Location’s and Mobile’s Year in Review: 7 Marketing Moments that Shaped 2017

Mobile marketing is moving forward, always forward, tracking alongside the expansion of technology as the consumers’ first — and increasingly only — choice when it comes to how they experience and interact with every industry, from retail to automotive and beyond.

In the home, on the move, in stores, this year was marked by the domination of mobile marketing and by the continued rise of emerging interfaces such as augmented reality. Looking back at 2017, the list below highlights key points within this evolution — each example counts as evidence that we live in an increasingly mobile-to-offline world.

  1. A year for identifying new location-contextual opportunities. From at-home research to across-the-day moments, mobile and location data are about relevance and personalized moments. This is not just a retail opportunity. Automotive dealers, for example, spend more than $600 per car in advertising, the National Automobile Dealers Association reported in 2017. Roughly $400 of that amount is being spent on advertising channels — including TV, radio, and newspapers — that feature virtually no targeting (as we understand digital targeting, in 2017), and that leave out location data’s window onto context, relevancy, and anticipatory inspiration. As the year closes, aging notions of on-lot conquesting are poised to be replaced by other meaningful mobile moments; proximity-only strategies now represent limited models of ad spend in the M2O world.
  1. Apple’s ARKit earned powerful adopters. Augmented-reality got a boost this year when IKEA, a longtime adopter of consumer-friendly 3D-image technology, took a remarkable lead with its AR-focused Place, quickly embracing Apple’s ARKit in the process. The app allows consumers to combine shopping with the realities of their location — viewing furniture at true scale in their homes. Meanwhile, monitoring social media, the company noticed that consumers were complaining about the lack of a search feature for Place, and so they added one, deploying a new version in five days. Innovation plus responsiveness gave IKEA a 2017 mobile-marketing win.
  1. AR developers didn’t unveil a post-Pokémon follow-up, but AR did make retail inroads. Rather than a next-generation follow-up on 2016’s Pokémon GO success, what we saw was a push for incremental AR solutions — testing and deployment that largely depended on answering consumers’ wants and needs. See the IKEA instance, above, for example, and there was also this hail-Mary effort by Toys R Us to bring consumers back to stores. Meanwhile, the augmented-reality story in 2017 further expanded to different kinds of hardware altogether. As Venture Beat reported, the automobile driver’s cabin is newly poised to become automotive’s canvas for an entirely different kind of mobile AR space.
  1. Apple drew a (blue) line between mobile users and unchecked location-data practices. The iOS 11 blue bar for location lit up the conversation around consumer location-data access. The net outcome was a consumer boon, with Cupertino’s later revision — user opt-in will mitigate the blue bar requirement for selected apps — making the experience even more palatable for consumers that know the apps they love. In all cases, the core of Apple’s move means flagging battery-drain offenders and potentially unscrupulous data collectors.
  1. Mobile-ad spend increased (and the duopoly won’t claim all of it). Adweek reported this year that as much as 70 percent of digital-ad spend ended up on mobile’s side. That’s amazing news, even if it comes with the caveat that 60 percent of that spend ended up in the coffers of Google and Facebook. For the rest of us, for mobile-marketing’s innovators and leaders, there is still so much to claim — if the stats are accurate, some 40 percent of mobile-ad spend remains for the taking. Tomorrow’s leading organizations will grasp their share of it next year and in the years to come. Bottom line, the M2O landscape has room for us all.
  1. Amazon made moves to claim market share. Marketing Week sees Amazon growing its global digital ad revenue into a $2.84 billion business by 2019. Mobile is part of its play: “They have a search engine, a programmatic stack, premium content and one of the top five apps,” Kristin Lemkau, chief marketing officer at JPMorgan Chase, told Business Insider. In 2017, Amazon made inroads to retail experiences and customer touch points as well: partnerships like the one it forged with Kohl’s — the brick-and-mortar started taking Amazon returns in 2017 — stand to drive meaningful conversions (customers make new purchases about half the time during a return), and they stand as strong arguments for partner-brands to put more digital-ad spend in Amazon’s pockets as these relationships develop.
  1. And, we learned, fully realized mobile creative is not abbreviated TV. An important mobile story emerged as Dove took a TV spot, cut it down to about three seconds, and ended up with a social-media emergency. The spot, in its shortened format, left out critical elements of context — in effect, one of the images in the mobile version appeared to be racist. Moral of the story? You need to create for mobile; you can’t simply trim a TV spot and assume you’ve retained your message. Mobile consumers are super-aware of context and they are always alert to moments they can share — and sharing means outrage as well.

As a final note about 2017, we may well look back on this year as a tipping point — a moment when the mobile data-privacy equation went internal. In two cases, with Three Square Market implanting RFID chips in 50 employees’ hands — part of an IoT program at the company — and with the FDA’s approval of an ingestible sensor pill that can track medication from a patient’s insides, the doorway to a new era of data-collection and policy complexities crept open.

