Commentary

Where In The World Is Your Digital Consumer?

First-party data troves have become more robust over the last few years. Marketers -- particularly those that have invested in data management platforms and cross-device matching -- have a deep understanding of what specific audiences like, how they behave online, and what makes them click, both literally and figuratively.

From a digital and brick-and-mortar perspective, overlaying first-party data with accurate and real-time location data enhances the ability of marketers to serve appropriate creative and messaging at the right time and place. The digital duopoly clearly understands this.

For example, Facebook expanded its partnership with Factual’s Global Places product to bolster its location data capabilities in Europe and Asia. Google, for its part, has focused on unifying digital advertising with in-store sales by connecting beacons to search campaigns. These developments were both announced within the past few weeks.

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The fascination with location-based capabilities doesn’t stop there. Factual has diversified its portfolio, also partnering with Snap Inc. -- a major competitor -- in the social media image and live video space, to Facebook. Snap had previously bought Placed -- another location data firm -- in early June, reportedly for over $200 million. Furthermore, Factual made headlines on June 15, announcing a partnership with Adform, the Europe-based ad-tech platform. And Placed announced a partnership of its own with DataXu to target connected TV (CTV) devices.

So why the flood of location-based enhancements to existing ad-targeting capabilities?

The obvious answer: As marketers continue to seek increasingly granular targeting abilities, and consumers demand greater personalization, overlaying location data on existing audiences offers a deeper level of consumer behavior and motivations -- not to mention the quick adoption of mobile-first ad technologies as consumers continue to increase their time spent on mobile devices.

Particularly as measuring offline attribution becomes key for marketers in the retail space, knowing where a consumer is at a given time is crucial to understanding the success of digital advertising campaigns.

These enhancements to data targeting have wide-ranging significance beyond the commercial benefits. For example, the 2016 election cycle jump-started the democratization of data in the political space. The barriers for entry into the data sphere were significantly less robust in 2016 than they had been in the past, allowing a number of Congressional campaigns to invest heavily in digital advertising.

With voters reachable most frequently through mobile devices, the importance of location data, particularly close to or on election day, cannot be overstated. Get-out-the-vote (GOTV) initiatives can -- and did -- benefit greatly from knowing where voters are on election day, enabling marketing strategists to drive voters to the polls.

These unified digital strategies can be expected to play a greater role in 2018 and 2020.

Being tracked at all times, however, rubs many the wrong way, leading to legal and legislative debates about the legality of tracking someone’s precise location with little more than a passive acceptance of unreadable terms and conditions. Nevertheless, we all want better and more relevant ads, and knowing where we are at any given time can help ensure that marketers maximize their return on investment and prevent wildly inappropriate ads from being served.

This column was previously published in the June 19, 2017 edition of RT Blog.

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