PlaceIQ CEO: Our Goal Isn’t to Improve Click-Through Rates — It’s to Understand Consumers

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placeiq-richAs the mobile advertising opportunity explodes, there’s increasing need for need for companies to demonstrate the power of their targeting capabilities to advertisers and brands. Fresh off of a $6.75 million round of funding earlier this year, targeting firm PlaceIQ is hard at work breaking down the physical world by location in order to analyze data and show the which ads will resonate best with consumers based on where they are at a given time.

In a recent interview, the company’s CEO Duncan McCall spoke with Street Fight about where PlaceIQ fits in a crowded mobile advertising industry and how advertisers can use time, location and creative to understand consumer behavior.

McCall will appear as a speaker at the Street Fight Summit in New York later this month, on a panel about mobile targeting and ROI.

So, what does Place IQ do, exactly?
PlaceIQ builds audiences based on consumer location, time and behavior. There’s so much information that consumers are putting out daily about their location – from their mobile devices, on social networks and on their photo streams, just to name a few ways. PlaceIQ takes all of that data and mines it to understand how consumers behave in a physical world.

When we started the company, our original tagline was “Next Generation Location Intelligence”. As you can imagine, there are many applications for a platform that is designed to extract intelligence from location data. Mobile advertising is just one of the applications of the PlaceIQ platform. But it’s a very powerful application, and it’s where we are investing a lot of our resources.

Where does PlaceIQ fit in the overall industry? Why would an advertiser use PlaceIQ instead of say Millennial Media or MoPub to run geo-targeted ads?
To state the obvious, we certainly did not invent geo-targeted advertising on mobile devices.

Our goal at PlaceIQ is not to improve click-through rates on a particular mobile ad. Rather, our goal is to understand and influence consumer behavior based on factors like location, time of day and the actual creative. We want to know precisely what gets a consumer to interact with an ad or the brand. We are interested in things like why do consumers make a decision to stop at MacDonald’s for a burger? Is there a particular time of day that they are more likely to make this impulse buy? Or is it something about a particular location?

For example, when people are out drinking downtown on a weekend, they might be more receptive to a message advertising fast food than they would in the late afternoon during the weekday. At PlaceIQ, we are all about consumer behavior. We want to help advertisers deliver the right message to the right people at the right place and the right time.

Do you find that particular forms of mobile creative work better than others?
Creative strategy is a very important part when you are looking to influence consumer behavior in a meaningful way. For example, you don’t want to show a video ad to someone when they are at work, or, for that matter, a point-of-purchase message to a person at the beach.

We recently ran a mobile ad campaign for a large motorcycle company. For the first part of this campaign, we showed a mobile ad to attendees at a rock concert. This was largely a branding message — the equivalent of having your very own banner displayed at the event venue. After a week, the people who had attended the concert were shown another message. This message invited consumers to interact with the ad, find out more about the motorcycles and even make a purchase. So to answer your question, there’s not one form of mobile creative that’s better than others. The right creative is largely dependent on location and time. It’s about delivering the appropriate audiences and engaging them in the most appropriate contexts.

Your platform has the ability to show ads to consumers based on whether they are at a particular location. In addition, you can also shows ads to consumers based on the locations they’ve already been to.
It’s the equivalent of showing an online ad in a contextually relevant website. Our “Plus” products are a lot like remarketing to a consumer who has already been to your website.

How then do you ensure that you are respectful to consumer privacy even as you follow them around?
Apple has already blocked advertisers from gaining access to the UDID of mobile devices. I expect that Google will undoubtedly follow their lead soon.  The Advertiser ID that marketers have to rely on gives consumers a lot of control over the privacy. In addition, we take care to ensure than none of our location and advertiser data is linked to any Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This helps protect consumer privacy. We also don’t store location or behavioral data for any extended period of time. Lastly, all of our ads which are behaviorally targeted give consumers the option to opt out of future advertising.

What does your future roadmap entail?
We’re going to make some very interesting announcements in the near future, which will help address the issue of media fragmentation. Today, there’s no clear connection between say a TV commercial, a digital OOH ad, an online ad and a mobile ad. We want to help advertisers tie all their messages together neatly, so that they can speak to consumers at the right location and the right time in a way that’s most meaningful to them.

To date, the ad industry has a very good idea of how to target consumers when they are at home. But there’s very little understanding on how to influence consumer behavior when they are out of their homes. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding consumer behavior based on time and location. This unfulfilled need represents a huge opportunity and one that we have every intention of capitalizing on in the near future.

Arun Krishnan is a marketing consultant living in Amman, Jordan. He was previously the VP of Marketing and Communications for Pontiflex.