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July 06, 2016

Not all digital location marketing is created equal. As the trend gains momentum, this statement reverberates throughout the industry, and ad technologies fight tooth and nail to win the market. But what does that mean for brands, and why is location such a tough nut to crack?

Waze sat down with UK brand and agency executives to hear firsthand how they're thinking about location as it applies to their marketing strategies, both immediately and eventually. In the room: MediaCom UK, Manning Gottlieb OMD, Vizeum, Casual Dining Group, Primesight, Yahoo!Wowcher, Mars, and Jaguar Land Rover.

Location lends context. But it's the ability to triangulate other contextual signals with it that ultimately allows advertisers to deliver a relevant message to the consumer, as Vizeum Executive Director Jem Lloyd-Williams pointed out during the discussion. When applying location to a marketing strategy, it's important to consider other factors—like what the consumer is doing, experiencing, thinking, etc.—which is still tough to do at scale. Marc Zander, Global Media Director at Mars, brought this principle to life: He compared the amount of attention directed at his phone when he's on the couch to when he's walking down the street, pointing out that location information only scratches the surface when it comes to delivering a contextually relevant ad.

Generally speaking, native advertising offers stronger contextual signals to brands because native platforms know their users (and have users, for that matter). Waze, for example, understands where users are, but also (and better yet), where they are going, how long it's going to take to get there, what traffic conditions look like along the way, etc. It's accessing each of those signals in tandem with location that makes the native play effective and unique to network advertising.

Where native often falls short is scalability, because it's not the "one-size-fits most" solution the industry has come to rely on from programmatic; native audiences are focused and expect to be addressed in ways tailored to the digital environment they're in. And therein lies the crux of the problem—context complicates things. As marketers begin engaging consumers according to individual circumstance, it gets increasingly difficult to draw conclusions at scale and compare one platform to the next.

I would be remiss to ignore the irony that hangs on the popular programmatic sentiment "context at scale." It raises questions about authenticity. How accurate is the location signal? Where does the consumer data come from? What technical integration is required? As the industry progresses, brands and agencies will learn to ask these types of questions, and expectations will again reset. Still, as with most everything, context is relative. It's up to the brands themselves to determine the level of context required to achieve their campaign goals.
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