Mobile Tracking Drives Consumer Data to Mazda

Automaker Gathering Data on Consumers Visiting Its -- and Competitors' -- Showrooms

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Mazda wants to know where consumers were eating or shopping before they checked out the latest Miata. Mobile location tracking and targeting data from PlaceIQ not only helps the company aim ads to people the automaker thinks would want to test drive a car, it can show how many interested consumers also visited a competitor's dealership or which portion of them visited a big box store before eyeing Mazdas.

"They help us define behaviors based on real-world location," said Shari Kourilsky, group manager for digital marketing at Mazda. "The value of this to us is we're actually getting real world [indicators]," she said. The carmaker has worked with PlaceIQ for the past quarter to test a mobile ad effort that combines audience targeting with tracking.

The mobile firm uses satellite data to carve physical locations into 100x100 meter tiles. It ingests billions of data points referring to each of those areas, applying attributes to locations such as what type of business it is or the average household income of the area's population or people who frequent the location. The company can detect a device ID that's been hashed -- or obscured for privacy purposes -- when it is present at one location and later at another.

For instance, the data can reveal that of the 400,000 people who visited a Mazda dealership, 250,000 of them were high-income SUV owners. Or it might show that some of them traveled more than 10 miles from home to visit a store.

"The mobile ad ecosystem is absolutely sharing" that location data, said Duncan McCall, CEO and co-founder of PlaceIQ. Terms and conditions of many mobile applications require users to allow location-data sharing, and that data can be used to geographically-target ads in the app.

When clients get reports on people who visited certain retail locations, they receive top-line categorical data but no personally-identifiable information such as someone's physical address. PlaceIQ has a team of 20 people mapping out car dealerships, said Mr. McCall. Using that information, it can target Mazda ads to people who have visited a competitive dealer's lot.

"With a certain number of competitors we're actually resonating better than with others," said Ms. Kourilsky. During this nationwide mobile-campaign test phase, Mazda is targeting a simple "learn more about the car" message to people who have visited their dealerships and competitive dealerships. After the test, she added, "We plan to work with dynamic creative and serve up relevant ads based on what we know about the consumer."

PlaceIQ is also getting into the data-selling game, helping WPP's out-of-home media buying agency Spafax understand what types of consumers are likely to be exposed to signage in a certain location. "We're very focused on building a horizontal company" that enhances market research, said Mr. McCall, adding that data selling is "a small but rapidly growing business for us…. We're excited to do more of that next year."