Digital Impulse

The Secrets of Location Based Mobile Advertising, Footfall Attribution and the GDPR

Location Based Mobile Advertising (LBMA) has been with us for years. You would imagine that the challenges this marketing method had – when it was launched in 2012 – would be resolved by now. You are wrong. The popular marketing method still faces difficulties today.

Let’s take a step back. LBMA is a marketing-discipline within the more general industry; Mobile Display Advertising. Right now, Mobile Display Advertising is the biggest marketing method present today. Both in volume and in spending. This comes to no surprise as about 80% of the worlds’ population has a smartphone and enters the internet with it. Hence, advertisements (or; ads, banners) can be served on these devices.

Essentially Mobile Advertising relies on the same model as the old/traditional business models that – for example – newspapers had and have: allowing ads between/within their content to make money. Location Based Mobile Advertising is substantially popular – essentially allowing advertisers (or; brands) to reach their desired audience based on a specific location.

By setting up geo-fences within a Demand Side Platform (or; DSP), ads can be served on (very) specific locations. An international conglomerate looking for engineers can reach this audience by simple serving ads ‘above’ business locations that are known to deliver engineering services. An ice-cream brand can serve ads ‘above’ the beach on a hot day. A car brand can serve ads ‘above’ hundreds of dealership-locations of a competitor. The possibilities are endless.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, LBMA has some problems. For starters; you would assume that if you would be within an activated/live Geo-Fence, and you access an app or site that allows ads; you would be able to see your own ad. This is – unfortunately – not the case. Not at all. Several (technical) reasons can be the cause of this. For example; you might (unknowingly) have an ad blocker active. You are being outbid by another advertiser. Or, your GPS is not active.

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Why is all this a problem? Well, because when you are an advertiser and you are being advised (or decide on your own) you want to run a Location Based Mobile Advertising campaign, the first question that usually pops up is; ‘can I see my own banner’. The fact that this is difficult to achieve is undermining the apparent strength of LBMA.

There is more. As you would imagine LBMA is (very) interesting for brands that have physical stores. It’s technically possible to launch Geo-Fences of – let’s say – 500 meters (around a store location) and people within that 500 meters can receive an ad.

This campaign strategy is very popular and is being applied all around the world – for thousands of big and small advertisers. The logical next step in this situation is to measure how many people – that have been exposed to an ad – have actually gone to the store in question. This is called Footfall Attribution.

The accepted way to measure this is by using data of installed SDK’s in apps. To clarify; when an app has an SDK in its code – the phone/app can transfer the location of a device without an ad to be served. Essentially this app (whatever app it may be) can detect and forward your location without even opening the app! Since the introduction of the GDPR (a law introduced in Europe that ‘protects personal data from being used without a permission given) this methodology (Footfall Attribution) is no longer possible. Why? Because transferring somebodies’ location without permission is – logically – not compliant with the GDPR.

As a result many Third Party Data providers that offer Footfall Attribution Reporting – through the use of SDK’s – no longer offer this methodology in Europe. A Programmatic (Mobile) Advertising specialist called Targetoo, however, has discovered a method to measure Footfall without the use of SDK’s. Essentially relying on sheer volume and the likelihood that somebody opens an app while being in a store (which doesn’t sound unrealistic).

It’s worth noting that this company is also doing some interesting experiments based on Location Based Mobile Advertisers. Recently Targetoo has been able to determine which devices/brands (smartphones) are actually popular in The White House and The Kremlin (all based on an impression being served).

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