The above examples show that mobile marketing strengthened, evolved, and approached the threshold of exciting new steps in 2017. As we ramp-up for 2018, the work we’ve accomplished will fuel the industry’s success in the months to come. Happy new year, mobile marketing — you’ve never looked better.

*As Chief Marketing Officer, Julie Bernard leads Verve’s brand strategy, marketing, analytics and creative services. Julie was previously SVP of Omnichannel Customer Strategy, data science, loyalty, and marketing technology at Macy’s, where she was recognized as a customer-centric leader implementing data-driven approaches for strategic growth, including award-winning personalized communications at scale, first-of-a-kind loyalty programs, and modern media attribution techniques.  Bernard previously held executive leadership positions at Saks Fifth Avenue and XRoads Solutions Group, a boutique retail consultancy.

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Blis And GroupM’s Mediacom On Uncovering ‘Smart Trends’ In Attribution

Location analytics platform Blis is rolling out the beta launch of Smart Trends, a new data and insights tool that allows marketers to analyze consumer behavior, from profiling to attribution, by capturing and activating mobile movement data.

Smart Trends gathers in-store consumer behavioral data and then matches it with in-store comparisons of multiple location types and brands, so that marketers can break down by demographic, contextual, time/day, and device type analysis, as well as compare behavior of user groups side by side.

Media buying shop Mediacom, which is part of WPP’s GroupM, is one of the first ad agency partners to take up Smart Trends with Blis. We checked in with Amy Fox, head of Product at Blis, and Ben Phillips, global head of Mobile at Mediacom, to get an overview of their partnership and what it means for brands.

GeoMarketing: What’s the nature of Blis’ consumer behavioral analytics within Smart Trends?

Amy Fox: Using mobile location data, Blis’ new Smart Trends tool unlocks consumer behavior insights on purchase intent, shopping patterns, and mobile consumption while shopping. Smart Trends provides in-store and inter-store brand analysis by breaking down audience demographic, contextual content, and foot traffic. This allows for side by side behavioral comparison of user groups to enable more effective campaign planning, delivery and attribution in order to deliver competitive advantage.

How does Smart Trends compare to more established behavioral analytics tools like PC-based cookies?

Amy Fox: The data feeding Smart Trends starts out as a string of otherwise arbitrary numbers, which once overlaid with the Blis Point of Interest Database becomes insight into the daily behaviors of devices in store.  Smart Trends layers these snapshots of information over time to provide brands a full overview of spatio-temporal behavior– looking at how people move between the residential, recreational and retail environments.

Ben Phillips: It adds another layer of data that enables us to cross reference existing tools that are available to us and our clients.  Mobile has always been able to provide vast amounts of data based around a consumer in the moment, what were now developing is how to not only understand where our audiences are now but where they have been and to enable predictive modelling for the future. Smart Trends helps us to better understand consumer journeys, attribution and engagement with digital and offline media.

If location is at the center of this tool, how do you regard the perennial question of whether “location data is the new cookie?”

Amy Fox: Location is the new cookie and more when it comes to targeting and engaging with audiences. Proximity is important but you’ve also got to look at location in a historical context. You can build up comprehensive consumer profiles looking at where their device IDs turn up– whether it’s an retail store, a hotel or a movie theater. This is vital to predicting future behavioral. It’s not about where people are, but where they’ve been and using those insights to know where they are going.

Ben Phillips: Location does afford us elements of personalization above and beyond the traditional desktop measurement solutions.  Mobile has developed ways and means such as device graphs, probabilistic and deterministic ID matching and behavioral modelling to determine its audience.  This goes a long way to conforming that the best solution in market are those designed for Mobile first, this approach negates a lot of the preconceived problems encountered when working with desktop platforms and methodologies and expecting them to work in a mobile world.

Location data quality from bidstream/programmatic, GPS, cell phone tower, wifi, and (to a certain extent) beacons/bluetooth IoT sources, offer varying value in terms of accuracy. What are the sources of Blis’ analytics tool and how does it deal with the questions of signal sources and accuracy?

Amy Fox: Smart Trends data is captured via movement data sources which includes GPS, wifi and beacons. Like all Blis-verified location data, it passes through our quality control technology to filter out inaccurate and fraudulent points so that we’re only working with sources we can trust.

Ben Phillips: With 50-70 percent of GPS data being inaccurate, fraud needs to be removed which unfortunately leaves the data sets at a fraction of the size with the need to be scaled up again in order to identify actionable insights. What Blis does is they use verified GPS data scaled out to public wifi, something we haven’t seen done with any other location partner.

Are there any particular kinds of clients that the new behavioral analytics tool benefits? (Retail and QSR versus automotive and banking/financial services? Or does it benefit all major categories?)

Amy Fox: The insights gained from Smart Trends are applicable to any category.  Brand marketers across all verticals have access to a wealth of information on their customers, but often the data is limited to engagement with their own properties. To get a more holistic perspective of their audience – looking at aspects such as behavior with your brand in the context of competitors and in different environments – is valuable in identifying lifestyle indicators to inform brand positioning or cross-vertical partnerships that will help convert target audiences.

