IAB To Publishers: It’s Time To Understand Your Location Data

With geo-targed mobile ad dollars expected to rise 34 percent to $11.3 billion this year, the sell-side needs to step up, notes Factual's Vikas Gupta.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has primarily concentrated the discussion of the best practices regarding geo-data for mobile marketing purposes on the buy side, but as proximity targeting becomes more mainstream, there’s an increasing recognition of how the publishers’ role will influence the effective use of location technology.

That’s the impetus behind the IAB and its Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence release of its first Mobile Location Data Guide for Publishers. The goal is to provide a basic primer for publishers looking to get a handle on how to best wield power of geo-marketing.

“Location-targeted mobile ad spending is expected to grow from $8.4 billion in 2015 to $11.3 billion in 2016,” said Vikas Gupta, director of Marketing for geo-data specialist Factual, and co-chair of the IAB Mobile Location Data Working Group. “It is an area with tremendous potential and this new guide offers intelligence and advice that can help deliver on its promise for publishers.”

Developed by the members of the IAB Mobile Location Data Working Group, the new paper serves as a complement to the IAB Local Buyer’s Guide, published in October 2015 to guide brands and agencies on how to think about the ways geo-data can shape online audiences and interactive marketing campaigns by offering a clearer sense of audience segment profiles that is based on the physical places consumers actually go to, rather than the web pages they visit.

Like that last guide, the IAB hopes to promote clarity about the varying levels of location signal quality and mobile targeting capabilities, as well as impart greater knowledge of the tools and trends impacting agencies’ buying decisions.

The timing of the report comes as publishers, who have largely accepted the use of programmatic ad buying platforms as part of the sales process, are looking for ways to protect the price of their ad inventory and audience data.

Over the past half year, mobile-focused location-based platform providers like specialist Factual, Foursquare, and xAd have struck deals with ad exchange operators such as The Rubicon Project, PubMatic, and InMobi on establishing private marketplaces. Meanwhile, demand-side platforms like, which is particularly focused on using unstructured data, connect advertisers to local publishers based in large part on the value of their location data.

Inspiration of how publishers might use their location data can be found with Foursquare. Granted, as a developer that publishes apps for checking-in and discovery of places near a mobile user, location has always been at its core. But its decision last year to expand its Foursquare Audience Network into a fuller location-based data platform dubbed Pinpoint, demonstrates how the company has extended its location intelligence not just for ads on its flagship discovery app and its companion Swarm, but by other publishers, agencies and marketers.

Of course, Foursquare’s real difference between what it and other publishers can do is that it understands how lat/longs relate to actual venues, whereas everyone else has more general and non-location specific location data.

“We believe in the power of location intelligence to better understand audiences, and our first-party data enables more precise targeting because of it,” said Steven Rosenblatt, Foursquare’s president. “Having that ground truth is why we’re able to attract nearly one-third of Fortune 500 brands to advertise through Pinpoint.”

In light of all the activity and increasing potential around location, publishers are forced to think more deeply about how to manage their geo-data. After all, if publishers feel geo-data can lead to higher prices, they’ll be more likely to open up higher quality inventory that should appeal to advertisers, while providing their visitors with more relevant ads (in theory, at least).

The paper covers how location-based ad inventory can produce premium pricing, as well as topics such as:

  • Licensing data to location ad providers in order to open up new areas of sales
  • Generating improved audience insights
  • Attribution: providing precise measurement of how ad campaigns affect foot traffic to physical stores

Secondly, the paper presents a general guide to concepts like “recency” (how much time has passed since the data was recorded) “accuracy” (how close mobile users’ reported locations were to their actual real-time locations when they saw an ad), and precision (how specifically data can pinpoint mobile users’ actual locations, whether it’s one mile or several hundred feet).

Lastly, the wider issues of privacy and data security are also mentioned to spark a better understanding of how to manage those issues.

“Mobile location data is already a key part of the advertising purchase cycle for buyers, and publishers need to rally around best practices to take full advantage,” said Anna Bager, SVP/GM for Mobile and Video at the IAB. “Location data not only improves publishers’ own advertising insights but also opens up completely new avenues of monetization.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.