Don’t Panic: Location-Powered Mobile Marketing is (Still) the Future of Advertising

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Mobile marketing is a business built on constant, unrelenting change, and things can get wild out there.

As such, you’ll see moments of fear come through in articles like this recent Business Insider piece. As its writer reports, even the seasoned players in our space say they’re worried enough about Facebook and Google and Amazon that they’re potentially opting out of the advertising sides of their operations, realigning to be more or less data-only providers.

I get it—it’s tough out there being a small David trying to innovate in a world of Goliath-like monopolies that suck the air out of the digital-advertising marketplace. That said, we can’t let the triopoly define us. There’s no way around the facts: Location data is a very important part of the consumer mobile experience. It’s the secret sauce, and it’s what makes mobile one of the most powerful mediums to engage consumers—ever.

The mobile device is with us all the time, and consumers love location when it works in their favor. They have always said “yes” to providing location, if the data helps deliver better services and solutions on their screens. Our own recent research tells us that one third of respondents, even if they’d previously withdrawn data permission, would opt back in to data sharing if brands can show them more relevance, more personalization, and more offers as a result.

So why all the recent talk of going data-only? Let’s take a closer look at what a long-term commitment to our media partners really requires when it comes to location, minus all the triopoly panic.

Location and Advertising: It’s About Innovation

In our industry, working with location data and advertising at scale is hard, and almost nobody wants to commit to the massive project of making it succeed in safe, strong, verifiable ways.

When you do it right, however, putting these steps together generates additional data sharing because the consumer comes to trust both the media and the message. They opt in. They grant more. This is when things get a whole lot better.

To get it right, though, all the data needs to be accurate for mobile advertising to work and please consumers. It’s all or nothing: the device ID, the lat/long, the POI (place), and the quality of the media need to be correct. Oh, and you need to do all this in real time and at scale, too. What we’re talking about here takes innovation. And innovation takes analysis.

I spend a lot of time looking at business models, analyzing what I see across the digital-advertising space. In the strongest models, the goal is to get as close to the consumer as possible on the mobile device, engaging with them in real time through cutting-edge and relevant advertising.

Again, this is not easy. Outside of being a walled garden, outside of being a super app, the best path to engage consumers still comes down to building a trusted, honest, opt-in mobile relationship. And you want that engagement at scale. And you have to work directly with quality digital publishers and media owners.

The solution is that you need to be on the device. Bottom line, you can’t create the future at the back of an exchange or a trading desk. Similarly, programmatic is awesome and makes a ton of sense for distribution of scaled and standardized advertising—but it’s not where you innovate and build new things.

Innovation and scale always comes back to technology and relationships. We can finish up with some thoughts on those two ideas.

Innovation and Scale: New Technology and Direct Relationships

Innovation is hard work, but it’s the only option if you’re David and not Goliath.

Innovation means taking advantage of everything the smartphone has to offer today and what it will offer for many years to come. It’s about working with media partners and building new experiences around new creative units, in-store signals, IoT devices, m-commerce, AR and VR, NFC technology, loyalty, and mobile payments. It’s about building for the tons of growing excitement about how 5G will transform everything yet again.   

In our industry, location experts that can tie data to advertising in context-first ways are our media partners’ key allies in the $75 billion mobile marketplace. Those partners depend on us to make the always-changing ecosystem less confusing and less unstable. We need to help them in meaningful ways, not cause worry that the most important elements of mobile will suddenly go away just because the work is difficult.

We can’t always impact the monopolies, but we can always build and innovate around them and in front of them, driving value for media owners, marketers, and most importantly consumers. Reach the consumer in real time with meaningful, impactful advertising on their only device, and what you end up with is the best way to access high-quality real-time location data at scale. Build from that point, going forward with direct relationships.

No need to panic—heads down and innovate.   

Tom Kenney is the CEO of Verve. Since founding the company in 2005, he has focused on the power of location intelligence and the mobile device to provide advertisers with innovative digital-marketing solutions.