Europe’s adsquare Unlocks More Data in New ‘Marketplace’ for Hyper-Contextual Advertising

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Mobile has altered the linear path to purchase, creating a new kind of customer lifecycle marked by multiple “sessions” — online, in-store, on-device — and countless opportunities for brands, retailers, and marketers to connect with consumers. It’s why the “mobile-first” drumbeat has gotten steadily louder in the past few years.

But recent shifts in the landscape and the aggressive advance of companies armed with strategies to unlock the value of customer data stored in CRM databases and offline sources indicate that being “mobile-first” alone may not be a lasting source of competitive advantage. To succeed, brands and retailers will also have to be “mobile-holistic.” That means placing mobile at the center of an approach that connects the dots in consumers’ mobile, digital, and real-world actions and behaviors in order to give them what they want, when and how they want it.

Verizon, for one, needs little convincing. It has gone on a buying spree to get ahead of the competition and on top of the lucrative opportunity to deliver hyperlocal, hyper-contextual advertising that it sees just over the horizon. The $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL completed in May and the decision to snap up ad network Millennial Media for $238 million arm Verizon with essential ad-tech and content assets to leverage its user data and, as The Drum aptly put it, “start offering brands highly targeted mobile ads in a way that might see it rivaling Facebook.”

Clearly, the battle to win customers will be fought with data — lots of it. But for marketers, more data could also be too much of a good thing.

Sensing a business opportunity, adsquare, a European company headquartered in Berlin with offices in London and Paris, used last week’s dmexco show in Cologne, Germany, to take the wraps off a new self-service audience management platform (AMP) to help advertisers “navigate the data deluge.”

In practice, adsquare says, its AMP is aimed at helping advertisers “combine data points from a wide array of trusted data partners” to create more precise audience segments, and then activate campaigns targeting these audiences via their preferred buying platforms. The platform will be released from beta in Q4.

Cleverly positioning the company on a level quite different than traditional data management platforms, adsquare is focused on aggregating third-party data to enhance audience segments, which it then sells to buyers on a data CPM and usage basis, paying data owners a share of the revenue.

adsquare co-founder and CEO Tom Laband

As Tom Laband, adsquare CEO and co-founder, told me, it’s all about offering a radically new platform and approach that put the advertiser in control, with the capabilities to create audience segments in real time and provide them an overview of real reach and costs. “Empowering advertisers to reach the right people in the right context will stop waste and increase precision,” he explained.

The company’s new direction draws on its roots in helping advertisers identify and reach groups of people based on their real-life location and real-world activities. By dividing the world into millions of 50×50 meter squares, where each square was defined by more than 1,500 internal and external data points, adsquare was able to determine target audience context in real time (and space) and provide this to advertisers. This prepared adsquare to become a real-time data provider, helping to enrich inventory from global supply sources such as MoPub, Smaato, Nexage, PubMatic, and others.

Laband said adsquare now is pursuing a much bigger ambition to be a new kind of big data player, “taking a central role in the emerging mobile programmatic advertising ecosystem by onboarding more mobile, online, and offline data from more quality data providers to enable more precise targeting and segmentation for advertisers and new revenue streams for data owners.”

Premium audiences need premium data, so adsquare also launched its platform with the news it has signed up a string of quality data providers and sources to onboard their data for mobile programmatic advertising, or make the data accessible via adsquare’s single API. Companies at launch include Eventful, Acxiom, Nokia HERE, and The Weather Channel.

Whereas adsquare is determined to cultivate and command a new kind of data marketplace, it is also well aware of the responsibility to respect personal privacy. The platform works completely without cookies and has been awarded the ePrivacyseal for complying with strict European data protection laws. In addition, the company only works with an opt-in data pool and only stores the context of the user, not the location data.

In a way, being based in Germany, a country known for stringent data privacy laws and a population easily outraged about privacy breaches, has been a mixed blessing for adsquare. “It’s a bit like the Frank Sinatra song ‘New York, New York,'” Laband joked. “If you can make it there [Germany], you can make it anywhere.”

To date, adsquare’s data offering covers seven-plus countries, including the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland. It plans to open an office in the U.S. later this year. Following this strategy will allow adsquare to expand its footprint beyond Europe, seal deals with more global data owners, and potentially play the role of a “missing link” for U.S. companies eager to expand their capabilities to Europe.

The mobile-holistic imperative doesn’t just turn up the pressure on retailers, brands, and marketers to build better audience profiles and bridge the digital and physical worlds. It also raises the stakes for platforms like adsquare to maximize the value of the “signals” data consumers send via mobile and the trail they create through their actions and interactions online, in-store, and everywhere in-between.

Peggy Anne SalzPeggy Anne Salz is the chief analyst and founder of MobileGroove, a research and consulting firm providing analysis, custom research, and strategic content marketing to the global mobile industry, and mentoring and consulting to tech startups.