Will the ‘Location’ in Location-Based Marketing Eventually Disappear?

Yesterday I had the chance to speak at an event called Mobile Insight Summit. A wide range of location-based issues were discussed; my talk was about online-to-offline attribution.

The event was directed at ad agencies and was put on by Industry Index and sponsored by Thinknear. This was a sophisticated crowd and many were already using location in interesting ways; however it’s clear that there’s still a need for education.

Thinknear’s Brett Kohn delivered a great presentation about brand use of location as an audience segmentation and targeting tool. This is no longer totally new stuff but it’s still unfamiliar to many people.

I’ve written about this subject before, but what remains fascinating to me is how location, in mobile campaigns, now often “disappears” into the background. While locally relevant ad creative is always engaging (and preferred by end users), location is scaling by becoming a proxy for audience or real-world behavior. It’s also the case, increasingly, that offline activity is being factored back into “online” targeting.

It’s probably safe to say that real-time mobile-local advertising — geofencing or geoconquesting — will remain important to many categories of businesses including retailers, dealers and small businesses, among others. But over time much more of “location-based marketing” will likely involve brands using location history as a proxy for audiences and throw out the location part.

It struck me yesterday that the percentage of brands and large enterprise advertisers using location as one part of a targeting formula may quickly ramp and grow to near 100% within just a few years. Location is an increasingly mandatory signal that the various DSPs and exchanges are now factoring in as part of a mult-dimensional targeting strategy.

Location as such is often not reflected in mobile ad creative or in any sort of real-time geofencing. Indeed, it’s quite possible that the dominant form of “location-based” digital marketing in the near future could (and will likely) have little or no relationship to a mobile user’s actual, real-time location.

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