Location-based advertising is young enough that some of the companies focusing on it have seen the technology grow from day one. Moasis, founded in 2009, is one of those companies, having followed geotargeting through the various twists and turns created by the smartphone disruption.
Today marks the unveiling of the company’s new platform, Moasis for Advertisers, which promises a one-stop shop for collecting and predictively analyzing valuable location-related data like weather, nearby events, and traffic. “Programmatic and mobile are virtually synonymous today,” said Moasis CMO Eric Nielsen, who spoke with Street Fight recently about how location will further blur the existing lines that have long defined the advertising industry.
Can you talk me through the evolution of location technology? How did we get to where we are now?
Phase one was largely about using location as a proxy. Phase two is sort of what we’re in the midst of right now — we’ve moved to being able to target audiences with the advent of device IDs and other methodologies. Phase three is where things will get pretty exciting, where we put those two pieces together and, in real time, not just target a location or an audience within that location, but understand what that location means to that audience — who that consumer is, what their intentions are, and what is most relevant to them.
I foresee that we’re moving past this notion of location equals hyperlocal equals “oh, it’s a niche tactic” — and more toward one where location means the context of the consumer. And in a world where the consumer is expecting more and more personalized engagement, that becomes critically important. If you want to drive transactions and sales, that connection is going to become more and more important, and the brands that do it well are going to win.
Can you explain the motivation behind creating your new platform?
Location is such a critical determinant of context, it was an obvious opportunity back in 2009. The most important device that consumers were going to have was no longer their desktop; it was going to be their mobile phone. It became crystal clear to us really early on that this was going to be game-changing for the industry. Steve [Golden], one of our co-founders, took public one of the very early companies in the couponing space, so he’s always been a big believer in local offers. Ryan [Golden], one of our other co-founders, was a restaurateur and a consultant to restaurants, and he saw firsthand how important location was for foot traffic. He saw also how much money he was spending on offline media at the time. So [the platform] stems from those past endeavors.
When we look at optimization, because delivery still reflects the desktop world it’s sort of been limited up to this point. So we see this disconnect in the industry, where there’s all this promise and the hype around how granular all of this is going to be, and how precise we can study location behavior, and it makes for a really good story. But there’s a disconnect in terms of delivering to audiences. … Mobile is dynamic. Location is dynamic. Behavior is dynamic. We think about creating experiences that are truly connecting with a consumer’s context, but these systems are not complementing each other and speaking the same language in real-time.
Is location still considered a subset of mobile advertising, or has it come into its own as an independent category?
Studies have shown that [location] is an incredibly powerful predictor of consumer behavior, so from that analytics standpoint, it deserves its own attention. You think about the complexity of handling location data, and of associating it with all the other contextual signals and being able to do that in real time — from a technology standpoint, it’s quite challenging. This is going to be its own discipline. Whether it’s part of someone’s mobile budget or part of someone’s digital budget overall depends on how organizations or individuals shape those things, but you’ll see dedicated teams that are specialized on [location].
How do you sift through all of the data that has become available, and focus only on what’s relevant?
We work with a variety of exchange partners. Our business is programmatic, and the vast majority of impressions are being sold programmatically, and that’s only going to increase. Obviously from a publisher’s perspective, location-based impressions monetize better, so there’s an incentive for publishers to create user experiences that are going to encourage users to share with publishers, so those who do an effective job of that are going to be rewarded. When it comes to the quality of location signals, we know that not all signals are created equal.
We focus only on the highest quality, most precise location signals, and we’re filtering only for high quality GPS. There’s a lot of development occurring in the WiFi space — the accuracy and penetration of location is only going to increase. Are these actually accurate? Is there fraud going on? We have our own detection mechanisms in place for managing this.
There are lots of other players working with location in the mobile industry. What differentiates Moasis?
Many companies out there are using others’ location technologies. We built ours from the ground up. When you look under the hood, you look at the sophistication of our grid technology, of how our programmatic engine differs from the many that are out there — it becomes very clear there’s a level of precision and analytical rigor we can enable. We’re continuing to invest in technology that we believe is going to be core to the industry.
Annie Melton is Street Fight’s news editor.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.