Warren Zenna, an industry veteran and former head of mobile for Havas, now sits at the helm of Location Sciences for the Americas.
While he officially joined London-based Location Sciences in November, recently the company publicly announced his appointment to president of the Americas, as well as its plans to partner with location data companies and agencies.
Location Sciences’ clients are mostly agencies and data suppliers, supported through a location data verification platform called Verify.
As 2019 plays out, Zenna’s focus will remain on all types of verification, with audience segment verification added to the list. The company, overall, will focus on a stronger foothold in Asia.
“I’d like to see us become a verification feed for anyone buying, dealing or selling location signals,” he said.
Zenna has a long list of goals for the year, which include Location Sciences earning MRC accreditation, becoming a member of the IAB, and helping to create location accuracy benchmarks. He also wants to build out a Salesforce-type model to pull data into third-party systems.
Digital News Daily caught up with Zenna to talk about his aspirations and direction for the company, adding in a few insights about his thoughts on location data verification and the opportunities. An excerpt of the conversation follows.
DND: What book are you reading and how does it relate to your work at Location Sciences?
Zenna: I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to reading. I love to read. The first book that comes to mind is Sapiens, one guy’s perspective on the history of humans and how we evolved. It’s all about communication and creating culture.
I’m also reading Zucked by Roger McNamee because I’m fascinated by technology. Chaos Monkeys also is a good book about the industry has created a surveillance technology.
DND: What brought you to Location Sciences?
Zenna: I’ve been in the industry for more than 25 years. I headed up a company called Mobext, Havas Group. When I got there late in 2015, it was really just a mobile consultancy, but we turned it into a full-fledged mobile media agency, with a focus on delivering messages to people’s phones where the presumption is that they are more engaged.
It’s all about location. You’re continually on the move. Location behavior and targeting became an interesting dimension to the effectiveness of mobile marketing. One thing I wasn’t fully able to fully ascertain is whether location signals were accurate enough. It was very difficult, but not impossible, to determine whether the location data used for a specific campaign were accurate or authentic.
DND: What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
Zenna: We hope to bring transparency to a currently opaque part of the market. I would be thrilled if we could be responsible for giving brands more information to verify the location data accuracy. There also financial and business goal.
DND: Why is location data inaccurate?
Zenna: The economics of location data is interesting. Quality location signals are expensive to acquire. While they’re abundant, they are not in abundance in the amount of impressions required. If I’m a marketer I need to spend a lot of money to get those signals, and to make money I need to sell the signals with a high enough margin to make money on it.
Only about 20% to 30% of users have opted in to let companies use their location data. It’s created a marketplace where marketers use other types of location data fills in the gaps.
DND: What keeps you up at night?
Zenna: The location delivery, the ad proximity targeting component of the marketplace, is huge. If you look at all the digital advertising done in the United States, maybe 30% is targeted to locations such as a ZIP code. Of that 30%, some is spent with Google and Facebook. That we can’t impact, but we can impact the remainder.
We’re creating a new market and need to communicate why a location data verification tool is important. There’s not a budget for this. I have to educate people about a new solution for a problem they already know about. It’s difficult to do.
DND: Do you see new opportunities to tie together media not previously done in the past?
Zenna: Yes, like the ability to offer pre-bid solutions such as going to a customer and allowing them to pre-purchase verified locations.
Another opportunity is audience segmentation verification. Many agencies and brands buy audiences that are built on top of location behaviors. Lastly, the verification could become a proxy for some attribution campaigns.
DND: What about digital out-of-home and search advertising?
Zenna: Yes, our system is based on a tag and goes into an impression at the DSP level. For OOH, we would need to first determine if the ads were delivered where intended. And if they’re tying it to an OOH ad, they would test to determine if, in fact, the results were accurate.
As far as search, that’s tough. We don’t get information from search campaigns that feed our system. Search doesn’t have an ad unit in the way other ad campaigns do.
We had a conversation today with an agencies that has a dashboard with all types of location and attribution data inputs. It may take a data scientist to solve that one.
I think they’re seeing it as a base measure, but the source of the data needs to be accurate, too.