Ben Phillips: Many clients, not just retailers with storefronts, are using location data to measure the amount of time spent with their brand– everything from footfall attribution to cross platform engagement. Blis took us through a pilot study looking at foot traffic across the national grocery market. Obviously this is an extremely competitive sector, with promotions and store openings constantly shifting as they fight to increase shopper frequency , which ultimately impacts revenue market share at a brand level.

This passively collected data can provide insight on the actual store-to-store behavioral of shoppers with a granularity that survey data simply can’t match. As we move further away from traditional buying proxies, I predict that location data will become a broad consideration in the coming months, accounting for a large percentage of campaigns in 2018.

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Pandora’s Sonos Integration Opens More Advertisers To The Connected Home

Pandora’s Smart Home strategy has been continuing with a series of steps designed to make the use of the streaming music platform easier for consumers as well as advertisers.

While listening to Pandora has been accessible on Sonos’ speakers for years, the two brands have partnered on new ways for listeners to employ voice-activation controls.

In keeping with Pandora’s philosophy that “voice is the new touch,” listeners can now control Sonos directly through the Pandora mobile app and command Pandora stations with spoken commands via Alexa. The new experience also includes support for Premium, Pandora’s on-demand service launched earlier this year.

In terms of the marketing potential for Pandora, which has an Alexa Skill in the Amazon Echo — as well as a similar presence on Google Home’s voice-activated assistant — this new integration on Sonos will be an opportunity for advertisers to expand their potential audience reach, as its app users have more ways and places to listen.

For Pandora, this expanded alliance with Sonos is another example of what it considers to be a huge opportunity to reach audiences through connected home and voice-activated devices.

“Pandora listeners love the in-home music experience we’ve created with Sonos, having logged over 250 million hours this year alone,” said Chris Phillips, Chief Product Officer, Pandora. “We have made it easier than ever to control your home audio listening experience by adding beautifully designed features inside the Pandora app to control your Sonos.”

More than 50 percent of Sonos owners across the country use Pandora throughout their home, the company said, as Pandora’s platform is available on more than 48 million activations on consumer electronics devices generally.

“Sonos owners have enjoyed their favorite Pandora stations in any room since the service joined the Sonos platform back in 2007,” said Allen Mask, VP of Partnerships at Sonos. “It is now easier for listeners to access and control all of their music from Pandora, whether it’s from the Sonos app, with voice, and now from within the Pandora app – all working together seamlessly.”

The adoption rate of smart speakers with voice assistants grew 140 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to a survey from music streaming service Pandora and Edison Research.

In particular, Pandora usage on these devices grew by a 282 percent year-over-year.

In Pandora’s 2018 Definitive Guide to Audio, which was released last month, the streaming music platform has been attempting to make the case that the latest shift to Connected Intelligence-based devices represents another leap past terrestrial radio. In essence, the rise of voice-activated devices extract all kinds of data from the Knowledge Graph and therefore create even more personalized experiences for consumers.

With that growth in mind, Pandora sought to get a sense of how the rise of devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana is opening up new opportunities for marketers to reach multiple household members in contextually relevant ways they couldn’t before.

The research bears out much of what NPR found in its examination of the role of voice-activation and consumers’ media usage this past summer. Roughly 65 percent of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home can’t imagine to going back to the days before they had a smart speaker, and 42 percent of that group say the voice-activated devices have quickly become “essential” to their lives, NPR’s research said.

Among the obvious points both NPR and Pandora’s separate studies found: listening to music was the initial reason people sought these devices for. But the use cases of have quickly mushroomed.

In last week’s kick off its first dedicated ad targeting program aimed at voice-activated devices with Nestlé Waters, Eric Hoppe, Director of Product Management at Pandora, told us how Smart Home devices required specific ad formats, as opposed to repurposed ones.

“We see targeting through connected-home devices as an opportunity for both brand building and a way to drive store visits,” said Hoppe. “Audio acts as a powerful tool to establish an emotional connection with audiences, and connected devices offer an even greater level of intimacy, particularly within the home where listeners are more receptive and their environment acts as a contextual trigger. Pandora on connected-devices can drive very specific results and actions through data and technology – advertisers can target more than 2,000 audience segments with the right message at the right time, based on brand objectives.”

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Stop Thinking Content First

There are 95 million photos and videos being posted on Instagram every day, 300 hours of video content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 3 billion snaps created per day. It’s safe to say there’s no shortage of content which begs the question, does the world really need more?

As Creative Director for UM Studios, creating content across some of UM’s biggest brands, this may seem like a pretty radical question. On the contrary, it’s not about creating less content, it’s about making sure we are identifying the right approach that will help inform the type of content we are creating.

With so many channels and formats it’s easy to go straight to saying things like “let’s use influencers,” or “let’s create a series of long form vignettes on YouTube” or “ooh, how about 6 second videos? Those are slick!” The real challenge is identifying why we need this content to begin with. What’s the powerful insight or idea that can inform the role of content? With that said, if we’re leading with content first, we could be missing the larger point – and critical steps in between.

