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Location Is the Future of Digital Advertising – Here’s Why

Local was a term historically associated with small business advertisers and those who serviced them (i.e., newspapers, directories). Brands and larger agencies simply ignored or minimized “local.” They were interested in massive reach and “audiences.”

Local was seen as the opposite of those objectives. Small time.

For many years, I argued against this myopia. My project has been to expand the market’s understanding of the importance of location and get people to see its centrality to consumer behavior and digital marketing generally.

At conferences and in presentations I argued that marketers, whatever their size, needed to focus on consumer behavior and offline transactions and the influence of digital on that offline buying. Finally, with the rise of mobile, brands, agencies and marketers across the spectrum have slowly awakened to the importance of location and location data as a powerful and versatile tool.

Location has become a substitute for cookies in the mobile/real world, a way to identify audiences and high-value prospects (e.g., business travelers, auto intenders, QSR loyalists and so on). It also provides, for the first time, a scalable offline attribution mechanism for digital and some traditional media categories (outdoor, TV).

Ironically, location-based platforms such as xAd, NinthDecimal and others had to find ways to explain the value of location to brands and agencies in terms they could understand (i.e., audiences). That changed the conversation and the local-mobile industry’s focus from real-time “geofencing” (e.g., the Starbucks coupon) to the way that location can unlock audience segments, such as “people who visited McDonald’s in the past month.”

Indeed, location is both “disappearing” and becoming ubiquitous at the same time. By disappearing I mean that location-based marketing is increasingly not about real-time location but about audience identification and targeting. Real-time location and location history become methodologies to identify audiences and to do offline attribution. Of course, audience targeting and real-time location or proximity can be layered in.

I recently met with Google in preparation for our upcoming Place Conference this week. I was struck by how important location has become to the company. It has moved from the periphery to a central place in Google’s thinking about the world and the future.

If you come to the Place Conference, you’ll get to see this as well as the many and varied uses of location. Every single digital campaign that uses audience targeting will eventually be using location as part of that. In addition, there won’t be a major brand or retailer campaign that doesn’t employ offline attribution to determine the real impact of their campaigns. That will eventually trickle down to the SMB market as well.

We’ll be unpacking all of this with tactical advice and brand case studies in Chicago this week at Place 2016.

When I started the event in 2013 at Opus Research, it was exclusively about indoor location, which was then not being covered and wasn’t widely understood. This year, with LSA taking on the event, it’s has expanded to be about proximity marketing, indoor and location analytics.

Essentially, we’ll be talking about driving foot traffic, understanding consumers’ real-world behavior and using that data to improve their experiences and marketing campaigns. Location data can also be used to personalize marketing and thereby address some of the objections that are giving rise to ad blocking.

In short, the Place Conference will help showcase the “new location” and its many uses. If you’re coming – great. If you’re still thinking about it you should come to discover how and why location is the future of digital marketing.

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