It was while sitting in a plane on the tarmac that Leo Polanowski, head of sales specialist and account management for Yahoo Inc., observed just how empowered consumers can be when they have a mobile device in hand.

Despite the flight crew inviting  passengers to leave the plane during a bad weather delay, they refused to budge. Why? Several people on the flight were monitoring the Federal Aviation Administration’s live feed from their smartphones and it indicated a window for take-off would open up in just 15 minutes. So as a group, the passengers on the plane voted to stay and wait – a short time later they were airborne.

Just as data empowered those attentive travellers and other consumers, it can also empower marketers, Polanowski said at ICA’s AdWeek Toronto event. Ahead of leading a panel of agency leads, he shared some statistics pointing to a future dominated by the mobile channel and Yahoo’s plans to help advertisers capitalize on that. At the centre of it is a new tool for marketers that Yahoo plans to release in the first half of this year.

Yahoo’s studies show Canadians are now spending an average of two hours and 12 minutes per day on their mobile devices, Polanowski says. That’s the time added up over about 60 different screen time sessions – meaning the average person is looking at their device about once every 15 minutes.

“Digital is really growing because mobile is growing,” he says. “In the past year, more than half of all screen time is spent on mobile.”

Yahoo has a window into the data people are exchanging during that time on their devices. For example, 9 million Canadians are users of Tumblr, the blogging service Yahoo acquired. More than 30 billion daily emails are sent on Yahoo’s own network. For all the time you spend in mobile apps, a more recent Yahoo acquisition in Flurry provides insight into those analytics.

Yet Yahoo isn’t a leading destination for mobile users. In an interview Polanowski acknowledges that it’s behind Google and Facebook – the two brands with the lion’s share of time spent on mobile devices and mobile ad revenue – but argues that it has the same reach.

“The time spent isn’t the same, but we know who they are. We see that person across a lot of interaction types,” he says. “We can tie together the social, the email, the search signals, and you get a richness of data that’s not tunnel vision.”

Also, Yahoo offers a type of search retargeting that is not available on Google. Rather than targeting a web user based on what they clicked (the impression), Yahoo offers the ability to target a user based on search query. Then there’s getting a peek at what mobile users are doing outside of the browser.

Mobile apps are where users are spending most of their time online, and Polanowski says Flurry is the best analytics package in the market available for that.  Acquired by Yahoo in July 2014 for $240 million, it can help marketers get at user intent.

“Flurry continues to be our big bet for that, for understanding the consumer in the mobile environment,” he says. “It can separate aspirational intent from what’s really being used.”

Rounding out Yahoo’s acquisitions and its cross-platform offerings for advertisers is BrightRoll, the programmatic video ads service it acquired in November 2014 for $640 million. Now that brand is used as the umbrella for all of Yahoo’s programmatic offerings.

Next up for Yahoo is a tool that will give marketers access to user behaviour data across all its different online services. First discussed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, the tool is slated for release first in the U.S. and at some point in the first half of 2016, Polanowski says. Its intent will be to allow marketers who don’t have a skill set in data science to build out actionable insights.

“It takes signals from search, signals from mail, and uses it for some predictive type modelling,” he says. “You can start looking at different audiences and segments, looking at how they vary.”

No go to market strategy has been determined, but it’s likely the tool will support users of Yahoo’s ads service. Also, no commitment for a release to Canada has been made yet.

But the tool may help marketers better understand their target audience and hone the perfect ad for them – a practice that’s becoming more important as the mobile channel grows.

“Mobile devices are very personal devices,” Polanowski says. “For the ad experience, there is an expectation from the consumer that it is also a personal experience.”

That’s what an empowered consumer demands.

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