Skyhook Aims For More Relevant Location Ads Through ‘Personas’

Contextual location is the key, says VP of adtech products Matt Kojalo.

For Skyhook Wireless, geo-data isn’t simply about better ad targeting or observing shopper patterns: It’s about understanding how higher quality location information can yield a better customer experience.

Last month, the location specialist launched three new “personas” as part of its platform in a bid to help provide a more relevant mobile ad experience. The idea is that contextual location — the places someone has visited, and when — paint a picture of the customer journey and can tell a lot about who someone is. Thus, ads delivered based on that “persona” are more likely to be useful and interesting to the recipient — and the marketer may see a better response as a result.

Matt Kojalo, VP of adtech products at Skyhook, talked to GeoMarketing about the application of “personas” — and why he’s over talking about ad blocking.

GeoMarketing: Skyhook has been around for over 12 years. How has the company evolved, and what led to the launch of the new personas?

Matt Kojalo: Skyhook originally started by mapping, or using cellular triangulation with GPS and Wi-Fi positioning to build better location.

It’s really Google, Apple, Nokia, and Skyhook that have those mapping capabilities. That’s how we started off by helping handset manufacturers — including Apple, Sony and a bunch of other IoT providers before it was even called IoT — with positioning.

Now, we’re [using location data] to build personas. With the data, we can determine, “This lat-long is a real lat-long coming from a real human, and not IP-based. This is the a real movement of a user.”

Based on where a person has been and what they’ve done [in the real world], we can then build that out into personas such as “coffee lover,” “luxury business traveler,” etc. to help understand [and target] consumers.

The ability to use contextual location to build these personas — and then target ads accordingly — depends on having quality geo-data, as you mentioned. As programmatic inventory has grown quickly, location accuracy has suffered. How do you see the industry reversing this trend?

Obviously, this is something we’ve worked on. Having hundreds of patents on location and having done this for twelve plus years, we are able to tell the difference between a real lat-long and a fake lat-long to determine if someone is in the Walmart or, say, the parking lot across the street.

I’d say viewability, ad blocking, click fraud, and location fraud are all a hot topics. I think location, or bad location, is probably the least talked about, which is a problem.

There’s too much of an acceptance of “it’s presenting this lat-long, therefore the person must be there.” Where in reality, they’re not. That’s something that we’re involved in IAB and MMA committees on, to help educate both the publishers and the SSPs [about the importance] of relying on first-party data. And the buy-side on the difference between good location and bad location.

You mentioned ad blocking. That’s something that has kind of been talked to death, but it’s still a topic of concern to a lot of people. What’s your perspective on that, as someone in the location ad space?

Permission to speak freely? I think it’s utter bullsh**, to be honest.

I was at an MMA event this week, and I forget who said it, but on of [the speakers] said, “If you have your ad blocker turned on, we don’t want to advertise to you anyway because you’re not paying attention to ads”.

The point is, it’s nothing really bad. You know, who cares?

There’s so many other challenges in our industry that ad blocking is the least of it. From our position, if it hurts anyone, it really hurts the publishers who are ad supported. In my mind, it’s like pirating music; if you’re [stealing anything], you’re really stealing from the content provider.

What do you see as the big challenges in the industry?

I think it’s sort of still the wild, wild west when it comes to the use of third party data, and, like we said, that’s an issue. Who’s third party data is certified or not certified with a real location, or is it a bad location?

I’ve had conversations with SSPs about being able to rank or give a score for location for a certain publisher at a certain time, so that when a DSP gets it, they’re able to say, “The score for this ad request, or this bid request, is ninety percent certain that it’s a real GPS location versus a bad one.”

Going forward, how do you see Skyhook continuing to evolve in the location ecosystem? What’s next?

We’re just looking to get as much data as possible through our system.

Also, continuing to ensuring that everyone understands good location [data] versus bad location, and how we can help determine that; how we can continue to distinguish someone in Walmart from someone in the parking lot from someone driving by. That really helps out with foot traffic and in-store attribution as well.

And, following up on the launch of our list of new personas, we’ll be launching a bunch of things around our wearable products and other device precision location.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.