This is a contributed piece by Jay Friedman, COO of Goodway Group:

Valentine’s Day is almost here, but couples thinking of making a mad dash through CVS on the 13th would do well to sit back, relax, and let online advertisers work their magic. Because this year, they’re implementing a secret weapon that allows them to effectively target husbands and wives who use multiple media consumption devices under the same roof.

The secret weapon is called cross-device marketing, or “XD”, and it allows advertisers to reach individual users across the multiple devices they own, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and even video game consoles.

As we already know, marketers routinely gather data on users based on their online browsing habits. For instance, if you’re on Jeep’s website looking at photos of the 2016 Cherokee, you might soon notice banner ads directing you to the nearest Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealer. Going beyond that, advertisers are taking audience targeting to a micro-level that distinguishes an individual user based on both usage and content — even for couples in the same household.

Here’s how it works: Marketers gather all of the collected technical data on browsing habits, cookies, or mobile device ID. The data is then fed through a learning algorithm, which is a computerized way of understanding device usage as it relates to individual users. The learning algorithm tested against and based on known cross-device behavior (deterministic data) and is then set free to analyze multi-device users and households — for instance, a husband and wife living in the same house. This algorithmic learning output is called a device graph, which is typically a probabilistic look at devices linked to a single individual so that targeted online ads can be served in order to specifically reach the husband and wife on their respective separate devices.

Oh Honey, You Shouldn’t Have

Let’s see how this ad targeting works on the happy couple as Valentine’s Day approaches. We’ll presume that with this one household IP address there is a connected TV, two smart phones, and two laptops. Laptop number one is typically used between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m. on weeknights and accesses mostly fashion and fitness-related content (let’s assume the wife). They also note that the TV and one of the smart phones are used simultaneously with laptop number two, between the hours of 6:00 and 10:00 p.m., accessing mostly sports, fishing, and travel-related content (let’s assume the husband).

So, what can digital advertisers do with a device graph that maps out specific consumer usage under one roof? They can precisely target the husband and wife on their specific devices. What kind of digital ads might be appropriate? In the case of Valentine’s Day, what about a fine dining establishment that’s offering a five-course meal? Perhaps a day spa within a three-mile radius has a couple’s massage special for Valentine’s Day weekend. Or even a destination suggestion for a romantic getaway. Because the husband and wife’s devices are mapped to a specific user within the device graph, these advertised goods and services options can be delivered in the form of a digital ad that is specifically targeted to one or the other.

With the advent of cross-device technology, learning algorithms, and mapping individual users to shared devices, digital advertisers are set to lead us into a brave new world of user-based targeting. For our happy couple, let’s hope it provides an alternative Valentine’s Day option more convenient and compelling than a stuffed teddy bear and chocolates from CVS.

*Jay Friedman is the COO of Goodway Group, a leading managed-services programmatic partner to local, regional and Fortune 500 brand agencies. He is also the author of 30 Days to Digital Media Expertise and 30 Days to Digital, available through Amazon and Scribd.