WPP’s Data Alliance Adopts Factual’s Location Analytics

The deal between the ad holding company and Factual shows how geo-data is about more than just "location."

Bill Michels, Factual's SVP, Product Management & Partnerships
Bill Michels, Factual’s SVP, Product Management & Partnerships

While Geo-targeting capabilities are becoming an integral part of the way media is being bought and sold, one of the world’s largest advertising holding companies, WPP Group, is weaving technology from location-based platform Factual throughout its network of agencies.

The partnership, which was announced this morning, is happening just as the ad industry’s top executives hold their annual awards and networking gala at the Cannes Lions in the south of France (coincidence?).

Under the terms of the deal, WPP’s Data Alliance will have access to Factual’s full suite of geo-data, location-based ad targeting and mobile personalization offerings. The individual WPP companies, which include the media buying unit GroupM, the analytics provider Kantar, its creative agency JWT, PR firm Cohn & Wolfe, and media assets manager Wunderman, will be able to use Factual’s Global Places data, which covers more than 65 million businesses and other points of interest in 50 countries. Overlaying all that are Factual’s Geopulse Audience and Geopulse Proximity.

Covering WPP Group’s Map

Factual’s tools will be integrated into WPP operating companies’ solutions and services, including the Xaxis programmatic platform. WPP’s goal is to allow marketers to create and deliver “highly compelling and contextualized mobile experiences,” including customization of mobile app content – something advertisers have been especially craving as they seek to better connect with users’ smartphones.

Beyond mobile experiences, the location data will be added into insights and analytics across WPP’s network, giving the agencies a deeper sense of how the mobile and location landscape is influencing purchases and consumer behavior.

For Factual, the deal with WPP is not just a vote of confidence in its abilities – though it can certainly regard it as such. In a larger way, the use of Factual’s technology signifies the wider influence location-data is starting to have on marketing in general.

“Factual is all about location, data, power, and contextual relevance for marketers,” says Bill Michels, SVP of Product Management & Partnerships at Factual. “And the way we think about contextual relevance is that it’s powered by location data. But other mobile experiences also require relevance, such as search results. To be relevant is to be personalized. When it comes to mobile, that can include various types of engagements on any app. It doesn’t have to be monetization. It’s bigger than just knowing where someone is. It’s about understanding who they are as a consumer and being able to craft and target messages accordingly.”

Geo-Data Is More Than Just Location-Ads

Although it was founded in 2007, way before location-based advertising was taken as seriously as it is now, Factual has seen its profile rise quickly in the past year. It has struck a number of key partnerships along the way, including December’s deal with mobile real-time bidding and supply-side platform, Smaato. The RTB/SSP sought out Factual’s GPS data to better improve on its own mobile ad targeting, despite having the ability to collect data from over 76,000 mobile app developers and mobile publishers across 230 countries.

The reason Smaato teamed up with Factual reflects the larger problems that tech companies have had with managing “Big Data” – they are great at collecting huge amounts of information, but they don’t know how to package it and analyze it. In that sense, Factual is well-positioned as a more of a mobile Data Management Platform (DMP), as opposed to just being a provider of geo-targeting.

On the local marketing front, Factual has also worked closely with reviews and recommendation player Yelp. “We are excited to have access to Factual’s extensive local database for our international country launches and efforts outside of the United States,” said Stephanie Teng, international product manager at Yelp, when asked about Factual’s value.

In terms of what Factual actually does, its main offering is Global Places, which gathers data covering over 65 million local businesses and points of interest in 50 countries. But the power behind it is its Geopulse Audience, which analyzes that information and promises to neatly organize it for contextually relevant advertising, and the geo-fencing solution, Geopulse Proximity.

O2O Is Going Places

In choosing to work with Factual, the other trend that WPP recognizes is the buzz around the notion of “online-to-offline” marketing.

Local marketing and location-data is at the center of that “O2O” movement. After all, offline commerce still dwarfs online commerce by a landslide. In 2013, offline commerce amounted to $6 trillion, while e-commerce cleared just $400 billion, according to analysis and reporting by Screenwerk. By comparison, offline commerce is 15 times bigger than online.

Furthermore, as BIA/Kelsey has forecast, local media ad spend will jump from $133.2 billion in 2013 to $158.6 billion in 2018, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6 percent. Digital media continues to increase its share of total local media revenues, growing from $31.7 billion (23 percent) in 2014 to $52.7 billion (33.2 percent) in 2018. Within those figures, the location-targeted segment of the overall mobile advertising pie is slated to rise from around 40 percent currently of total mobile revenue. That’s going to grow to 52 percent by the end of BIA/Kelsey’s forecast period in 2018.

“Mobile platforms and data enable us to bring together the digital and physical worlds,” said Nick Nyhan, CEO of WPP’s Data Alliance, in a statement. “Factual is a global data source that can help clients make minute-by-minute, geo-specific decisions so they can deliver the right content at the right time… and in the right place.”

For WPP, the addition of Factual’s data is another step in attempting to forge a unified cross-screen advertising platform. Earlier this year, the company’s programmatic platform Xaxis began connecting with data from broadcast TV. Geographical data is connective tissue for that unit and WPP’s other properties.

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.