Upon writing this, I happened to attend an Advertising Week panel discussion called “Substance Will Be Viral” where Armando Turco, General Manager, Vox Creative, Jeannie Chu, VP Global Brand Content for American Express, and Alex Bodman, Global Creative Director for Spotify discussed this very issue.

In the session, they addressed the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of poor content to premium content and that maybe we should reevaluate both the volume of content, and its purpose in the first place. It was a serendipitous moment of “Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been taking about. I’m so relieved I’m not the only content person that thinks this.”

It was particularly insightful to hear Armando voice his frustration with the way many brands are currently briefing content publishers. Often publishers receive an RFP that focuses too much on the assets that need to be created as opposed to the idea behind it. I’m sure most content publishers or agency partners have received a brief at one time or another that sounded something like “we need one :90s video, two :30s cut downs, four :15s teasers and eight social posts, and here’s our campaign.”

This was concerning to hear considering that the primary focus of my job is to develop and identify ideas that will help inform the need for content, the type of content we should be creating, and ­­who are the right partners that can help create this content. Coming to partners with an idea that they can build off of rather than a shopping list of assets always produces better results. We have to get to a better brief and treat content partners like partners – not simply asset creators.

However, developing an integrated connections idea and identifying the need for creating content is a different process than developing a tagline or brand campaign. Sometimes content is needed to simply amplify the core campaign message, sometimes content is needed to translate the campaign idea into the voice of the audience, sometimes there’s a gap in content that needs to be filled, or sometimes content is used to demonstrate the elasticity of the idea. Taking a content first approach without considering the role it plays often falls into potential danger of becoming just a longer form version of an ad that’s less to the point.

If there are two guiding principles in the quest for content creation, the first one is to identify a powerful insight and idea that is big enough to transcend content format and work across various lengths and channels.

As Alex Bodman from Spotify said “if you have a powerful idea the content opportunities become endless.” Trying to cut down long form content into shorter formats or retrofitting content intended for broadcast into social can often be challenging, but a big idea should be able to stretch beyond traditional content formats (:60s, :30s, :15s, etc) and into new and emerging mediums (:06s, voice, experiential, etc).

The second guiding principle is to identify “what do we want the brand to do” vs. “what do we want the brand to say.” People expect more from brands than ever before and with more media channels they expect brands to be shaping culture by “doing” things not just “saying” things. With that said we need to ask ourselves “what is it that we are doing as a brand that creates rich content opportunities and stories that need to be told?”

When Spotify launched their “I’m With The Banned” campaign they could have easily just said, “Hey, let’s create a branded content series that tells stories of artists affected by the travel ban.”

If they did, I’m sure those stories would have still been compelling. Spotify however, didn’t just tell stories. They did something powerful by bringing two artists together that were affected by the travel ban from different cultural backgrounds to Canada where they could collaborate on original songs and unite their two fan bases over such a polarizing political issue.

This wasn’t just a powerful act, it was a powerful idea that manifested itself in many different content formats and media channels. Big ideas that put brands into action doesn’t just capture attention, it creates better and more authentic content.

So, is it really a question of creating better content or better ideas?

The answer is probably both but it starts with establishing a big idea that drives a clear vision for the role of content to begin with. After all, in today’s fleeting world of content abundance with a billion hours of video consumed on YouTube everyday it’s hard to remember all the content we consume on a regular basis, but powerful ideas are tough to forget.

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Subway Signs On To Shorter Pandora Audio Ads To Capture Micro-Moments

Pandora is taking a cue from shorter video ads currently being offered by YouTube, Facebook, Fox Networks, with a similar version for audio ads in order to help better capture mobile consumers on-the-go and drive sharper creative.

Following tests of the shorter format that showed lifts in ad recall with pest control service Orkin and jobs site ZipRecruiter, Subway is planning to use the Pandora 10- and 30-second audio ads in the next few weeks.

In a test with Nielsen Entertainment to understand audio ad effectiveness between broadcast radio and digital radio, Pandora says it was the ad length findings that caught the music streaming platform’s attention.

The test indicated that shorter audio ads (8 seconds in length) prompted high recall with younger demos, specifically 13-24 year olds. Although the study wasn’t 100 percent conclusive, it made Pandora pause and consider how it might apply these findings on its platform.

“We think there may be an effective blend of shorter and longer length audio ads that can help with message breakthrough and alleviate potential creative fatigue,” a Pandora spokesperson tells GeoMarketing.

“For example: leading with a punchy, 10-second message to capture attention, then following up in the next ad break with a 30-second ad once interest is piqued to convey the full message, or articulate a particular call-to-action, may help drive desired outcomes,” the Pandora rep adds.

