” she said. “That’s what we’re using Tapad for – to understand those non-converting journeys and see the value that they actually bring to us.”

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