Gabey Goh
Aug 23, 2016

Finding audiences: Not all location data are created equal

Location has levels of precision, and much of the data out there may not be up to marketers' expectations.

Finding audiences: Not all location data are created equal

SINGAPORE - Location data are a key tool in marketing’s current quest to find consumers and the context they inhabit at any particular moment.

But while brands around the world are navigating their way with location data, the fact remains that not all data is good, Andrew Darling, director of communications with Blis, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.

Darling said that one of the biggest problems with location is achieving accuracy at scale. The industry wants to have perfect [location-based] experiences for the individual, but there is also a need to make sure that the information is accurate.

“It’s not about just about one individual’s location, but figuring out ways that we can scale that kind of targeted approach," he said. "This is an industry-wide problem and everyone has different approaches to dealing with it, but it’s worth bearing in mind that ad-tech providers that haven’t built their own proprietary tech platforms from a ‘mobile-first’ perspective will not be delivering a high-quality data product."

Darling said that raw location data is known to have the downside of being inaccurate.

“We have looked at GPS latitude/longitude data coming across the platform from publishers and exchanges, and our analysis shows up to 90 percent of this data can be inaccurate or even false,” he said.

Darling noted that in terms of the accuracy of Asia’s location data, the situation largely mirrors the international, as nearly 80 percent of location is obtained by publishers using an IP address, which is neither a precise nor accurate method.

“The reasons are myriad," he said. "Publishers take location data from data providers who only use city or street-level GPS coordinates, and so the accuracy is low. The publishers think they can sell the inventory for higher premium with location attached, but it’s useless unless it’s been verified and ‘cleaned’.”

It is here that Darling believes companies like his have a role to play. Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester, while not specifically promoting Blis or any other provider, noted that as far as she knows, most marketers in Asia don't have that level of expertise on data in-house.

“They rely on external help, via agencies or data and tech vendors,” she said.

Darling said the company has a stringent process, comprising six steps and the cross-referencing of IP addresses against its own points-of-interest database, to verify its data. If the data doesn’t pass these tests, it gets thrown out.

He added that publishers in the region need to stop looking at the cheapest third-party location data provider and start looking at building integrating SDKs from quality, proven providers.

“Big data has made digital marketing smarter, but an important problem persists today,” he added. “There is a deluge of location data, some of which is highly inaccurate. For instance, having 10,000 data points identified at the same time within 1 square metre of where a server is hosted, but still having that information included in the decision-making process.”

Location lessons

Darling reports that recent meetings with clients and partners have featured data as a central discussion point, focused on how they can enrich their own data with the company’s location expertise and how they can feed data back into their platforms to better find their audience. The company has done work for brands such as Airbnb, Canon, Sony and Jaguar.

He added that in order to understand an ad-tech provider’s core capabilities, marketers must find out how their mobile and tech capabilities were built.

There are numerous providers that specialise in desktop that have moved into mobile, but their multiplication has made it difficult for marketers to understand who offers what, and select the best vendor for their mobile marketing campaigns.

“There is bad location data everywhere and it’s available to everyone,” said Darling. “Filtering it out solves this problem but without adding other content, demographic, second- and third-party data, advertisers will always be faced with reducing scale.”

If location advertising is done badly, it wastes advertisers’ money because their ads are not sent to the right location. But there is also more education that needs to be done, as many in Asia still think location-based advertising is all about proximity, for example, serving an ad when someone is near to something like a retailer.

“This is only a tiny part of overall location strategy,” said Darling. Location and proximity (geo-fencing) might seem synonymous, but proximity is only one small application of location insights. He argues that a better approach is reaching out to target audiences through a combination of methods that best suit the brand.

“Data is a deep well; one that will only get deeper,” said Darling. “Focusing on location data to optimise campaigns will, without a doubt, give brands the intelligence they need to reach better-targeted audiences and, at the end of the day, build brand value.”

5 to dos to get mobile ROI (by Blis)

1. Get under the hood

Unless more of the right questions are asked, the industry will not learn and won’t move forward. For example, more than half of all location data is predicted to be inaccurate. Location is everything in mobile. Ask your agency or mobile media vendor to articulate their technological approach to location. How does it permeate through to their products and targeting for your business? How accurate is their location data, and how does it inform their understanding of your audience?

2. Inventory acquisition

Work with vendors who are close to the source of inventory and who provide value through data and/or their proprietary technology. Ensure that your mobile media inventory is also being bought programmatically or better still, acquired through Real-time Bidding (RTB). Whether through a managed service or a self-serve platform, there are cost-efficiencies to be had, where you won’t pay more than you have to.

3. Keep things simple, and do them well

Don’t be sold by flashy presentations featuring the latest and greatest products. This approach is usually born out of desperation to get an IO signed. Stick to the basics and do less, well. This might mean only one method of targeting and/or inventory placement, so that your budget isn’t spread too thin. That’s okay, you’ll have more meaningful results in the long-term.

4. Leverage the mobile ecosystem

The vast majority of mobile inventory is global and app-based, as mentioned above. If you are only buying local m-site based inventory, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to reach your audience at scale.

5. Look at case studies and benchmarks

Ask your mobile media vendor for examples of campaigns run in your vertical and market. Look further afield to the UK or US if nothing exists in Australia or New Zealand. After all, they are more similar markets to those on our Asia-Pacific doorstep, so the insight gained would probably be of more value. Campaigns will improve as more companies look at consumer trends through “the lens of location”, as well as considering the digital preferences of people engaging with more and more apps, which has led to more agencies setting up and integrating programmatic into their environment.

The promise

Advertisers around the world have long tried to make use of their mass of data to help them reach audience segments or target better, Darling said.

“I believe that one of the most effective and recognised ways of leveraging data is through the lens of location insights," he said. "This is because location tells a story about the real-world lives of people and the places they go to. This can provide brands and media agencies with audience segments based on where people have actually been—a far greater pointer to behaviour than simply sites they’ve visited.”

Darling points to a scenario where a credit-card brand wants to reach people who are affluent and who frequently travel. The brand could look at the data to find people who are in an airport at least once every two months and stay at four- and five-star hotels.

“Then when they’re at home, we might look at people who live in affluent residential areas, maybe go to golf courses or marinas,” he added. “The data allows us to see who these people are, and reach them in a certain way.”

Darling said that benefits of location-based data driven insights could be applied across many different verticals.

“In some moments, the perfect moment will be reaching them at purchase, and others it will be a more long-term strategy, such as reaching them at home,” he said.

Forrester's Wang agreed, adding that the use of location data increases advertising efficiency.

“According to several marketers we interviewed, most ad-buying platforms offer geo-fencing capabilities, enabling more engaging hyper-local ads. More advanced tactics include retargeting based on physical location,” she added.

To illustrate, Wang pointed to location ad firm xAd, which has expanded its business aggressively in China and other markets within APAC, and in the process has worked with clients such as Lenovo, Henz and CUBA.

But beyond advertising, she added that location data makes contextual marketing possible, as location data only makes sense when it combines with time, which makes it contextual marketing.

Forrester defines a mobile moment as "a point in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to get what they want in their immediate context."

“For example, mobile marketing and commerce app developer Appconomy worked with Carrefour China to provide indoor-location-based promotion services for brands within its Smart Shopper app,” said Wang. “Another example is Cafe Amazon in Thailand. They created a mobile app ‘Drive Awake’ that monitors the drivers' eye, and directs the dozy drivers to the closest cafe.”

Main image credit: Flickr user @joelogon under a Creative Commons license

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