From the mid-20th century heyday of the “Mad Men” era to an ecosystem dominated by “Math Men & Women” today, the advertising industry has always sat alongside, and facilitated, some of the most successful companies in the world.
With our well-documented evolution to a global economy where consumer data is more valuable than oil, the companies who own the most data are the most powerful, and profitable. Indeed, the more data that companies hold on individual consumers, the more attractive the consumers become as targets for advertising. Platforms which harvest a multitude of data points on individuals can, with the right technology, offer purchasing and engagement opportunities not only to meet their needs but to preempt them.
Advertising guru Rory Sutherland commented on the death of “spray and pray” campaigns in a 2018 interview, “You should look at the purchase process [or outcome process] first, optimize that, and only when you’ve removed any bottlenecks or snags in that last mile should you proceed upstream to advertising.” So as advertising changes to a model where a genuine understanding of an individual consumer’s needs are the table stakes, the non-data driven mechanics of old have less and less relevance.
Location, Location, Location
One company who has pivoted effectively to a model built around advanced personalization is U.K. based mobile technology firm Mobsta. They started life in 2010 as a premium mobile advertising business, delivering campaigns across an exclusive network of entertainment publisher sites, and using proximity targeting to reach users as they shopped. Denise Breslin, Mobsta co-founder and managing director, explains how their pivot to leveraging advanced location data came about. “As the market matured, we quickly realized the value of accurate location data, and the potential it offered agencies and their clients in terms of audience targeting, location-verified media delivery, and post-campaign measurement.”
To this end, Mobsta formed an exclusive partnership with Ericsson Emodo (formerly Placecast) which gives them unique access to their patented technology. Mobsta combines the Emodo access to mobile operator data with their own proprietary data science, and offers targeted audience segments and inventory that are differentiated by their high degree of accuracy. This is proving to be a competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace, she explains. “As mobile becomes the bulk of inventory availability and time spent, mobile-specific data sources hit their prime, and location data is the primary example.”
Breslin worked with fellow co-founder John Scorah previously at location advertising specialists Bluepod Media Worldwide. They were introduced to Darren Kietz, who became the third co-founder, and realized that they were all looking for their next venture at a critical moment in the evolution of mobile ad tech. “We all saw the shift in user behavior away from desktops towards mobile devices. We realized there was an opportunity to use our industry experience to offer the market what we believed it wanted; a transparent, client-focused, mobile advertising solution that brands and agencies could trust.” The team made a strategic decision to eschew venture capital and Mobsta is still independently owned.
A Question Of Trust
The advertising industry is facing something of a crisis of trust, admits Breslin, in terms of how brands and agencies view technology suppliers. “They have a high level of distrust because of a confusing array of suppliers making questionable claims based on a ‘black box’ model. The companies that focus on what’s real and possible, communicate with more transparency, and welcome more accountability are poised to thrive.”
Breslin feels that the mobile advertising industry has been making steady progress in addressing the most pressing issues around trust. “The industry has a great working model for how to fix the problem, as seen across viewability, fraud, and brand safety, each of which has improved substantially as the industry has focused on them. The keys to improving data quality, as they were for those metrics, are a) prioritization and b) accountability. And we hear more from clients about the value they place on data quality today than at any other point.” Breslin quotes the notable improvements captured by the Integral Ad Science benchmarks between 2015 and 2018. “The comparison is exact, it’s apples-to-apples, and brand risk and viewability have both improved dramatically.”
The upshot of the industry’s improvements is good news in terms of campaign ROI for brands embracing mobile advertising, continues Breslin. “One thing we’re excited about is that the market finally seems to be realizing the significant source of marketing waste that results from an epidemic of inaccurate data. It shows up in many contexts; it’s in audiences that are built for scale and price at the expense of quality, it’s in bid request metadata that’s wrong half the time and thus leading bidders to buy the wrong inventory and it’s in attribution studies built with shoddy data leading to misleading conclusions.”
The Impact Of 5G On Mobile Advertising
Breslin predicts that 5G will open up significant new opportunities for the company. “5G is likely to have a tremendous effect on our business. That’s because our unique differentiator is the use of mobile operator data to ensure we use only the highest quality data and inventory for our advertiser clients. 5G will lead to a proliferation of new devices, and more devices connected to mobile networks. That means a higher quantity and quality of data flowing through the operator pipes. As 5G moves towards higher frequency bands, referred to as mmWave, that will mean far more cell antennae, which will, in turn, mean far more precise location data. Our programmatic offering is powered by real-time AI in a way others are not; 5G will provide us with better data inputs, meaning better predictions.”
In terms of the broader implications of 5G rollout, Breslin predicts it may change the way that retailers look at advertising. “5G absolutely will be transformative, far more than either 3G or 4G ever were. But it’s important to remember other factors come into play in enabling that transformation. We as consumers need the networks to be deployed, but we also need 5G devices in the hands of consumers, immersive new consumer content and experiences, other infrastructure changes that enable publishers and ad platforms to benefit from 5G’s lower latency. We also need retailers to adjust to a future in which they will compete for traffic based on in-store experiences as much as products.”
London entrepreneur Tony Pearce, cofounder of the Reality Gaming Group, is quick to echo Breslin’s analysis of the impact of 5G, in particular on his own business. “What is unique about Mobsta is its geolocation technology, which is not only great data for brands and consumers, but can be used in conjunction with 5G for one of our augmented reality (AR) geolocation games such as Reality Clash. This 5G technology and geolocation connect is a huge deal for anybody involved in mobile, and Mobsta is perfectly placed to benefit.”
According to a note recently shared to investors by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, 5G will be making an appearance in all three of the iPhone series to be launched next year. Breslin predicts that while the rollout of 5G is likely to feel gradual at first, complacency is not an option. “After the initial adoption, suddenly it will hit an inflection point when it will become the norm. Any company that hasn’t prepared for 5G will be left behind.”
Originally published in Forbes.
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