The No. 1 criticism leveled at mobile data-management platforms (mDMPs): Who needs another silo?
But that’s not stopping a growing number of ad tech companies from unveiling mDMPs as they move to meet the demands of marketers looking to activate their mobile data. Although several players have been on the scene for a while now – both Lotame and AdChina added mobile DMPs to their platforms in 2014 – at least four mDMPs hit the market this year. More are surely on the way.
The debate over their usefulness, however, continues.

“The bottom line is that you need to have all of your data assets and all of the various aspects of your digital tech stack centralized to get the best return on your investment,” said Keith Petri, VP of strategic partnerships at IgnitionOne. “And you can’t do that with siloed mobile data.”

David McIninch, VP of marketing at Acquisio, had a somewhat more cynical view of the motivation behind developing an mDMP: “The need for an mDMP is situational. … It’s driven by a need to show immediate ROI on mobile advertising initiatives, and so publishers can build out a revenue model that looks like desktop’s.”

Traditional DMPs typically store, process and analyze cookie-based data from myriad sources – everything from demographics to intent and past purchase history.

But mobile data – app data, in particular – is unique in the ecosystem, said Michael Katz, CEO and co-founder of mParticle, a company that describes itself as a “mobile data automation platform.”

“Apps operate in a browserless environment and browser-based things like pixels and cookies, which are used to capture and distribute data on the web, just don’t work,” Katz said. “There are a number of complexities that are core to native apps.”

For one, mobile data is captured and shared through software development kits, which, among other functions, act as the handshake between an app and its ad tech partners. SDKs can be fragile and cause app crashes, and embedding them takes time and requires dev work. In the web world, on the other hand, “all you have to do is copy and paste two lines of JavaScript to capture pretty much any interaction that’s happening on a page,” Katz said.

And then there’s mobile data’s scale to contend with. Mobile content consumption is increasing every quarter.

Smartphones and tablets combined accounted for 60% of digital media time spent in Q4 2014, according to comScore. As a result, the amount of mobile data is growing exponentially, said Michael Oiknine, CEO of mobile attribution firm Apsalar, which launched its own mDMP product in June.

“Look at all the attribution data you generate just around user acquisition – when you acquired the user, what ads they viewed, where they clicked, which campaign they came from – and then there’s in-app activity, the products a user bought, the products they considered, the SKU, the device type, their physical location,” Oiknine said. “All of that information is key if you’re going to generate intelligence from audience.”

But why couldn’t legacy desktop-focused DMPs add functionality to their existing platform to handle the influx of mobile data? Katz agreed that there’s nothing stopping them – other than time, cash and resources.

“Could traditional DMPs handle data capture through an SDK or an API?” Katz said. “Sure. It’s tough to argue against that one. But have most of them built out all of the tools and controls they need so they can handle all the various mobile-specific use cases? Speaking from our own experience, the answer is no. Can they throw a bunch of resources at it? Of course. But it’s taken us doing nothing other than this for two years to get where we are today.”

And contrary to a common misconception, mobile DMPs are not necessarily mobile-