For years I thought that location on the PC could be used to unlock more accurate demographic targeting for advertisers (i.e., connecting to ZIP-based Census data, etc.). It never happened (or hasn’t happened). But it is starting to happen in mobile.
Both PlaceIQ and Skyhook Wireless are now offering data-driven audience targeting based on location. In other words, location becomes a proxy for audience (and interests). PlaceIQ’s product is in market, while Skyhook’s is just coming to market.
The concept behind both is similar: using location information to identify audiences who may be in particular places at particular times (e.g., business people in downtown San Francisco during the day).
Skyhook has a database of cell tower and WiFi locations that it licenses to enable mobile devices to identify your location with precision. Google developed a similar product for Android devices. (Skyhook is currently litigating a patent and tort suit against Google.)
Skyhook’s location technology is deployed on more than 100 million devices globally, through carrier, chipmaker and publisher/app developer relationships. In addition to ad targeting Skyhook’s new location-data product can be used for many purposes: site selection and urban planning. It can also be used for outdoor advertising, which is very interesting.
Skyhook is adhering to very strict privacy rules in this new location intelligence product; CEO Ted Morgan made the point with me several times. What the company does is combine existing demographic data (e.g., US Census) tied to place with other information to develop profiles of locations. It then can sell those locations as proxies for other values. Individuals are never identified or targeted; just audiences in the aggregate that are associated with particular locations.
Marketers can target audiences and locations or just audiences and Skyhook will find them. As mentioned the Skyhook product is just coming to market. However PlaceIQ is already in market. Using dozens of data sources, the company enables marketers to simply define the audiences it wants to reach. “We find them through time and location,” PlaceIQ Duncan McCall told me in email. “It can also work the other way; [we can take] an impression with a latlong and turn it into audience.”
This morning PlaceIQ is announcing a deal with the Weather Channel, to power the latter’s mobile “hyper-local” mobile ad targeting. This is the first publisher to roll out the PlaceIQ solution. The company also has a deal with Jumptap.
PlaceIQ and Skyhook both offer location targeting. But this is a radically different use of location than has been available to date; it’s about brands reaching the right audiences.
People tend to think about local targeting as a direct response vehicle almost exclusively (i.e., local search). However Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan told me that the product is really about brands and awareness. It’s Audi or BMW reaching their target prospects through the medium of smartphone, tablet and laptop and location targeting.
This is a fascinating idea that may help unlock the “true potential” of local for brands and large marketers. And, in a way, it stands the conventional notion of location on its head.
Update: I was reminded that Factual also has a similar capability through its Geopulse API:
Discover everything that Factual knows about a location: you pass us a latitude and longitude, and we return additional attributes, called ‘pulses’, about that location. Pulses employ Factual’s network of signals, calculated metrics, and census data to give a unique purview of a given local point. We’re launching with:
- Factual Commercial Density: Relative density of businesses near a location
- Factual Commercial Profile: Types of businesses near a location
- Demographics: Age, gender, race, median household income for a given location (US only)