Smarter Ads Need Smarter Location Solutions

It’s getting difficult these days to read the advertising trades and blogs without seeing an article on native advertising. It is the top-trending topic in the space so far this year.

Ironically, this focus on native advertising has replaced last year’s hot topic—location. I say ironic because the current focus on native advertising would be better served if more attention were paid to the location element driving it, not less.

What makes good native advertising stand out against other ads (or even bad native advertising) is context. That context can refer to timing (event-based advertising), content (pairing native ads against relevant content), or location. And while there may be no shortage of location engines available on the market, there’s location… and then there’s location.

To create truly hyper-local, native ads, you need better location data than what’s typically offered by so-called location engines today. The technology is there. The networks are there. The problem is the clutter. There are simply too many location “enablers” in name only and not in practice.

Just as advertising technology and techniques have evolved, so must the location solutions designed for it. Advertisers and ad agencies can’t afford to rest on first-generation geofencing providers to power their ad-targeting activities. Doing so would be just as big a mistake as using only banner ads instead of native ads as well.Geofencing was a useful first step, but honing in on location for more refined and efficient targeting is where we are headed.

For example, drawing a circle around a place of business is not always the best way to target local consumers. Unless you are marketing to those attending an event, often it is more important to identify more information on the consumers that would likely appreciate the product or service you are offering and select and test cells or grids surrounding a business.

Consider the typical suburban neighborhood. Usually you’ll see blocks of residential areas bookended or bordered by clusters of grocery stories, fast food restaurants, and retail stores. On one side of the block is the car dealership; while on the other is the strip mall. Does it make sense to target everybody in that area the same, or is it better to target in a more refined way? Should you wait until a prospective customer enters the geofenced area or learn more about the surrounding area to instead drive prospective customers into the fence? Bigger or smaller geofencing doesn’t do the trick. You need to cut the area targeted into the most relevant blocks and understand how they work together. It doesn’t look clean like a circle. It looks chaotic… like life.

Location is not a commodity. It’s your most valuable asset. Treat is as such and it’ll treat you well. Quality location data can double click through rates, so don’t just lay a pretty visual grid over a geofence and think you’re getting the job done. Work with a provider that has the ability to learn where within a zipcode or geofence your ads are most productive. Combine third party data with your own customer data to get the most bang for your buck. Optimize, don’t compromise.

Look for real-time behavioral, contextual and demographic data analysis built directly into your location engine from the ground up. The flow from analysis, to campaign development, to execution and distribution should be handled by the same intelligent system, not broken up into multiple links (one of which could be the weakness that ruins everything). Have a feedback loop of real-time data informing how you can adjust the campaign mid-stream, as well as provide learnings to future campaigns. And insist on flexible customization of message and offer based on the location data you’re working with.

Consumers today are mobile, with advancements in smartphone technology and apps helping them become more sophisticated than ever. The tools most advertisers are using are lagging behind. What worked last year is obsolete this year. It’s time to step up your game. If your customers are using the best apps and resources available to them, shouldn’t you do the same with your location providers? The savvy marketer should look at marrying native and location.
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