Adobe Is Creating a Data Co-Op to Compete With Google and Facebook

Offers marketers an alternative to 'walled gardens'

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The sharing economy has brought us day care co-ops, health care co-ops and dairy co-ops. Now, in Silicon Valley, there's a data co-op.

Today, Adobe announced a service for marketers that harnesses the collective power of connected devices to better reach consumers and better compete with data strongholds like Google and Facebook. It's called the Device Co-op. 

According to Adobe, members of the Device Co-op will be able to receive more detailed website metrics, offer more personalized content and use more accurate targeting. The news was announced at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas. The co-op won't help brands gain new customers, but it could help them better understand existing customers and their device usage. It also could help users see fewer of the same ads across devices, something that may ultimately also prevent ad inventory waste and limit ad blocker usage among consumers.

"Consumers are at the point where they are demanding the brand provide effectively a continuous experience across devices," Amit Ahuja, Adobe's general manager of data management, told Adweek. "And from a brand point of view, if you can't deliver that, then you're in trouble."

Within the current landscape, marketers often need to partner with major tech companies like Google and Facebook in order to harness their "treasure trove" of data. However, because of their "walled-garden" approach—an expression often used to describe how digital companies greatly limit usage of their data outside their platforms—marketers often give up data without receiving much back.

While the co-op is optional, Adobe is going after some of its major customers to try and convince them it's worth committing to in order to better understand where devices are connected. Marketers that participate are ensured by Adobe that their data will be protected through HTTP header data and cryptographically hashed login IDs.

"This is very much a brand opt-in thing," Ahuja said. "This isn't happening behind anyone's back."

According to Adobe's early estimates, the co-op could link up to 1.2 billion devices around the world and reach the scale of Google and Facebook. The company says strategy for scale could also help both small and large brands. Leveraging the Adobe footprint could also give it more accuracy, Ahuja said, compared with the algorithmic approach taken by other companies.

"The scale that we're looking at is massive," he said. "I think it's truly game changing, both for the advertising landscape and the marketing landscape."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.