You are where you've been: the key to location based mobile advertising

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You are where you’ve been: the key to location based mobile advertising
Andrew Darling

Most digital advertising is based on the sites you visit and the searches you make. But add in the places you go and the ROI soars. So says adtech firm Blis…

What is location based mobile advertising? The obvious answer would be: pushing ads at people depending on where they are.

Are you standing near a McDonald’s? Then you’re served an ad for Filet O Fish and told your nearest restaurant is 200 metres away. Simple.

Also wrong.

Sure, ad platforms can do this. But really, thinking about location based mobile advertising in terms of proximity is just superficial.

Instead, why not use location to build an accurate profile of a user – then serve more effective ads to them when they’re at home?

In a sense, data about where a user has been is more powerful than where he or she is now.

This is the insight that has made UK-based Blis one of the pioneers of location based mobile advertising.

And a profitable one too.Unusually for an adtech firm, Blis makes money, and has taken just $6m in funding in ten years. It current employs 70 people across its London, Singapore and Sydney bases.

Blis uses location and demographic data to define digital audiences, and then serve targeted display ads (via real time bidding) to users across mobile, tablet and laptop. The secret sauce is the way it crunches the data, which it gathers from various partners such as wi-fi networks, supply side platforms and so on.

Indeed, Blis says it can process 40,000 location events every second.

But that’s so much jargon. Here’s an example.

Blis constructed a five week campaign for the Mini Countryman and Paceman, two new Mini models for 2014. To identify the best audience, it analysed location data based on who had visited 4 or 5 star hotels, Michelin star restaurants and business class lounges in airports. Then it mapped these users with those in proximity to a Mini dealership, or in a competitor dealership with identified behaviours.

Harry Dewhirst, president of Blis, believes location is finally coming of age as data point for advertising. He says: “Traditionally, the industry just looked at the sites you’d visited. It was all a case of ‘if you browse a football site, you must be interested in Adidas’.

“But now, we can know so much more about a consumer by tracking their location. For example, before, the systems might assume that someone visiting cooking web sites was a ‘stay at home’ mum.

“But if the data also shows that the same person goes to an international airport once a week, we could assume he or she is a business traveller who has cooking as a hobby.

“Add in even more data points and you begin to get a very accurate picture of what kind of person they are.”

Of course, this all depends of the location data being accurate.

Dewhirst says a huge amount of it is not. 90 per cent, in fact. “We listen to 40bn ad requests a day,” he says. “But you can see patterns and detect anomalies. There can’t be 10,000 people standing in exactly the same spot loading an ad, for example.”

Now, with clean accurate data, Blis is exploring all manner of new location based mobile advertising ideas. These include:

Omnichannel ads

With the rise of multiple screens (laptop, desktop, smart TV, tablet), brands are starting to think about the user rather than the device. They want to to serve one ‘omnichannel’ ad.

But how best to do it?

Some firms have invented fingerprinting tech that attaches itself to a single user. Blis is using location based mobile advertising data to identify the same user across various devices. Indeed, it is even running campaigns using mobile-originated data that are never even served to a phone.

Improving ‘out of home’ campaigns

If you have rich location data, it can help you put your posters in the best possible spots. This was the insight behind Blis’ work with Manning Gottlieb OMD and Talon on a campaign for TSB Mortgages.

Blis analysed data generated from over 200m daily ad impressions across a two week period to map the location of people in the market for a new mortgage.

It looked closely at users who’d been to estate agents, then looked at visits to property related mobile apps and websites.< p>

It then identified where these property hunters went next, which meant TSB could buy OOH advertising in the most effective locations (and not necessarily the most expensive ones).

Measuring in-store visits

One of the great dreams of the adtech world is to link digital advertising to in-store activity. Imagine if you could map online ads with purchases at the till. This vision is what drives projects like Google Wallet.

However, Blis is already using location data to get close. Dewhirst explains how: “We can take a sample group but show only half of them an ad for a particular store. Then we can track their location to see if there’s any uplift in store footfall by the group that saw the ads.

“It’s not actually showing us who made a purchase, but it’s as close as anyone has come at scale. The only alternative now is to actually interview people in the shop, which is not practical or scalable at all.”

Super-targeted campaigns

Blis is currently working with a Singapore bank to identify extremely high net worth individuals. In a manner similar to the Mini campaign detailed above, it’s tracking data related top private jet air strips, exclusive golf clubs and so on to target a small number of consumers.

Hijacking competitors

It’s the dream of some brands to put a cookie on a rival’s home page. With location based mobile advertising, they can come close.

For example, fast food brands can track users who visit their competitors’ stores and then serve them ads at key times of day.

Super targeted location

Blis says its location matching is so accurate it can even serve unique ads to users based not just on a building, but on a specific floor within a building. It’s created a campaign for a recruitment company using these parameters.

Indeed, Dewhirst has personal experience of this hyper-local targeting.

While on holiday in Bali, his colleagues crunched data to determine his location and serve a ‘happy birthday Harry’ banner on the mobile sites he visited.

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Andrew Darling is Communications Director at Blis. He is responsible for Blis’ global communications and PR activities, as well as marketing operations in APAC. Andrew is a seasoned tech marketing and communications expert, Chair of the IAB SG Mobile Committee and former Telecoms, Media and Technology journalist.
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