The following is an op-ed from Jordan Cohen, CMO of Fluent.
There was a big story out in the Wall Street Journal last week, suggesting that Google is preparing to roll out a custom audiences offering similar to Facebook’s.
For those unfamiliar with customer audiences, there’s a short, simple description of the program on Facebook’s website. Essentially, custom audiences enable advertisers to send encrypted files of their email marketing lists to Facebook, and then re-target those individuals through Facebook ads. Facebook then additionally targets ads to “lookalikes” (people who have commonalities with individuals on the marketer’s email housefile).
What the Journal story failed to mention is the real underlying reason that Google (and other major digital media companies) are starting to roll out email-based targeting, which is the frailty of traditional cookie-based targeting in mobile environments. In most cases, cookies don’t function properly in mobile browsers, and they don’t work at all in Apple’s mobile Safari browser, which accounts for >50% of the mobile web browsing market.
With Fluent’s latest “Devices and Demographics” research showing that 60% of all ads are now displayed on mobile devices, as opposed to desktop computers, email-based display advertising is the future, and Google has some catching up to do (Facebook’s custom audiences platform launched nearly 3 years ago).
Advertisers who take advantage of Google’s new offering will be able to precisely target the over 500 million estimated people who own Gmail addresses, as well as users who provide Google non-Gmail addresses to take advantage of their other services such as YouTube.
As impressive as that number is, Facebook has Google beat there as well, since it has the email addresses of all 1.4 billion of its users, inclusive of Gmail addresses but also other popular services like Yahoo Mail and Outlook.com (or any other email address its users provide).
The Google versus Facebook war aside, the main takeaway is clear: email marketing has never been more important than it is today, and it’s equity is growing in a way that never could have been imagined just a few years ago. It is no longer confined to the walled gardens of consumers’ inboxes; email is now driving the future of display, social, and mobile marketing.
Marketers who already have massive email lists are in good shape as they enter this new world. But those who don’t will quickly need to make email acquisition not a top priority, but the top priority – and they need to start now.