When Work IP No Longer Works: COVID-19’s Impact on ABM and Ad Tech

The recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has certainly had a significant impact on the world. As governments and workplaces have enacted social distancing measures to combat the outbreak, there’s been a profound shift in the way we all work, the way we consume content online, and our usage and interactions on social media. As a result, the underlying technology powering both ABM platforms and Ad Tech have seen some interesting trends recently. 

What does WFH mean for ABM targeting?

Worried your ads are hitting an empty office? Unfortunately, if your prospects are working from home, even if they are on their work computers, the IP address will come up as their home IP (the only exception being if they are VPNing into a corporate network). If your digital partner has created a cross-device ID, then your ads will be able to find your audience no matter which device or from which IP they are accessing the internet.

During these weeks and months of WFH, this functionality is more critical than ever. Simply put: WFH measures are going to put your audience reach capabilities to test if IP is your only mechanism. Lacking cross-device reach is a pretty big limitation, leaving your digital spend at risk of zero engagement.

A Quick AdTech 101

To understand the scope of the impact, you’ve first got to understand a little bit about the various technologies used to develop an understanding of a person and their firmographic profile. There’s plenty of misinformation swirling around, especially in chaotic times like these. But we’re here to clear the air so that you’re enabled to make the best choices with your digital partners and ad dollars.

  • IP Address - A very common method to identify a user and the company they work for involves examining the IP address on a website visitor or an ad impression opportunity. The IP address can then be matched against a database of IP to Company data to help identify the company the user is likely working for. Of course, this method only works well if the user is browsing the website or consuming content from their place of business, otherwise they won’t be seen under an IP that can be properly associated to a company or business. 
  • Cookie / User Profile - When a user visits a website, a cookie (a small amount of data stored on the user’s browser) can be used to serve as that user’s identification card. Information about their company and other firmographic or demographic information can then be tied to that cookie. Importantly, unlike IP alone, information is available regardless of the physical location of the user (i.e. they can be at home or at a coffee shop).
  • Mobile Advertising ID (MAID) - Similar to cookies on the web, mobile apps make use of a Mobile Advertising ID supplied by the OS of the phone or tablet. Profile information (like company or job function) can be tied to the MAID. 
  • Cross Device Graph - Most people have multiple devices and therefore have multiple cookies and/or MAIDs that truly belong to them. Some companies have the technology to map all of the cookies and MAIDs that belong to the same person together via a cross device graph. 
  • Others - This isn’t a completely exhaustive list, and there are plenty of other technologies that might be in use or built on top of some of these basic building blocks. 

Once an understanding of the profile of a user is established, ABM and Ad Tech use the data for a variety of use cases including ad targeting, measurement, reporting, and analytics. Each use case may use a different underlying set of data, so just because a provider “has cookie data” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using it for ad targeting as well as analytics for example. 

You might be wondering why we took you into a Tech 101 class, but it’s now more important than ever to understand how your programs will react to your buyers changing behaviors. An ideal scenario  is your ABM vendor or digital ad partner using a combination of ALL of the above for ALL the use cases, which is the strategy we continue to embrace at RollWorks. 

So - What trends do we see as a result of COVID-19?

Trends We’re Uncovering in Real-Time

Digital Ad Inventory Up, Cross-Device More Important than Ever

Of course, people are working from home more! As a result, we’re seeing a 20% growth in global ad inventory as people have increased their web browsing, social media usage, and content consumption worldwide. This means that there are actually more opportunities to get your message to your intended audience than before. However, it’s more important than ever to be able to identify the right users, because that growth in inventory is NOT equal between desktop and mobile - about ⅓ of the 20% growth (or 7%) of the increase is on desktop, while about ⅔ of the 20% growth (or 13%) is on mobile

Office IPs Lose Steam

Moreover, as people are increasingly working from home, the amount of inventory that is looking like it’s coming from a work IP is shrinking. We recently did an analysis and found over 70% of our impressions are now served to people when they appear on supply sources (like Google Adx or AppNexus) at an IP that’s different from what you’d associate with a work IP. 

This is particularly relevant in ABM, where you often want to reach users at your target accounts and know how they’re interacting with your content. By taking a multifaceted approach to the way we both target our campaigns and measure results we’re able to reach the right users at 1) more inventory sources, 2) different sites, 3) more times throughout their working day and 4) across their different devices than IP only based technologies and providers.

What’s Next? 

As more of the world increasingly institutes social distancing measures, we expect this trend to continue as we’re continuing to see signs that traffic from business IP continues to decline week over week. All in all - having a diverse set of data powering your ABM and ad tech stack is more important than ever as we all grapple with new norms of remote and mobile work. Fortunately, we’ve been doing this for years at RollWorks, well ahead of recent events. 

About the Author

Kushan Patel, Director Product Management

Director, Product Management @ RollWorks

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