Last fall word leaked that Google and Microsoft were working on a
replacement for the tracking mechanisms called cookies that
companies use to track people's online behavior and target them
accordingly with ads. This beta program is not that.
However, it does bridge the desktop-to-mobile gap, which has
been considered a top motivation for Google's cookie-replacement
plans since cookies currently don't really work on mobile
"We're always running experiments with our agency partners. This
small trial started last year, testing a way for marketers to reach
their customers across devices using their own customer data," said
a Google spokesperson.
Here's how the new retargeting tests work. Google gives an
advertiser what's called a "hashed tag" to drop when someone logs
into the advertiser's site. This "hashed tag" is basically an
anonymized tracking identifier that ties to the cookies and device
identifiers used by Google's ad-tech systems.
After the tag is dropped on someone's computer, the advertiser
can show ads to that person on any property within Google's network
of third-party sites and mobile apps. Brands had previously been
able to retarget people through Google but were limited to web
browsers or mobile apps, depending on which channel someone used to
visit their property.
While Google's retargeting program incorporates advertisers'
customer databases, it is not the same as
Facebook's Custom Audiences targeting feature the pinpoints ads
based on marketers' lists of customers' email addresses and phone
Unlike the social network's program, advertisers are not
uploading lists of customers' email addresses to Google. However
Google's program is similar to the
spun-off version of Custom Audiences Facebook rolled out last
October to retarget advertisers' customers within Facebook's
desktop and mobile properties.
Google is looking for advertisers that operate sites with
registered user bases totaling at least 100,000 people including a
significant percentage on mobile, according to documents Google is
using to pitch agencies on the test program. The test phase is
limited to U.S. audiences.