Pandora is going to conduct more tests to verify its early findings over the coming months. Among the specific findings Pandora is looking to prove:

  • 10-second and 30-second audio ads both successfully drive ad recall:
  • We’re currently seeing double digits lifts in ad recall amongst both 10s and 30s.
  • While 10s are showing promise (especially with younger demos – see next bullet), so far, we are still seeing higher ad recall driven by 30-second ads, which tells Pandora  that 30s are still a crucial format for audio.
  • Shorter ad formats seem to resonate better amongst younger demos:
  • Ad recall rates for shorter audio ads have been highest amongst the 25 – 34 demo, whereas older demos responded better to longer formats.
  • Shorter audio ads do not necessarily equal less time spent for brands:
  • In one test, we found that a 10s ad actually drove higher time spent with the advertiser’s landing page than the 30s audio ad.

“It’s still very early days, but our theory based on initial testing is that there will be instances where 10-second audio ads are optimal, and others where 15 or 30-second ads are more compelling and effective,” Pandora says. “Certain demos may be more receptive to brief audio spots where others might prefer to hear messaging within the parameters of traditional ad lengths. The message an advertiser is trying to convey should also be taken into consideration. A complex message may require more time to communicate and break through. There could be an ideal combination of lengths within a campaign flight as well.”

The Audio Renaissance

Pandora’s exploration of shorter ad formats comes as Roger Lynch prepares to take on the role of CEO and president on Sept. 19.

Lynch most recently served as the founding CEO of DISH Network’s Sling TV, where he led the creation, launch, and growth of Sling TV to become the leading live over-the-top streaming video service in the U.S., as Wells Fargo analyst Peter Stabler noted in a recent investors note.

“While Mr. Lynch brings significant experience in leading consumer subscription services (and no apparent experience running an ad-supported business) to Pandora, we expect Pandora to maintain its renewed focus on ad-supported products,” Stabler wrote.

The Wells Fargo analyst praised the doubling down on ad support as a sound strategy to balance out its premium subscription option.

Among the recent signs of how Pandora has been continuing to enhance its ad offerings, Pandora recently signed on with Foursquare to tell help show marketers like Subway and Mohegan Sun clearer foot traffic metrics by its streaming music listeners.

“Over the years, we’ve worked with a variety of location analytic vendors, but we are excited to partner directly with Foursquare for their unique first-party location data which leverages both passive (GPS signals, WiFi, cellular data, Bluetooth, etc.) and explicit check-in data (direct user check-ins on FoursquareCity Guide and Foursquare Swarm apps) to double-verify an actual check-in has occurred, Keri Degroote, VP of Research and Analytics at Pandora, told GeoMarketing at the time.

By refining its ad formats from a creative standpoint, Pandora aims to capitalize on the growing importance of audio in general given its existing connections to voice-activated platforms like Amazon’s Alexa.

As J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian stated at last month’s Cannes Lions event, speaking and listening is the oldest means of conversation; the human mind is inherently designed for this type of interaction — far more than the artificial motion of swiping at a smartphone.

So, what can marketers do to engage with this natural behavior through consumers’ connected devices and smartphones?

Pandora’s proof of whether it has the answer to that question should come quickly.

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Amid Declining Ad Revenues, Twitter Aims To Prove Offline Sales Effectiveness

Twitter’s second quarter earnings last month revealed an interesting disconnect: on the plus side, advertising engagement grew 95 percent compared to the same period the year before; but ad revenue slipped 8 percent.

The competition for the ad dollars not claimed by the digital ad hegemons Facebook and Google is a problem all online publishers have to contend with. But Twitter’s ubiquity as a mainstream social media tool has put a spotlight on its challenges more than most companies, though Snap is starting to feel some heat as well.

eMarketer has forecast Twitter’s ad revenue will grow 1.6 percent this year, to $2.28 billion — driven by almost entirely — 90 percent — from mobile. By being so heavily mobile, the microblog hopes to capitalize on the kinds of micro-moments that have propelled spending on its online rivals.

To help make its case to marketers, Twitter has enlisted analytics partners Foursquare and Nielsen to make its case to brands, particularly when it comes to driving offline foot traffic and sales.

Among the stats Twitter is highlighting involves the sale of mobile devices at telcos’ brick-and-mortar locations.

“For carriers and manufacturers focused on generating in-store foot traffic, Twitter proves to be an effective partner,” Twitter says. “Research shows that Twitter not only drives in-store foot traffic, but it also compels buyers to spend more overall. In fact, people on Twitter are more likely to research a smartphone while in-store compared to those who don’t use Twitter.”

Specifically, Foursquare and Nielsen say that buyers spend 6.8 percent more with mobile wireless carriers after seeing ads on Twitter.

Nielsen and Foursquare’s research also offered analysis of the kinds of people who are more likely to make purchase in brick-and-mortar stores.

Twitter users tend to frequent big-box stores and budget-friendly travel locations, and their tastes include fast-casual food. While that sounds a lot like the general population, it does indicate the connections of when those brands should advertise. For example, in-store shoppers love sports — again, like pretty much everyone else — so brands can activate during major sporting events when people are the most engaged on Twitter.

