Resources / Blog
Resources / Blog

Mobile Ad ID (MAID): Advertising User Device Identification for Mobile Campaigns

24th February 2020

Topic: Audience data, CRM Enrichment, Programmatic, Raw Data
  • What is a Mobile Ad ID?
  • How mobile device ID is used in advertising?
  • MAID audiences - mobile target groups based on IDs
  • Mobile Ad ID vs a cookie
  • Mobile Ad ID and data privacy
  • Reach mobile audiences successfully


Since the first quarter of 2015, there has been a consistent growth in mobile traffic, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 50.82% from 2015 to 2023. As of 2024, the global share of internet traffic generated by mobile devices has surpassed 60%. This growth trend highlights the opportunity for implementing an effective mobile advertising strategy based on Mobile Ad ID or mobile browser data.

Your mobile targeting campaign can reach users at the same time from the browser and application level, or separately. The most popular and profitable mobile channels currently (mobile browser and in-app), they take data from different sources – a well-known cookie file tracks browser behavior and a Mobile Ad ID – application use.

Mobile advertising with MAID

Having in mind the latest updates regarding the cookies and their future availability, the industry takes a closer look into mobile ad ID. They see a couple of good benefits that mobile ad ID brings: thanks to mobile user identification and tracking functions they have a complete picture of the mobile target user to drive towards better personalization. This comes to the new monetization opportunities for marketers.

What is a Mobile Ad ID?

Mobile Ad ID is a sequence of random symbols, given by the mobile device’s operating system. It’s shared with the servers of the apps that the user is using to track his customer journey and “remember” his or her choices.

MAID is hidden within privacy settings and can be limited or reset, which action is similar to clearing the browser cookies from the very beginning and starting history over.

You can find two popular names of Mobile Advertising IDs – they are connected to mobile operating systems on users’ devices, and the IDs can be used to target ads, such as google ads at specific users described by device ID.

Google Advertising ID (GAID)

It is a unique identifier that makes it possible to collect data about specific mobile customer’s behavior. The GAID is used by mobile apps on the Android operating system. In other words, thanks to GAID, advertisers can reach Android users with personalized ads, based on their mobile activity.

Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA)

It is a random number assigned by Apple to a user’s device. It is used for tracking and identifying a user (only anonymous number), and it allows marketers to reach mobile audiences with personalized ads.

How mobile device ID is used in advertising?

If you want to reach a mobile audience, the device ID is crucial for gathering and targeting users. While desktop advertising is based on cookies, mobile advertising relays on MAIDs. Those numbers help to select users for example who often listen to rock music or regularly go to shopping centers.

Mobile advertising tracking based on device ID helps to assign such data as language, geolocalization, or frequently used apps to a specific user. Thanks to that, data providers can build segments of mobile users, for example, music lovers, users interested in buying cars, or runners. Here you can find a list of data that can be used to build an audience data segments:

MAID in Mobile App Data Stream

What’s more, mobile advertising tracking helps marketers to monitor the activity of users that saw the personalized ad. They can track conversion, change frequency capping to increase the efficiency of mobile advertising campaigns.

MAID audiences – mobile target groups based on IDs

To run effective mobile advertising campaigns, marketers need the right target groups. The global mobile advertising spending in 2023 is estimated to surpass 400 billion U.S. dollars, up from just over 360 billion dollars in the previous year, representing an annual increase of 11 percent.

So how marketers can reach mobile audiences?

The process of buying mobile audience data is pretty the same as the process of buying desktop audience data. The difference lays in identifiers used to assign users to specific actions. As we mentioned earlier, the desktop audience data is based on cookies and the mobile data base on Mobile Advertising IDs. To buy mobile audience data and target mobile customers, marketers use DSP platforms. To learn more about buying target groups, check our blog post: How to buy audience data?

Machine learning algorithms analyze mobile data and group users into mobile segments. You can choose your mobile audiences by searching for their Interests or Purchase Intentions.

Take a look at examples of target audiences – Mobile Taxonomy:

  • Interests -> Games -> Puzzle
  • Food & Drink -> Healthy Food
  • Intents -> Beauty & Fashion

If you won’t find the right segment, some data providers offer to build a custom mobile audience segments tailored to your campaign. In OnAudience we cooperate with our clients to build the best audiences for specific campaigns. Take a look at a few examples of our mobile segments.

Mobile Ad ID in advertising - audience data

Check how to use Audience Data

Mobile Ad ID vs a cookie

Now, comparing Mobile Ad ID with the browser cookie as identification points, we spot significant differences.

1. MAID lives much longer than a cookie

While a cookie has rather a short lifetime because it’s session-based, mobile ad ID is persistent so it “lives” much longer. This leads to a much reliable dataset that can successfully feed your targeting programmatic campaign.

2. MAIDs meet the privacy rules and make cross-matching easier

Another important thing is the nature of the cookies that were an identification solution for targeting advertising many years, now are blocked on a browser level. Detected as a piece of information that needs to be protected for user’s privacy sake, these cookies are created by other than the main site’s domain and their value is transferred for targeting reasons between partners in a programmatic chain. This procedure requires cookiematching process so that the data provider identifies a user as the specific attributes holder.

It’s a different perspective in terms of Mobile Ad ID, as its value appears to be the same for all the apps that a particular user is using. This makes cross-matching between partners easier and a marketing message much accurate. This is one of the biggest procedural benefits of a mobile advertising campaign comparing with traditional desktop one.

Mobile Ad ID and data privacy

Mobile Data GDPR compliance - OnAudience

Mobile Ad IDs could be treated as personal information if it allows data providers to identify a single person by matching MAID with any other information. If the identification is possible, a data provider has to collect users’ consent for storing and processing their data, according to GDPR and CCPA regulations.

So, having that agreement signed in your digital pocket, it’s safe to deliver tailored marketing offers to your target audience. Interpretation of data processing may be different depending on the exact goal of Mobile Ad ID usage and its context, as well as its distribution between authorized 3rd parties.

We are not able to identify a single person by using MAID and we do not store any other data that after matching with MAID allows us to identify a real person.

Reach mobile audiences successfully

Identification of your target user among all the internet users is a basic step towards an efficient targeting campaign. A portion of high-quality mobile data, delivered from reliable source allows differentiating the users’ devices so your ad budget is directed into the unique target audience.

Take a look at our Audience Data and select the right audience on your DSP to reach mobile users effectively and increase efficiency of your campaigns.

Talk to our Team about your Audience Segments’ Needs

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