To Standardize Location MRC Releases New Data Guidelines

This week the Media Rating Council (MRC) released a 45-page “Location-Based Advertising Measurement Guidelines” document that seeks to offer best practices for the use of location data by developers, advertising companies and platforms. The market has matured to the point where such standards are arguably necessary.

Publishers and ad platforms want to exploit location to generate higher CPMs and ad rates. Some of the exchanges and a few others provide “sloppy” or imprecise location. But some effectively engage in what might be called location fraud, because it increases the value of impressions and clicks. They don’t have accurate location but provide a lat-long nonetheless.

Location has become an increasingly hot subject as a way to identify audiences and their behaviors in the real world. With that, more advertiser and brand scrutiny has come to the topic of location accuracy. The MRC document seeks to respond to advertisers’ and others’ calling for standards:

This document presents guidelines for the measurement of digital location-based advertising including measurement of assignment of device and user location for physical visitation and advertising exposure (including static devices such as desktop PCs, connected TVs, OTT devices as well as mobile devices such as tablet, smartphones, etc.) as well as place measurement as a reference point for physical visitation and location-based targeting.

At the LSA’s 2016 Place Conference in Chicago, we convened a meeting with many of the leading location data providers to discuss the issue of location accuracy. We found there were two primary issues or challenges facing the segment: inaccurate location data and the need to educate advertisers about location and the process of delivering it. The MRC document will help with the former; the latter will require ongoing effort from the industry more broadly.

Location is changing (even disrupting) digital marketing, forcing marketers and brands to think beyond the screen and conventional metrics (clicks, impressions) to understand the online and offline interplay. Indeed, three companies, xAd, Blis and Retale, all announced online-to-offline store-visits based billing or performance guarantees within the same week effectively.

Over the past two years, many location data companies have published studies and data about the in-store impact of digital media and the varied uses of location for targeting and competitive intelligence, in addition to attribution. However advertiser concerns about the quality and accuracy of location prompted the MRC to get involved, as it has in the display viewability debate and others.

The MRC document ends with an “Auditing Guidelines” section that recommends the need for a formal auditing and certification process for location measurement practices. The challenge will be to offer a certification that verifies accuracy but is not driven by too-rigid compliance requirements.

LSA will be showcasing location intelligence and its uses — proximity marketing, indoor and location analytics — at the Place Conference in New York City on September 18, 2017. Learn more.

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