“On Twitter, people are in a unique discovery mindset,” the report says. “They are curious, leaned in, and looking to learn, be inspired, and act. This means that because users are in the right mindset, people on Twitter are more likely to see and remember ads.

“Competition in the telco industry is fiercer than ever, and marketers need to make their ad dollars work harder,” Foursquare and Nielsen note. “Whether you are looking to drive offline sales, online sales, or both, people on Twitter are especially receptive to ads and motivated to buy. Brands that leverage customer insights to reach different audience segments based on their interests, passions, and behaviors on Twitter will be able to more thoughtfully and creatively reach and win customers.”

Of course, given that Twitter’s rivals recognize the micro-moments and user attention, Twitter will have to make a concerted effort to specifically target the brands who are considering how much to spread finite ad dollars around.

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Cannes Lions Recap: What Dominated The Conversations? Amazon, Of Course

The Cannes Lions advertising and media festival wrapped up this past weekend, between sipping rosé and boarding yachts, the top advertisers, agencies and ad platforms gathered to talk about creativity, new technologies and where the industry is heading.

(GeoMarketing’s Lauryn Chamberlain was there with coverage of J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian “Speak Easy” voice-activation report with MindshareHow Brands Can Have Authentic Conversations In ‘Smart Cities’ with Intersection’s Colin O’Donnell, as well as moderating a panel on How Marketers Can Integrate OOH, Social To Create Context — At Scale.)

Nels Stromborg, managing director of location-based shopping app, Retale,  was also in attendance, and he shared some of his observations about what drove most of the talk among the attendees he encountered.

Amazon, Amazon, Amazon

Amazon is dominating the conversation at Cannes. Their reach into the physical retail world shouldn’t be underestimated. They’re poised to redefine the way we shop and how we do business. As Oath’s Tim Armstrong said, we’re “now in an era of industries merging versus businesses merging.”

For Amazon, it has already been a huge win. Their stock added $15 billion in value the day after acquiring Whole Foods. They basically got the company for free. Expect more moves to come.

Ad Science And Art

“Stories first, data second.” This was a key theme at Cannes. Data is a great tool for optimizing campaigns, but advertisers need to focus first on building a relationship with consumers through compelling stories.

Then they need to look at how to employ data to refine their messages and drive maximum results. Data is a tool for enhancing storytelling, it can’t replace it.

Ad-Blocking Still a Concern

Ad-blocking is still a big topic because the problem is only going to get worse. A number of agency partners we spoke to were ready to sound the alarm. And they have a right to be concerned as adoption rises.

To address the issue, major platforms are considering limiting the number of impressions served for each ad. Gone are the days of 500 million impressions served with one or two pieces of creative.

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xAd Rebrands As GroundTruth In Expansion Effort To Broaden Location Data Services Beyond Ads

As the location technology landscape continues to grow amid rising demand to power technologies such as artificial intelligence and a wider array of industries such as real estate and healthcare, xAd has decided to rebrand itself and will now be known as “GroundTruth.”

The new name reflects the 8-year-old company’s evolution from its origins as a hyperlocal ad mobile ad network to a programmatic location marketplace.

Now, with the rechristening, the company seeks to broaden its vision amid an international expansion and last February’s acquisition of its first consumer-facing tech property, the meteorological info service Weatherbug.

As GroundTruth, xAd is also vowing to “decouple” its advertising and media sales services from its location data analysis so that its insights can stand on their own.

“The name xAd was too limiting for our business,” said Dipanshu “D” Sharma, CEO of GroundTruth. “The power of location data doesn’t have to be limited to media and can be realized in other applications from real estate, traffic and out-of-home planning to layering in weather to determine its impact on visits, something we recognized after acquiring WeatherBug. As GroundTruth, we’re able to realize our ambitions beyond media.”

xAd’s transformed into GroundTruth

According to the plan, GroundTruth will continue to support marketers and agencies through products like its geofencing data visualization tool Blueprints, which debuted in 2015, and Footprints, which rolled out in 2014 to provide real-time data on consumers’ mobile movements near brick-and-mortar businesses.

Just last month, xAd initiated its new performance-based ad format, dubbed Cost-Per-Visit, which guarantees marketers’ ROI, since they don’t have to pay unless their ad generated a walk-in.

“As a brand, xAd represented ‘location advertising’ with ‘x’ being ‘x marks the spot for advertising,’” GroundTruth CMO Monica Ho told GeoMarketing. “But we found over the last year-and-a-half it actually became limiting. People, especially those professionals who were not often involved in our category, struggled with what the name was.

“When we explained the vision of the company, we always focused on advertising primarily,” Ho continued. “But the rebrand signifies the evolution of our product set and our offerings. It also represents where we want to go as a company in terms of making core investments and sharpening our strategic focus.”

GroundTruth’s dictim: Build off something real.

The Rebranding Process

The rebrand was produced in collaboration with global brand strategy firm, Siegel+Gale. Aside from the new name, visual identity and there is something of a brand position in the form of a dictim: Build off something real.

