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Place ’19, Day 2: Winter is Coming (followed by Spring)

Last week, we were in Austin for Localogy’s Place Conference. Following our Day-1 recap, here’s a summary of takeaways and happenings from Day-2 of the show. See all session coverage aggregated here.


Privacy and data collection are obviously hot topics in location-based media and advertising. So it was logical that they dominated Day-2 of Localogy’s Place Conference in Austin last week. This included lots of speculations and technical nuances for looming privacy regulations, but with an optimistic twist.

Winter is Coming

First, what are the dynamics of the various data collection impositions in play. The first is state regulation, given GDPR as well as California’s looming CCPA. The latter will have a big impact nationwide because of California’s gravitational pull and market size.

In other words, brands, marketers and ad-tech companies that operate in the U.S. are going to have to comply with California to operate there. And given challenges in running separate systems and approaches, they’ll adapt all practices across the board to be consistent with California compliance.

Pursuit of Appiness

Another aspect of privacy regulation will happen on technical levels. iOS 13, still in the process of being rolled out to Apple users, will have more stringent privacy settings for foreground and background (when you’re not using the app) location data collection. And the user transparency will be boosted.

In other words, there will be more push notifications to inform users about all the apps that are tracking their location data in the background. This level of transparency will prompt many users to turn background location tracking off, for reasons of security or simply to reduce battery drain.

The result will be less reliable (GPS-oriented) location signals in the aggregate. And it’s not just iOS. Android has similarly stringent and privacy-sensitive disclosures to users. Altogether this could provide some challenges to the location data/intelligence industry… or at least those who don’t operate responsibly.

Spring will Follow

The above presents an interesting confluence of events given the abundance of location data companies in the past few years. They’ll now have to operate under more stringent conditions, this could all lead to a market shakeout, according to Place IQ’s Duncan McCall.

“There will be fewer entrants because the bar will be raised in iOS 13 for getting movement data,” said McCall. So you’ll see the space begin to mature. We’ll have fewer companies, more consolidation and one or two exits.”

Meanwhile, demand grows for location intelligence. As discussed on an executive roundtable panel, location intelligence is moving beyond marketing to a broader range of operational and strategic support. That’s everything from asset tracking to predicting election outcomes.

This boils down to the shakeout that McCall predicts, but that’s good news for location intelligence incumbents like PlaceIQ, GroundTruth and Ninth Decimal (who comprised the aforementioned panel). There will be more demand and less supply, meaning more favorable market dynamics for survivors.

Federal Case

Another angle to the privacy discussion is if the U.S. will implement federal privacy regulations for the advertising industry. Duncan McCall is all for it, but knows it will take a while. Meanwhile self-regulation can accomplish a bridge to Federal regulations, but also a model and a way to steer those regulations.

“We have to self regulate while we wait for federal regulators,” asserted McCall. “We can publish simple tangible things, not lots of fine print, that give consumers confidence… Then, we can show [regulators] what we’ve created and say ‘look, we’ve done the hard work, Now turn it into law.”

Mother of Invention

These privacy challenges meanwhile compel creative solutions and formats. For example, iHeart Media’s Eric Hadley asserts that audio content is a greenfield, given that visual “real estate” has become saturated. This “share of ear” is a big opportunity, given the advent of “hearables” and demand for podcasts.

Podcast listeners consume seven episodes per week on average, he reports, and most listen to those episodes all the way through… including ads. This is a rare level of engagement that’s only starting to be cultivated. “There are few ad-supported businesses who can say that,” he said from the stage.

Yext’s Duane Forrester is likewise bullish on audio technologies, but different ones: voice search. In the past year alone the number of voice searches completed with commercial/shopping intent has grown signifigantly he said — moving voice search and smart speakers from novelty to a real business case.

Related to that, search results continue to gravitate towards one answer, as opposed 10 blue links. That’s already a well-covered trend given the knowledge panel and Google’s continued takeover of SERP above the fold inventory. But it also portends “one-answer” modalities like voice and visual search.

And in terms of emerging technologies that marketers should be watching closely and developing competency around, TikTok shouldn’t be ignored.

Beyond CPMs and CPCs

With all of the above trends & issues in location-based media (and several others discussed at Place), the name of the game is constant knowledge building for marketers. And that, in turn, means constant education that marketers have to relay to their brand customers and partners

“The tough part is making them understand digital,” said Location 3’s Crystal Ware. “Ten years ago, they had mail, YP and things they could tangibly feel. We roll into digital, and they have no concept of pixels and cookies. The education piece has been the biggest challenge for us to overcome.”

Regardless of that technical sophistication, everyone understands financial results and ROI. So location marketing providers can disambiguate the technological divide by speaking the language of non-tech local marketers. That means translating technology to results they can understand.

“How do you get a global brand to spend money?” posed Tiger Pistol CEO Paul Elliott. “The answer is that you have to prove it. That means the need for pilots and proof of concept. They don’t know that the model is going to work for them at the same time as having to prove that we’re the right provider. Proving both points involves more than talking about CPMs and CPCs.”

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