Is Location More Than a Feature in Mobile Advertising?

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n4ENEDMBnt01qh0zJeuSqsPjdo9TgzZNl5jabDciuz0The rise of smartphones has created a wealth of location data that marketers on both the buy- and sell-side are desperate to capitalize on. But is location really more than just another targeting mechanism for mobile advertising? That was the question posed to a Street Fight Summit panel Tuesday moderated by Beeby Clark + Meyler senior analyst James Mullany.

“I think for the brands that we work with, you always want to start with your typical planning strategy,” said Michael Lieberman, CEO North America of Joule. “To the extent that location is brought into the picture early, it helps us to find our audience, to understand behaviors. It may not be the whole picture. For some advertisers it may be of paramount importance but it’s another way to identify audiences across all digital platforms. Now that you can connect devices, understanding what someone does on mobile doesn’t mean you’re only setting a 10-mile geofence. It means you can give them a different message wherever they might be. … Ideally [location] comes in early in the process and it’s something that goes throughout.”

Heather Sears, YP ‘s VP of marketing, said she sees companies that are desperate to use location data in their targeting.

“When we sell audience, it’s our targeting capability that is based on location, location history, location patterns,” she said. “That’s what allows us to understand where people shop, where they hang out, where they live, demographics. That allows very interesting audience metrics to pop up, to target. Location is intrinsic to the targeting. It’s in the cake mix; it’s not just the targeting.

Christian De Gennaro, VP of channel partnerships at Thinknear by Telenav, has experienced people asking for location-specific targeting as its own category.

“As I talk to publishers specifically, what do they really want? They want the location-accuracy piece as a standalone,” he said. “We’re going to get to this point where you offer everything and it’s a great solution for partners, then you take apart the pieces you want to isolate and sell as standalone pieces. The mission of location accuracy as a service is something that I’m interested in.”

Lieberman, the only panel member on the buy side, admitted that the technology on the sell side was far ahead. In some ways that was good; in others, it meant he felt the need to be cautious: “At least from my perspective, you can get everything from one partner: location-targeting, identify audience, place the buy, help us with creative,” he said. “I don’t know that having one partner makes it all better. Sometimes it’s better to break it up, to separate the creative from where you’re getting your source data to targeting.”

Lieberman went on to say that breaking up the spend allowed his clients to get a little bit more visibility into the data they were receiving. Was it a trust issue?

“There’s still a bit of skepticism,” he admitted. “But 50 percent right is better than zero percent. We don’t know just how well it can work.”

Noah Davis is a senior editor at Street Fight.