54% of Location-Targeted Mobile Ads Off By More Than Half a Mile

With mobile, location is king. That is, when it’s the right location.

Leveraging where a phone is located at any given moment allows fulfilment of the long-desired marketing dream of providing highly relevant messaging to consumers.

At the beginning of last year, Thinknear by Telenav started measuring just how accurate that location data used to send those phones was.

The first I heard of this was during presentation at the MediaPost Mobile Insider Summit in January 2014.

In a presentation at that conference, Thinknear execs said they found that ads were more effective when delivered to a mobile phone closer to a location, as I wrote about here at the time (Missing the Target with Targeted Ads).

For example, a person near a quick serve restaurant is more likely to click on a mobile ad relating to it than a person far away, which makes perfect sense.

But the bigger news in that presentation was that much of the advertising being sent to phones was not based on accurate location.

At that time, Thinknear found the following accuracy rates in ad messages sent to phones:

  • 32% -- Accurate within 325 feet
  • 43% -- Accurate within 11,000 feet
  • 26% -- Accurate within 6 miles

This meant that many messages were missing the mark, sometimes by a lot.

“The impact is more than just the issue of serving ads in the wrong location, it's also about serving ads to the wrong audience,” said Brett Kohn, VP of marketing at Thinknear. “Location accuracy is similar to the issue of view-ability in mobile. In both cases, marketers are paying for one thing but getting something completely different.”

That was the beginning of the Location Score Index by ThinkNear, which became a quarterly report, which I’ve closely followed since that first presentation.

The index is based on data analyzed from more than a billion ad impressions and accuracy tests run on more than 500,000 consumer ad experiences.

In the tracking report in September of last year, there was some slight improvement, with the accuracy rate of ads reaching 46% within 325 feet or less, up from 34% earlier in the year.

The location score index for the first quarter of this year is being released today and based on the numbers, there’s still some work to be done.

During the last year, while the overall programmatic space continued to grow, the quality of location data remained relatively unchanged from last year.

As astounding as it may seem, one in 10 ads are not accurate to within 60 miles of a phone’s location and 18% are only accurate from between 6 to 60 miles, based on the study.

As a benchmark, here are the numbers from the previous quarter last year:

  • 37% -- Accurate within 325 feet
  • 10% -- Accurate between 325 feet to .6 miles
  • 28% -- Accurate from within .6 miles to 6 miles
  • 17% -- Accurate from within 6 miles to 60 miles
  • 8% -- Accurate not accurate within 60 miles

From last quarter to this one, there was no change in the ads accurate to within 325 feet of a person’s phone. And the number not accurate within 60 miles actually increased. Here are the latest location scores today:

  • 37% -- Accurate within 325 feet
  • 9% -- Accurate between 325 feet to .6 miles
  • 26% -- Accurate from .6 miles to 6 miles
  • 18% -- Accurate from 6 miles to 60 miles
  • 10% -- Accurate not accurate within 60 miles

Viewed another way, more than half (54%) of location-targeted mobile ads are more than half a mile off target. This is because the data being used to target those ads is 54% off by more than half a mile.

The Thinknear report attributes part of the location accuracy issue to an increase in the volume of mobile Web traffic entering the programmatic space, noting that mobile Web has traditionally had lower quality location data than apps.

The bottom line is that some mobile ads are missing the mark by miles. Literally.


3 comments about "54% of Location-Targeted Mobile Ads Off By More Than Half a Mile".
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  1. Jon Currie from Currie Communications, Inc., May 18, 2015 at 3:16 p.m.

    It's not just ads. I often use apps such as Fandango to help me locates services such as movies. I have been in a mall with a cinema and yet Fandago will send me to another theatre mlies away, even as the one in the mall was listed as being miles away. Not ready for prime time.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, May 18, 2015 at 4:39 p.m.

    Right, Jon, that is why studies like these are being done.

  3. Andrew Darling Darling from BlisMedia Ltd, May 20, 2015 at 7:53 a.m.

    BlisMedia specialise in filtering out this poor data. We subject all publisher and exchange location data to a six point test to eliminate inaccurate Lat/Long data. Up to 90 percent is removed when it comes into our platform, leaving only the accurate data. Clearly that reduces an advertisers audience, but with our proprietary historical location and IP database, which no other location adtech provider posseses, we can boost audiences using this first party data.

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