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Rocket Fuel’s Mark Alan Prior said cross-device optimization is the next frontier his massive digital ad-buying agency is targeting to help its nearly 1,500 clients advertise more effectively.

“A challenge for the industry, as a whole, is connecting one consumer to multiple devices. If you can do that, then you can immediately see the benefits in terms of performance, because you understand the consumer as a whole,” Prior told me recently at Rocket Fuel’s Market Street office.

“And once we’ve done our job, which is to connect and then make real-time intelligent decisions around who is more likely to respond based on all the information we observe, physically and digitally, about that person, we see that those that we connected are 38% more likely to convert,” to hit the buy button, he said.

Cross-device optimization may well be one of the last nuts to crack in mobile advertising, a rapidly emerging business worth $17 billion last year, according to eMarketer. CDO means advertisers can track you as you flit from laptop to smartphone to tablet, following you everywhere on all devices while cataloging your browsing habits.

Rocket Fuel is one of the biggest programmatic ad platform agencies in the virtual sector. Headquartered in Redwood City, Rocket Fuel did over $240 million in revenue last year. It was founded in 2008 by three Yahoo alums, and its rapid embrace of mobile advertising, expected to grow to a $35 billion industry by year’s end, means that it has positioned itself for the challenge of transitioning desktop clients to the mobile ecosystem.

And it has been reaping the financial rewards.

The company launched when desktop advertising was the only game in town. Now 31 percent of Rocket Fuel’s revenue comes from mobile campaigns. The tale of Rocket Fuel is a decent example of a large enterprise shifting successfully to meet changing demands as millions of consumers get comfortable using mobile devices. A year ago, consumers relied mostly on laptops to buy airplane tickets, cars, and houses and do banking. Not anymore.

Prior said that Rocket Fuel was a launch partner for Facebook’s re-tooled Atlas, unveiled last week in New York. Atlas allows clients to take their ads outside the Facebook moat while also delivering pinpoint data on the success of ads being served. (Dovetailing with the Atlas announcement, Eyeo, a Germany-based company, announced it had updated its popular AdBlock Plus browser extension to let users block Atlas’ tracking capabilities, both on desktop and mobile. See my story on that here.)

Atlas is also Facebook’s attempt to move up from the number two spot in mobile advertising, which is currently dominated by Google.

With the growth of mobile, brands and advertisers will have to adapt, striking a balance between desktop and mobile, with the latter growing the fastest in terms of revenue.

“One thing that the cross-device optimization infrastructure allows us to do is finally prove that mobile advertising drives desktop or online transactions. In a world where you cannot connect those devices, you are unable to quantitatively verify,” he said.

“Now we are able quantitatively verify and work with our new and existing customers to demonstrate when you spend on mobile, it actually drives your overall return on investment,” Prior added.

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