Location Data 2.0? How Goodwill and Other Brands Are Ushering It in

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Credit: Verve Mobile
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For what seemed like forever, the promise of mobile advertising was all about reaching the proverbial "right consumer at the right time with the right message." The descriptions from zealous mobile ad execs usually involved ads or notifications that hit someone's phone with an offer when it was near a storefront or spotted in a grocery aisle. In other words, it was all about using the data immediately.

That was mobile location data 1.0, suggested industry execs at the Local Search Association conference in San Diego this week. Some believe location data 2.0 has begun.

What that means, they say, is that advertisers are sophisticated enough to look at location data more holistically through a wider lens. While many mobile marketers still focus on getting messages to people at key moments, the use of data showing where people have been over time is just as, if not more, important than where they are right this instant.

Until recently, "A lot of the activations were really quite elementary," said Julie Bernard, chief marketing officer of Verve Mobile. That has changed, she continued, "now as organizations have hired or trained and developed more staff to have far more sophisticated data mining and data interpretation skills."

The approach has begun to manifest in real campaigns and initiatives conducted by a range of advertisers, including Goodwill Industries, which partnered with the Ad Council and Verve to create and implement what might be considered a location data 2.0 campaign.

Launched in June 2016 for a month nationwide, the campaign for Goodwill was intended to convince people who were cleaning out their closets and drawers to consider donating some of their rarely-used stuff to the organization, as well as to raise awareness about Goodwill's programs assisting in educating, training and supporting community workforces.

The firm combed social media sites looking for people – particularly millennial moms and "charitable" moms – who were discussing spring cleaning-related tasks, said Ms. Bernard. It then isolated area-specific "hotspots" where such conversations were dense. That data was employed to assign attributes to devices over time. The company also layered in data about audience segments comprised of people who had visited thrift shops or second-hand stores in the past.

The ad creative, developed by Verve's in-house creative team, featured a rich media game enticing players to "tap the items before they fall and clutter the floor" and then "donate" those items – things like unused clothing or bicycles. Recipients spent 29 seconds on average with the ad.

In Ad Age's upcoming issue dedicated to mobile, readers will find examples of efforts that might also be deemed "location 2.0." A campaign for Brown-Forman's Herradura tequila conducted in conjunction with Foursquare, for instance, provided a glimpse into other interests among drinkers of the top shelf booze. In this case, the brand discovered they also like to work out at SoulCycle and shop at organic food markets.

That information may be used in the future to target campaigns, Joanna Darst, director of global integrated communications for Tequilas at Brown-Forman.

About a year or so ago, advertisers were still gravitating towards "baseline" uses of location data such as geo-fencing or geo-conquesting, said Arlen Plaister, director of sales and business development at Infogroup Data Licensing, speaking with Ad Age at the LSA event. Today, he said, "All the conversations are around building out location-based segments, understanding where the users are over time, and then pulling in the appropriate data sources to make sense of that location -- and then packaging these segments in an interesting, accessible way to drive targeting campaigns."

In the past, said Ms. Bernard, "I don't think that the skills frankly were there, or the organizational readiness to do something with those insights."

Recognizing the potential for more involved applications of location data layered with complementary data sets, Verve has doubled its creative team to around 20 design and development execs in the past 18 months. The firm gathers device IDs and location data via direct partnerships with premium app publishers and through its SDK which is embedded in additional apps. The company also gleans location signals from proximity beacons through its acquisition of Roximity last year.

"The geo-analysis is still really important to us, but there's a richness to looking at the totality of these data assets," said Ms. Bernard. The Goodwill campaign was "using location in a more robust way than I think our industry has traditionally done."