NPario Shows EA How to Track and Target Consumers Across Web, Mobile, Social, Internet TV, and Game Consoles

It’s a big week for nPario. The young Redmond, WA- and Palo Alto, CA-based startup is using technology developed at Yahoo to help businesses study media consumers who hop incessantly between their PCs, tablet devices, smartphones, game consoles, and Internet-connected TVs, then target them with the right ads on the right platforms. It’s had one huge customer—Yahoo itself—since its launch in January, but now it has a second marquee client, Redwood City, CA-based video game giant Electronic Arts.

EA announced at the Advertising Week conference, which got underway today in New York City, that outside advertisers can now track and target individual gamers across all of EA’s properties—including its mobile games, Facebook apps, Web-based games, or console games. The “comprehensive insights suite” that allows this targeting is powered by nPario.

Why should average Internet users care about an agreement between a Silicon Valley game giant and a tiny startup? Because deals like this represents the next big step in the evolution of “behavioral targeting.” Pioneered by Yahoo and other companies starting around 2004, this is the technology that Web publishers and advertisers use to track individuals and understand their product preferences and shopping habits as they migrate from website to website (typically using anonymized data stored in small text files called “cookies”). As consumers get more of their media content via social environments like Facebook, Internet-connected smartphones and TVs, and console games, software vendors have come up with ways to track and target consumers on those platforms, too. But for the most part, it’s been impossible to follow a single user as he moves, through the course of his day, from his computer to his smartphone to his TV to his game console.

EA's insights campaign dashboard, powered by nPario“The key distinction is this notion of multi-channel,” says Bassel Ojjeh, nPario’s president and CEO, who was formerly senior vice president of the strategic data solutions division at Yahoo—the division in charge of the giant portal’s targeted advertising programs. “If you look at most [behavioral targeting] players out there, they’ll say ‘I can understand your website inside out and show you how to target behaviors,’ but if you say ‘Great, but 20 percent of our users are on the iPhone, what can you do about that?’ they’ll say ‘We can’t do anything.’ So you have to work with Vendor X on the Web and Vendor Y on the iPhone and Vendor Z on IPTV. You can imagine how fragmented it’s become.”

Using heuristics and data-mining algorithms licensed from Yahoo, nPario looks at a number of inputs—such as login status, IP addresses, data from client-side or server-side cookies, and game console telemetry—to make an educated guess that the Bob Smith who played EA’s “Mirror’s Edge” game on his iPad for half an hour at 8:00 pm is the same Bob Smith who later logged into the EA site from his laptop to … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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