Conference Notebook: Foursquare CRO Sees ‘Off the Charts’ Engagement With Native Ads

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biakelseyIn describing why Foursquare chose to build a native advertising product, the company’s chief revenue officer Steven Rosenblatt yesterday pointed to the difficulties with some mobile ad formats, like pop-ups, saying that it was really easy to screw up the mobile user’s experience with poor ad delivery. As a result, the company has instead moved ahead with its “promoted updates” native advertising product, which launched in August and has seen “off the charts” engagement. Rosenblatt said that over 52% of the people who engage with ads are checking in within 24 hours.

“A lot of companies from the web are taking old legacy models and porting them into mobile, and that just doesn’t work,” said Rosenblatt, who joined Foursquare last May after a stint with the Apple-acquired ad network Quattro. “Native doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. We’re talking about repackaging our images and copy… [in a way that] allows business to serve up content to people where its relevant not just in terms of proximity, but that these are people who want these ads.”

Rosenblatt, who was speaking during a keynote session at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local conference in Boston, also talked about the company’s transformation from a check in service to a local discovery engine, saying that “location without context is a bunch of BS.”

The closely-watched startup’s promoted updates product  represents just one element of Foursquare’s recent monetization efforts, which have also centered on custom initiatives with national brands. Rosenblatt also presented a recent campaign with Burger King, where the startup leveraged its integration with American Express, and more recently Visa and Mastercard, to allow customers to immediately redeem deals after checking in and making a purchase with the quick-serve chain.

With national advertisers slated to increase spend in local marketing, local media and technology companies are investing more mindshare in building for brands. In another session Monday, Shane Vaughn, VP of Marketing at Balihoo, said the problem is that competence often trails intent among brands. He quoted a study which the marketing automation company conducted with the CMO Council, 59% of national marketers queried said that localized marketing was essential to business growth and profitability while only 7% said that they were successful in implementing the strategy.

That disconnect is in big part due to the lack of control, which brands currently have over localized marketing efforts, said Vaughn. “The local effort for brands should not only be about helping the local affiliates do well, but also about leveraging the national spend to deliver a consistent communication with the consumer,” he added.

LivingSocial has expanded its national marketing efforts as well, according to national sales SVP Mitch Spolan. The company is working with brands to drive social chatter through customized experiences. He pointed to a recent campaign with HBO where the daily deals company hosted a screening of the Boardwalk Empire premiere. The service then posted photos on Facebook to allow attendees to tag themselves, and thus, share images across their social networks.

Steven Jacobs is deputy editor at Street Fight.