A longstanding challenge in location-targeted mobile advertising is that location signals are often imprecise. If you can get a user to opt-in at the app level to share location, you can get the coveted GPS signal. But that opt-in is hard to come by, especially when a given app has nothing to do with location.

So, ad networks will sometimes revert to the next best thing, which is cell tower triangulation or IP address, which can be off my miles. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these fallback options, but what comes next is questionable—ad networks will fulfill demand for location-targeted ads by selling these imprecise ad placements as precise ones.

This falls into the category of ad fraud. There are levels of this practice which range from deliberate fraud to being complicit in sub-optimal practices. Either way, it’s a practice that Location Sciences’ Jason Smith wants to expose. Moreover, his company wants to provide more transparency in the mobile media buying marketplace.

As we discussed on the latest episode of Heard on the Street, Location Sciences provides a way for advertisers to more effectively track their ad placements and performance, which can inform all kinds of strategies beyond just ad targeting.

Another wild card is that the location targeting industry is at the mercy of Apple’s shifting privacy controls and location tracking at the OS level. With the onset of iOS 13, there will be more transparency to mobile users about what apps are collecting data in the background and foreground.

Along with GDPR, CCPA, and a period of generally heightened concern about privacy and data collection, this iOS update could challenge the ability for marketers to get precise location data. But on the bright side, these macro factors compel better practices, shifting strategies and measurement tools. The time is right, Smith says, for Location Sciences and lots of other companies in the location intelligence sector looking to point the way toward digital marketing’s future best practices.

Check out the episode above, find out more about Heard on the Street, and see our entire episode archive hereContact us if you’d like to sponsor an episode.

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Mike Boland is Street Fight's lead analyst, author of the Road Map column and producer of the Heard on the Street podcast. He has been an analyst in the local space since 2005, covering mobile, social and emerging tech. More biographical information can be seen at www.mikebo.land
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