Getting ‘Real-Time’ Into Hyperlocal Advertising

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“Well, technology is a glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product. My first job, I was in-house at a fur company, with this old pro copywriter. Greek, named Teddy. And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is ‘new.’” – Don Draper, Mad Men.

Just as Don’s character was living in a period of rapid and drastic changes — wrestling with the desire to hold onto the past, while simultaneously embracing the future — today we find ourselves in a similar state of transition. Technology has enabled us to receive a constant feed of information from the moment we wake until the moment we find our pillows again.

Yet, so far, we have not managed to marry advertising campaigns with today’s technology and its real-time capabilities in order to create a sentimental bond with the public. If “new” is so fundamental to feeding the curiosity of consumers, how is it that the best we can typically do is launch new online or mobile ad campaigns in days or even weeks? In a world where social media and mobile accessibility have us operating at a rate measured in the minutes and seconds, waiting hours, days, or weeks to deploy the latest “news” from an advertiser seems absurd.

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have started to address the need to create real-time advertising campaigns, but what about the rest of the online and mobile universe? How can we extend these capabilities of getting timely and more relevant ads in front of consumers?

In an ironic twist, the biggest limit to this is advertising technology. As a former product manager from one of the world’s largest digital advertising companies recently described it to me, “most of ad-tech consists of hamsters running in wheels behind the scenes” with far too much human intervention needed to deploy ad campaigns.  For the largest brand advertisers, the answer is dedicated account managers and ad operations teams to keep their campaigns running efficiently.  And while bidding on when and where to show an ad has made the leap to real-time, changes to creative still require multiple phases of uploading and distribution handled by human operators.  With such overhead, this model obviously cannot scale across the millions of smaller brands and SMB advertisers that make up the long tail of advertising, where even DIY takes too much time.

In working with our local media partners, we’ve seen a demand to not only bring local advertisers back into the mix on mobile and online advertising, but a need to provide more relevant and more timely information within those ads.  This is because consumers crave “new” at a pace never possible before now – and this desire shows in the response rates measured in multiples of a standard static banner ad.  And because, in our case, we’re talking about SMBs where the appropriate scale is only a few thousand impressions a day, the lift from distributing a message right now is not only a nice-to-have, but is critical.

Jeffrey Peden is Founder & CEO of CraveLabs, Inc. a Boston-based mobile advertising start-up focused on reinventing local advertising by bridging the gap between local businesses and media publishers.  Jeff has been a pioneer in mobile and location based services technology over the past 12 years, was previously co-founder and CTO of Newbury Networks, and is an active advisor to several early-stage technology companies.