5 Questions Brands Must Ask Their Agency About Location Data

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Photo by Fabian Irsara.

While many brand managers are aware of the issues currently plaguing location data quality, few have a true understanding of the scope or the technical details of the problem. Hence, most brand marketers do not possess the knowledge or tools needed to ask their agencies the right questions to address the issue.

Even Google has come under fire recently for storing users’ location data, which reflects how challenging it is to obtain this type of information. Data fraud and data theft are essentially maintained by passive ignorance. Clients are complicit as they defer to their agencies for any nuances or complicated technical aspects of their media investments. As long as this dynamic persists, the issue will never be resolved.  

For context, advertisers are unknowingly wasting 30 to 50%, and as much as 80%, of their location-based targeting spend on inaccurate, poor-quality data, some of which is fraudulent. They are being told by their partners that “everything is fine,” but the answers to a few questions could reveal a very different story.

Here are five questions brand managers should be asking their agency partners about location data. The answers will help vet the quality of the data you are purchasing.

Question 1: How are you verifying that our location-based ad campaigns are actually reaching people within our targeted location parameters?  You’ll want to hear details on the metrics, tools, and vendors the agency uses to measure the accuracy of your location-based ad campaigns. Vague responses are a red flag. More importantly, if the agency offers you metrics derived from the location data suppliers, this leads to the next question.

Question 2: What reporting do you receive? Does this report come from the DSP or location data provider that handled campaign delivery, or is it from a third party?

If your agency’s only reporting comes from the company they are buying the data from, you are at great risk of receiving biased analytics. Just as agencies use third-party verification tools and vendors to measure viewability, performance, and attribution and to detect and prevent ad fraud, they need to use third-party measurement to verify and grade location-based advertising. If they are relying only on self-reported information, they are not doing enough to ensure that your investment is protected.

Question 3: Can you show me the reporting? Does it include levels of quality and accuracy as well as data sources?

Brands should expect granular reporting on the accuracy and quality of location data. Your agency may use a trusted verification partner that is sufficient for the bulk of your advertising, but because location data needs to be spot-on to be effective, you need granular tools to make sure you don’t waste money on inaccurate targeting. Another red flag is if an agency can’t provide location data sources.

Question 4: Is the location data reporting a byproduct of other reporting, such as viewability, or is it the focus of the report?  

If you test the oxygen levels in a room, you will also get a reading on carbon dioxide. But that reading is not the intent of the test—it is a byproduct. Ask your agency if the location data reporting they are receiving is intentional or something that is collected as part of something else, such as ad delivery confirmation.

Question 5: Are you using an independent verification method that specializes in location data? If so, which one? How was the use of this platform determined?

What factors did your agency use to choose their location data verification partner? Have they worked with them long? Did they test multiple solutions before deciding? Understanding the agency’s due diligence should give you confidence in their verification methods—or reservations about their approach. Most location data reporting from third-party tools is ancillary to the intended area of verification and not nearly as comprehensive as a specialized location verification platform.  

Location data is in high demand because it allows brands to understand consumers’ real-world behaviors. It is especially valuable to the retail, automotive, and QSR space because location data can be used to launch targeted ad campaigns to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar locations and to measure those campaigns with precision. But these use cases are null and void if campaigns are built on inaccurate data. When location data is faulty, it is the brands that suffer—and the consequences extend beyond the campaign itself.  

Location verification will add an additional cost. Until now, agencies were forced to rely on self-reported metrics from their suppliers. Just as with tools like Moat and IAS that verify viewability and ad fraud, once these tools came to the market, brands were willing to make these additional investments knowing that they could capture back lost inventory. So, the investment is worth it.

Location data is still fairly new, and the learning curve is understandable. Think about how long it took the advertising ecosystem to get tools in place to detect ad fraud and adequately determine viewability. As an industry, the best way to ignite action is to empower brands to ask for it. For brands, asking questions like these shows agencies that you are prepared to have an educated discussion about location data buying and that you expect your partners to protect your location data spend.

Warren Zenna joined Location Sciences as President, Americas in 2019 to launch and position the company for success in the region. His primary mission is ensuring all marketing stakeholders who depend on location data are able to verify its validity and value to drive the most out of their investments. Prior to Location Sciences, Warren spent 25 years in seminal executive roles at Havas, Publicis, iCrossing, IMC2 and Zeta Interactive, where he worked with dozens of leading brands to engage with consumers in impactful ways, scale their businesses and drive billions of dollars in value across their organizations.