Ad Networks

Thinknear GM Eli Portnoy on Location-Based Advertising

elimanning Eli Portnoy is GM of Thinknear by Telenav. Thinknear, which he founded two years ago is a hyper-local mobile ad solution. Telenav offers personalized navigation services that help people make faster and smarter daily decisions about where to go, when to leave, how to get there, and what to do when they arrive. The Makegood recently spoke with Eli about location-based targeting.

The Makegood: Thinknear helps brands use location data to target consumers more effectively. Can you give us some insight as to how your product works?

Mobile is a device that people have with them everywhere they go.  Mobile enables us to constantly interact with the people and things around us.

Location is the primary tool mobile advertisers can use to understand who they are reaching and where those customers are living, playing and working. Location enables advanced targeting strategies and lets advertisers build creative that is relevant and meaningful to the customer. Creative that incorporates location is personal, and it speaks to the customer.

For example, we’ve used location to build campaigns for a pharmaceutical company that wanted to target allergy sufferers. Rather than simply blasting out ads, we leveraged real-time pollen data around the country and only served ads in geographies with high pollen counts. In our ads, we highlighted the actual pollen index in the user’s area and provided a list of local stores where they could buy the allergy medication. That’s one example of how we use location to improve targeting and build better experiences.

The Makegood: How will your strategies be changing with the holiday season approaching?

Mobile is portable and follows people wherever they go. During the holiday season, advertisers will be able to reach consumers while they are shopping, spending time with family, and on vacation. By understanding our users and the context of their location, we can help advertisers reach people at opportune times with timely messages.

For the holidays, we work very closely with our brand and agency partners to deliver relevant campaigns. With a lot of 1-day or short-duration sales and events, it’s critical that advertisers have a partner that can react, work quickly, and be flexible to ensure campaigns hit customers at the right times.

The Makegood: There are many issues with location-based targeting such as privacy issues and accuracy issues. What would you say is the biggest obstacle to your company and how are you planning to beat it?

Privacy is the issue that gets talked about the most, and we take a very straight-forward approach to it. We work hard to ensure compliance with industry guidelines and we don’t store or share any personally identifiable information in our ad serving. As a public company, it’s an issue we take very seriously and it’s one that we have to get right.

For the industry, we believe location accuracy is a bigger challenge because location is really hard to get right. Location is difficult because it takes an incredible amount of data and scale, and requires a platform that’s built to handle the complexity of understanding billions of locations and the context behind those locations. That’s what you need to deliver really powerful targeting. 

Even Apple, one of the best-run companies in the world, botched location pretty badly with Apple maps. Location is really hard to do right, but it’s critically important for marketers. Based on our studies, the majority of ad impressions running through the mobile ecosystem do not include accurate location data. Accuracy is impacted by a number of factors, but we’ve built our platform to programmatically handle those types of issues. We have been in the location space for 14 years building GPS solutions for AT&T, Sprint, Ford and many others. So we really know location and we know the data.

The Makegood: Advertising fraud is a big issue in the advertising industry, currently. Has this epidemic carried into mobile? If so, what measures can be taken to limit it?

Any time massive budgets are deployed and transparency is weak, there is an opportunity for fraud. So yes, there is fraud in mobile. Ad networks need to actively screen for fraud and build the tools to protect advertisers. And advertisers need to work with partners they trust.  

We constantly run internal assessments that help to identify and eliminate fraudulent activity. As a public company, we can’t afford not to. That may not be the case with all networks, and fraud is a challenge for the industry at large. 

Also, by focusing on conversion and ROI, you can ensure your dollars are being put properly to work. If there is fraud, you wont see real conversions or ROI. 

The Makegood: Mobile and location-based advertising are being adopted by more and more companies, lately. Where do you see this industry going in 5 years? 10 years?

Location will be the defining characteristic of all mobile ad campaigns. It’s what makes mobile interesting and unique and, done smartly, can empower advertisers to create incredibly engaging advertising. Location has historically been thought of as a geofence around a brick-and-mortar location, but it’s so much more than that.  We’re using location to find and reach unique audiences, to build rich user profiles, and to deliver campaigns that are much more relevant to consumers. Location tells us so much about a person that you can’t get from simply buying traffic on a popular app.  We’re very excited about that and we’re just now at the tip of the iceberg.

The Makegood: Thank you, Eli