Discussion around artificial intelligence (AI) often centres on robots overtaking humans. A less-discussed side is AI’s increasing relevance to location-based advertising, which is set to be one of the most exciting mobile opportunities of 2016.
Brands have increased opportunities to utilise mobile apps to deliver relevant brand experiences and derive intelligence on audience real-world behaviours. That is the key theme from xAd’s inaugural Emerge Mobile event in London, where industry experts talk new developments in mobile – particularly the potential of location-based advertising for brands.
Mike Butcher, editor-at-large at TechCrunch, kicks off the event by jokingly warning attendees not to take pictures of his slides as he is “reserving them for the NSA”. On a more serious note, he takes any hysteria surrounding the rise of AI down a few notches by reiterating “we are not going to be replaced by AI” and that AI is only getting better at particular types of things. For Butcher, businesses need to learn how to “harness AI” as it can “lead to better products for customers”.
AI in location has had increased attention recently thanks to Pokémon Go, with Butcher pointing out: “People hadn’t really thought about location in this way before Pokémon Go. In the tech world, we are quite interested in this because we’ve been watching location-based startups flare up over the last few years. If you can unpack that, you can do very interesting things with cities and society generally.”
Although in early stages, AI is set to play an exciting role in location-based advertising. A study by the IAB found 66% of marketers believe it is the ‘most exciting mobile opportunity of 2016’.
Emerge Mobile gathered prominent experts from the ad world to explore the potential of location-based advertising, with Theo Theodorou, general manager for EMEA at xAd, saying location is the “most honest version of who you are” and that it’s not just about where someone is, but also where they have been. “Ultimately, if you can capture that, it’s good news for the consumer as well as the brand.”
For TripAdvisor’s vice-president of display, Kevin Clapson, advertisers should be most concerned about providing good content to the user in order for advertising to be truly effective. “There’s no point serving a user in Shoreditch an ad for a restaurant in Kensington, because no one is going to go from Shoreditch to Kensington. It just doesn’t work.”
Neil Bruce, head of mobile at Mindshare, sees location-based advertising as an “all-encompassing movement with boundaries increasingly merged,” while Nigel Gilbert, vice-president of strategic development at AppNexus, doesn’t like the idea of “siloing these things”.
He says: “The fact that location can cross the divide between online and offline is probably one of the most exciting things about it. How accurate it is or how telling it is depends on what you are trying to do. I personally think location is awesome for planning. For performance campaigns you need to be able to target as many data points as possible. You don’t know if location enhanced the performance of your campaign until the campaign is run. It is important to incorporate it into the wider plan.”
Overall, the panelists agreed that while location is often falsely regarded as a subset of mobile, it should be seen by marketers as a great strategic tool for measuring campaigns with data targeting capabilities.
So is location moving away from ‘just mobile marketing’ to being used on a more strategic level by brands and agencies? Theodorou says insights generated from location are great for brands to show “value” which starts to have an intrinsic value down the chain, but adds that people are still researching items on their phones and buying them in-store. For location-based advertising’s real potential to be realised, the online and offline worlds need to be better merged, he says. “I think being able to apply that across all channels will be important.”
Gilbert is excited by location, believing it will play a big part in creating a new mobile market: “I think this has the potential for a new era in the industry.”
Clapson notes increasing levels of mobile users at TripAdvisor and sees this trend continuing: “Our own mobile app users have grown from 35% to an expected 53% by the end of this year. If we don’t get mobile right, we will be in a pretty bad place two to three years down the line.”
Bruce says he sees plenty opportunity for location to drive more business for brands and retailers. He offers the example of trying to get to Holland & Barret and being notified by Google it was due to close in a few minutes: “That’s a strong example for the business planning team to say, ‘Why don’t you look at keeping your store open for another half hour?’”
Programmatic influencing the creative process was a key theme at Cannes Lions this year, with debate around the role of data and marketers being able to target audiences at scale with the right messaging. So where does location fit into the creative process?
Bruce believes the idea of creating content based on past behaviour and delivering it in interesting ways is “hugely powerful,” while, for Gilbert, analysis and interpretation should not be linked with creativity.
“AI still can’t nail context and creative. Really it’s about how that person is going to feel when they see that product. I don’t think we are there yet. I also don't think programmatic is at fault for that. It’s just an easy way to point the blame. We need to understand the context a bit better and then the creative will follow.”