While the challenge of switching gears is always a daunting gamble for an established brand, the company says the timing couldn’t be better: GroundTruth picks up from xAd with a first-party database of 95 million active monthly users and 17 million active daily users, across 100 million places and points of interest across 21 countries — in other words, it has significant reach and scale.

In terms of employee growth, xAd had 83 employees at the end of 2013 and 450 employees at the end of 2016 — before the purchase of Weatherbug. Meanwhile, since its launch in 2009, the company now known as GroundTruth has raised about $116 million over six funding rounds, according to Crunchbase.

The process for remaking the brand name and positioning began about 10 months ago, Ho told us.

“We needed a brand and a platform that represented our larger story and gave us the room to grow in the future,” Ho said. “But we also thought long and hard about name that would accurately and fully represent the ideals and values of the company.”

And how was GroundTruth decided on as the new name?

“We thought GroundTruth was perfect, simply because it represented a ‘fundamental truth’ about seeing things from the ground level and up,” Ho said.

Third-Party Verification Secured From InfoScout

In addition to widening its view on serving clients outside of the confines of ad campaigns, GroundTruth commissioned market researcher InfoScout to verify “the precision and coverage of its data” at select retailers.

According to the independent survey based on a representative U.S. panel, GroundTruth is able to interpret physical location with more than a 90 percent accuracy rate.  The “Accuracy Audit” analyzed 10,000 matched panelists who shopped at a sample of key retailers, consistently submitted receipts to InfoScout, and used location-based services via GroundTruth.

“InfoScout has the largest purchase panel in the U.S.,” Ho said. “We matched our data with InfoScout’s purchase panel, which represents 1 out of every 500 retail visits in the U.S. We were able to see 1 out of 3 retail visits that we saw in our platform and matched it to their purchase receipts.”

The importance of third-party verification was a crucial step in the process of transforming xAd as a media sales marketplace based on location to being a provider of data and insights based on consumers’ geospatial patterns. After all, clients don’t trust a partner who simply “grades their own homework.”

As a media seller, xAd relied on its five-year partnership with attribution specialist Placed — which last week was acquired by Snap — as well as online audience measurement firm comScore to verify its the location data that powered its ads. But as it looks to build a business beyond those industry ad metrics, it needs to maintain an ongoing system that can say whether or not its location tech is accurate.

“When we’re interpreting the location data that comes across our system, you need to be able to differentiate whether that person is in a Target store or if they’re nail salon next door,” Ho said.

In just its early trial period, GroundTruth has “made significant headway” in brand safety, assessing viewability, and guarding against ad fraud, Ho said. The company will to continue to investment in third-party verification and validation of not just its data, but GroundTruth’s entire platform.

“InfoScout is just the first step in that process,” Ho said. “There will be more coming,” she added, possibly hinting that GroundTruth may be accredited by the Media Ratings Council, which was established by Congress in the 1960s to serve as a watchdog for TV ratings’ validity in the use of broadcast advertising. The MRC has since gone on to serve as a clearinghouse for all manner of ad measurement procedures, including online and mobile, and recently oversaw the IAB’s geo-data and location ad standards.

(Location) Data As Service

The emergence of Data-as-a-Service, as a more narrow adjunct to software business models, is particularly important in the location space. As different signals provide varying levels of actionable intelligence, data quality and accuracy remains a major issue for tech company’s clients.

Perhaps more than any other targeting or analytics capability, getting location wrong even by several feet can severely diminish the value of geo-data.

As Sharma, who also founded xAd, has described it, location technology is a utility that can not only tell all kinds of vital details about a business’s place, as well as who’s been there, but it can intently extrapolate deep knowledge about consumers’ behavior and shopping profiles as well as power connected intelligence devices’ responses to users’ queries.

“Data and insights have always been a part of the company,” Ho said. “But in the past, we’ve always forced the data/insights together with a media and ad sales component. The rebrand marks the fact that we’re ready to decouple data/insights from ad sales.

“We will always offer a data and targeting solution” Ho said, referring to the above-mentioned products like Blueprint. “But the way the category is unfolding, and marketers and agencies, as well as areas outside of those buckets, such as analysts, can use our data on its own. And this is about allowing that flexibility.”

xAd’s Footprints

Scratching The Surface

Both Blueprint and Footprints were core technologies at xAd and they’ll certainly remain so at GroundTruth, Ho said.

“We only scratched the surface in the past, because these technologies were always tied to media purposes,” she said. “So we want to continue to invest in our core tech, but in different ways based on the variety of audiences we see as potential customers.”

As for how products like Blueprints will evolve under GroundTruth, Ho described it as something that’s always been an internal tool that to integrate accurate mapping data with its location targeting.

“In the future, we’ll expand Blueprints to be more open, more crowdsourced,” Ho said. “In those future cases, one of our partners or someone outside our category could look at location data and unique segments, we’ll let them identify the area they’re looking at. From there, they’ll be able to pull unique, custom data sets and behavioral insights from something like Blueprints.”

Next Steps

As it has in recent years, GroundTruth will have a presence at this coming week’s international gathering of the global ad industry in Cannes.

