Mobile Marketing, Location, and Attribution

By Mark Campos | Product Expert, Waze

Smart marketers will embrace mobile. They'll deliver useful, relevant brand messages with context, driving more customers to store, more eyeballs on the season premiere, or increase purchase of their new menu items. Their ads won't look anything like right-rails or mobile banners, and they won't be measured by CTR. Consumer attention, followed by budgets, are shifting toward mobile, so it's time to consider how the medium should be used, what makes it unique, and how we can prove it's effective.

Clumsiness in New Media

Early television advertising was essentially graphic radio advertising--voice reading over moving text. In the 90s, web marketing was print marketing redux. New mediums often begin with pasting the old into the new, expecting to measure and drive the same kinds of engagement. We see the same on mobile today, and as marketers, only have ourselves to blame. Mobile banners are a dull use of the medium, and yet they constitute 82% of mobile advertising. We know that mobile banners are widely ignored (with 38% of clicks being accidental), and it's quickly becoming acknowledged that their days are numbered. To be smart, we have to understand context.

Context Matters in Mobile

Our phones are the only screen we carry from the bed to the bathroom to the boardroom. This screen is beside us more often than not, whether we're watching TV, shopping for groceries, running through the park--the list is endless by now. Therefore it's counterintuitive that the data we use to target and measure activity on mobile are so blunt. These devices are packed full of sensors, they're recording great data, why aren't we able to use all of it? Firstly, users are in app silos. Of all time on mobile, 86% is spent in-app. We can still reach users in native apps, but when marketers buy that inventory blindly, they lose context. Critical user signals are lost in mobile ad networks; marketers must find signals that are common denominators across hundreds or thousands of apps, which ultimately compromises their understanding of context and effectiveness. With such a vague understanding of user behavior at the moment of an ad impression, we're unable to deliver ads of value or measure their effectiveness. Native ads today deliver 18% higher lift in purchase intent, over networks. And if there's one signal that mobile marketing should always consider, its location.

Location Marketing's Dirty Little Secret

Location signals today in mobile marketing are undeniably valuable yet woefully misunderstood. AdExchanger sums up the irony of location inaccuracy through deep research, concluding that, "Less than 1% of location data from ad exchanges is accurate enough to help marketers understand people's movements in the real world". Even with precise signals, real value isn't found in reaching people simply because they're nearby. There are marginal performance lifts in geo-awareness and geo-fenced campaigns, but again, context is king. Native apps, by contrast, are a unique channel for marketing, with strong signals of user location, behavior, context, and goals. The mobile device is persistent throughout our daily routines, as marketers we should be able to see and take advantage of that data. Native location apps give us rich behavioral profiling, valuable context, and an audience that sees and responds to ads.

Measuring Effectiveness

There is no one-size-fits-all for measuring mobile marketing at scale. There are panel-based solutions, which only measure a portion of your audience, and may have conflicts of interest. There are third party solutions, like connecting data through transactions at the register, but require expensive data subscriptions and complex technical integrations. On a native ad platform, you aren't going to see the scale of impressions, clicks, and purchases you'll see with other solutions, but the results you do see will be authentic. Marketers are learning the only end-to-end solutions that can measure ad effectiveness from impression to purchase are first-party, native platforms with accurate location signals.

About the Author


Mark Campos works on product strategy at Waze, alongside some of the brightest minds in geolocated data and advertising, and has spoken on data and policy across the country. Formally trained in Architecture at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, his personal work explores the intersection of information design, robotics, custom fabrication, and public space.