Nethercutt joined PlaceIQ earlier this year after holding leadership roles at YouTube and AdMob. With two successful acquisitions under his belt and a current C-level position at yet another up-and-coming technology company, my first question for him was this: How are you able to identity these ideal companies? What qualities do you see that indicate they’re going to grow quickly and be so successful?
“The criteria for every company is the same,” Nethercutt said. “Is what they are doing interesting to a broad spectrum of marketers? Does it have the potential to scale, or does it already have scale? Most importantly, is the advertising opportunity something that is compelling - but has not been exploited or accessed very well?” He pointed out that AdMob and YouTube offered something that was both needed and wanted, yet hadn’t been really exploited yet.
The same appears to be true for PlaceIQ: location has not yet been leveraged to its full potential. Nethercutt and his team believe strongly that location provides information about user intent. “Where you are and where you have been says a great deal about your interests, and so we take location in mobile and turn it into audiences for marketers to buy,” he told me. Utilizing the USGS grid, “a highly scientific and established paradigm for scientists to use,” as Nethercutt put it, the company is able to serve ads into 100 by 100 meter tiles across the U.S., far more targeted than the typical latitude and longitude point surrounded by a one mile geo-fence. A team of cartographers, who carefully review satellite images, verify the location data.
PlaceIQ is also able to identify the businesses located within those tiles – down to individual stores within a mall, as well as their audiences. A mall may have retailers and Gap and Children’s Place open during the day, but just a handful of popular restaurants and bars at night. PlaceIQ will know that moms and teens can be reached during daylight hours, but millennials and sports fans crowd the place after hours.
Beyond audience buying, PlaceIQ is able to track the number of in-store visits that occur as a direct result of client campaigns. “We look at the ad impression we served and compare that to an impression we chose not to serve. We’ll note that this device didn’t see an ad and this device did, and compare the likelihood of those two devices actually visiting the client store,” said Nethercutt. “We then compare these visitation rates and call that Place Visit Rate.”
PlaceIQ really appeals to retailers, but Nethercutt admits that he’s surprised how well it’s also working for merchandising and co-op advertising. These advertisers are using the service to drive in-store sales for particular products. “They are trying to influence customers at the location to pick up their product on impulse, or make them aware it is for sale in that store,” said Nethercutt.
I’m eager for their location targeting services to be available for programmatic buys, and Nethercutt does see private exchanges in their future – just not immediately. “Exchanges require everything to be simplistic in order to scale,” he said. “We have some things that are scaled and simple, but most of our advertisers want to do custom, as well, and we want to maintain the quality of the experience.” To me, location adds a necessary dimension to premium programmatic; it’s as critical to targeting as HHI, and as predictive of intent as “Minority Report.”
Of course, the company’s only had a direct sales team since last winter. At the pace they’re growing I expect that, by spring 2014, they’ll be actively engaged in programmatic. Let’s hope.