But don’t expect a heavy marketing effort to ensure the name is known far and wide, Ho said.

“We’re going to communicate to our existing client base,” Ho when asked about the communications effort around this move. “But the next few months will be an internal focus for the most part.”

In the meantime, GroundTruth will steadily seek to expand its work in non-ad areas. While real estate,  health care, traffic/smart city planning has generally been far afield from the company’s purview, Ho is quick to note that projects in those categories is not at all unfamiliar work.

“Real estate is not necessarily a new area for us,” Ho said. “But we’ve have certain scenarios come up in the past, where we’ve been asked to provide store planning. Or analysts have asked us for behavioral data and insights tied to certain places. We’ve had so many opportunities, but at the time, we chose not to invest further. Now, with the new brand, and the new technology focus on data-based solutions, we’re really diving in to coming to market with a new set of offerings and products that can address issues not tied to advertising.”

Just as with its promotion of the new brand and direction, GroundTruth is not in a feverish rush to get its positioning solidified within a month or two. As Ho noted, it will take time to sink in both for its staff and the wider marketplace of new and existing clients and allies.

“This is a big change,” Ho added. “Our move into data and insights is an important one. And until our employees really embody and feel empowered by the brand, that’s when we can make good on this new promise and direction. There will be a bigger marketing push later in the year. There is a lot more to come.”

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How Verve And Digital Domain Are Pairing Geo-Data With Video

The introduction of Verve’s location-based mobile video ad offering last week is intended to capitalize on the popularity of location and “sight, sound, and motion” that has become fairly mainstream for most advertisers and publishers as mobile marketing itself becomes more central.

Verve cited figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s 2016 Full Year Report that mobile video ad spending jumped 145 percent year-over-year to nearly $4.2 billion — a clear demonstration of brands’ interest in video’s acceptance on smaller screens.

While the combination of location and video is not unusual, the differences between display, rich media, and native is important enough technologically to create a distinct offering.

“What we’re launching is in direct response to what we’re hearing from our clients and where consumer attention is going,” said Kevin Arrix, Verve’s Chief Revenue Officer. “We see tremendous value in helping brands unlock the distinctive power of location data for mobile video, not only in terms of finding consumers in real-time but, more meaningfully, by targeting the most relevant audiences based on their historical movement patterns.”

The location/video offering follows the partnership it struck with video effects and production platform Digital Domain back in February. It’s positioned within Verve Activate, the location ad platform’s audience segmentation, insights, and targeting program.

“Our partnership with Verve continues to align around this powerful combination of technology and artistry,” said Amit Chopra, Executive Director and COO at Digital Domain. “Bringing immersive technology to location-powered video expands and enhances the ways in which brands can convey engaging and contextually relevant ads to consumers.”

In a look at how Facebook and YouTube were influencing the role of mobile video in March,  Verve’s VP and creative director Walter T. Geer III wrote on GeoMarketing that “Brands and publishers clearly want to get to a point where they’re offering both meaningful, location- and context-sensitive experiences and meaningful monetization. But the industry is still in the early days of defining how video content on the smartphone and mobile device can achieve that goal, contextual and otherwise. Success in all these efforts comes down to finding smarter ways to engage.”

We spoke with Verve’s Arrix ahead of his appearance at Tuesday’s IAB Mobile Symposium, where he’ll be discussing location-based ad sales strategies.

GeoMarketing: What’s special about the way Verve is linking location and video?

Kevin Arrix: The fact that our agency and brand partners have been pretty excited by the power and results of location, as well as noting the importance of online video, our partners encouraged us to find ways of putting the two together. So this is all about delivering a scaled video/location solution to the marketplace.

Does this product represent any new capabilities versus what Verve was able to do before, or is this mainly about offering a formal, synthesized solution?

We’ve been testing the incremental benefit of location targeting and insights for video. So bringing that added layer of our first-party data, the precision that goes with that to display, rich media, and now video, is something we’ve been working on. It was just a no-brainer for us to bring this comprehensive offering wider.

What’s the nature of the partnership Verve struck in February with Digital Domain? Is there a creative capability being baked in to the location/video offering?

Digital Domain is a world-class production and camera technology company. They bring that capability and quality to our advertiser partners. Working with Digital Domain also helps us address a something missing in the marketplace around 360-degree video: one of the challenges is distribution. If we pair our presence, our distribution platform with Digital Domain’s expertise, it makes for a great combination.

How are Verve and Digital Domain going to market with this location/video solution?

We’re in the process of approaching our strongest partners. It’s open to advertiser who sees the value in more forward-thinking video formats. But it’s all done in conjunction with Digital Domain.

The focus is on proving out the power of location and video in a variety of ways and use cases. We’ve proven it in display and rich media. So, we’re expanding our suite of mobile advertising solutions. The ability to overlay high-quality, first-party location data places Verve in a unique position to help brands elevate their mobile strategy by enabling them to reach intended audiences with greater efficiency and relevance.

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