Advertising Technology

PlaceIQ’s Duncan McCall on Understanding the Consumer Journey Through Location Data

Duncan McCall


Duncan McCall is currently the CEO and Co Founder of PlaceIQ, a leading provider of location intelligence, enabling advertisers to reach and define mobile brand audiences at scale for a wide range of marketing activities. Duncan’s background includes leading or being part of the executive team for a number of startups from the location, mobile and internet arena. The Makegood recently spoke with Duncan about understanding the consumer journey through location data.

The Makegood: PlaceIQ technology was just patented. Can you go back and recap the process it has taken to bring this from an idea into a tangible product?

For a while now, mobile marketers have marveled over the idea of mobile and location. We all live in a physical world where we move through time and space.  The places we go and things we do say a lot about who we are – and these actions could be tremendous indicators of audience intent if harnessed in the right way.  PlaceIQ was one of the first companies to recognize that mobile and location could be so much more than geofencing and proximity, and we spent three and a half years developing the technology to do this effectively. The first step was to intelligently understand the context of where consumers are right now.  Once we mastered that, we quickly moved on to uncover insights around what we consider to be even more valuable – where consumers have been.   This is the key to building multifaceted audiences based on location history that could change the way marketers view the customer journey.

For example, if you want to find passionate golfers, the ability to identify and target every device that has been on a golf course in the past 60 days becomes incredibly powerful.  We’re working with marketers who are taking this even further to uncover and identify deeper audience insights and attributes – business professionals who play golf, for example – and using our technology to build rich behavioral audiences from location history. As consumers have started to use mobile and share location, our team has developed a product suite that allows brands to reach high-fidelity audiences in a privacy-centric way.

The Makegood: Now that the product is in place, how do you see your potential clients using it? What is the ideal way it should be used?

There are many ways our products can be used, depending on a marketer’s specific goals.  Overall, we are helping marketers understand the consumer journey in a new, comprehensive manner.  If a marketer is, for example, trying to reach consumers in-market for a new vehicle, they can use PIQ Audiences to build an audience based on location history.  PIQ Audiences can determine who within various audiences has been on a car lot in the last 60 days.  This indicates consideration, and it can inform a different advertising strategy. If, instead, marketers want to connect with a car buyer while they visit a dealership, the brand can use PIQ Audiences NOW to find consumers in that exact moment. Armed with this information, the marketer can then message these consumers with ads that are tailored to their needs.

Taking this example a step further, the marketer can leverage PlaceIQ’s PreVisit technology to determine where those consumers were before they showed up to the car lot.  Were they at a casual dining spot?  Shopping?  Did they come to the car lot from home or work?  With this layer of information, marketers can better understand the mindset consumers were in before showing up at the car lot.

PIQ Analytics enables us to look at all the anonymous data we’ve just discussed and combine that with the overall behaviors, demographics, and psychographics of a particular audience.  We’re then able to report more accurate trends that can help marketers gain a better overall understanding of their audience that, in turn, can better inform their messaging, creative and strategy.  Finally, with Place Visit Rate (PVR™), marketers can determine how many consumers actually showed up at the dealership after receiving an ad, enabling them to close the loop and more accurately measure the performance of their marketing.

The Makegood: What competition do you have in this market, and how do you differentiate yourself from them?

This particular market has seen rapid growth and change over the last year. Initially the idea of assembling high-fidelity audiences from granular location data wasn’t something anyone was doing or talking about. Over the last nine months, however, we’ve seen more activity – mostly from mobile ad networks.

One area of differentiation lies in the depth and maturity of our products.  We were the first company to use location data to build an understanding of how consumers behave in the physical world, and we spent three and a half years developing the technology with a team of data scientists.  Our data-science driven approach, focused on audience behavior and powered by a proven, solid platform based on a legacy of data, is applied in a variety of use cases – only one of which is mobile – and this approach enables us to stay on the cutting edge of innovation.  We were also the first to introduce PVR™, which has become the standard KPI for measuring real-world, in-store ROI.

The Makegood: Any time you are going to be logging customers’ location, the issue of privacy comes into play. How does PlaceIQ ensure that privacy is protected? 

This topic has been extremely important to PlaceIQ since the earliest days of the company. First, we don’t collect any PII data ourselves.  Second, we are not tracking consumers – we are converting location data into marketing intelligence.  We leverage geospatial data to make sense of the world.  All of this is non-PII and/or opt-in, and it primarily helps us understand the context of the physical world (i.e., Tourist centric areas, nightlife zones, the high fidelity footprint of a car dealership or golf course etc…).  The other piece of the puzzle is mobile movement data based on ad requests.  This data has already been shared and is used openly by the mobile ad ecosystem.  The consumer has opted in to share this data via various mobile apps.

One analogy might be that what we provide marketers isn’t much different than what consumers already are exposed to online.  If we are targeting the consumer based upon their current location, it’s very similar to contextual targeting.  Whether you are on a baseball website or in a baseball stadium, an ad targeted towards “baseball fans” may be relevant to you.  If you are getting that ad a day or two after you’ve been at the baseball stadium, that’s very similar to retargeting online, which leverages your browsing history.

It’s also important to note that the consumer is always in control of this experience. If a consumer is being ‘retargeted’ they can click an Ad Choices icon on the creative and opt out completely of this type of targeting. Plus of course they have complete control over sharing location through their mobile ad settings.  We believe, as online advertisers have for years, that more relevant ad experiences of this type will be recognized as more valuable for advertisers and consumers alike.

The Makegood: As more and more products like yours are released and more and more consumer data is compiled, how do you see the consumer landscape changing? Will customers finally be able to get rid of ads that don’t apply to them or is there still a long way to go?

As data increasingly becomes the focus of online advertising technology, one shift that must happen is putting more emphasis on the consumer experience.  If you can understand consumer behavior, you can be much more responsive to and respectful of consumers’ preferences.  At PlaceIQ, we believe that if you can spend ten dollars to find the right consumer at the right time, it’s worth more than spending one dollar on ten ads that may or may not be targeted appropriately.  Unfortunately, we’re still seeing a lot of the spray and pray advertising of the past.  Instead, we need to be asking more questions.  Data science is helping the industry move toward this, and I really believe that in three to five years, the consumer experience is going to be placed front and center – where it should be.

The Makegood: Thank you, Duncan