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August 04, 2016

There's no question that the subject of capitalizing on Pokemon Go has been circulating the inbox of every major brand's marketing team alias this month. The new gaming app is huge: initial reports say almost six percent of Android users played in a single day when it launched, according to AdvertisingAge.

While no one can say how long it will last, that kind of potential reach is huge for marketers, especially for brands with physical locations. At its core, the best location-based marketing connects the physical world to the digital world with an engaging branded experience. If done right, Pokemon Go could evolve into a marketing platform that does exactly that. Ad Age points out that, without a formal ads platform, many brands are finding unique ways to connect with Pokemon Go-ers (in-game lures, sponsored rides, and traditional billboards, to name a few). As Forbes notes, local shops take this craze a step further, offering special deals to players as they pass by. However, as TechCrunch reports, this will soon change, with the addition of sponsored locations and in-app purchases.

At Waze, monetization came only after developing an app with strong consumer love and engagement, and initial phases of ads were a test. We learned and improved and, over time, became a platform with the ability to consistently prove value for brands. As our offering has evolved, we've had brands join the map at all different phases. Like Pokemon Go, we know our users are in a specific mindset when they're using the Waze app. Whether it's capturing virtual creatures or getting from Point A to Point B fastest, marketers have an opportunity to deliver a contextual message based on the utility of the app their audience is using. This is a key differentiator between native in-app ad placements and mobile programmatic display buys.

There is no doubt that there's a tremendous amount of potential for Pokemon Go to become a valuable ads platform, but if you're a brand marketer, how do you know the right time to engage? Let's look at the opportunities and risks associated with getting in early.

The Opportunities:

User Attention
The most obvious benefit is that you'll leverage the platform at a time when you know the user engagement and excitement are high. At the very least, you'll capitalize on a short-term boost in reach and engagement. Ideally, you'll gain customers who prove to have long-term value.

Innovative Perception
Being "first" is associated with being relevant, on-trend, and even being a risk-taker. Many brands benefit from having an innovative perception, and as a marketer, part of your success is dependent on your ability to identify new, emerging ways to connect with your audience.

Willingness to Customize
During early phases of monetization, apps are more willing to customize their ads to the needs of the brands who are willing to come on board. Early involvement could have long-term influence on the platform, ensuring it's set up to fit your brand's needs.

The Risks:

Legal Considerations
Security and privacy could be major concerns here. Negative brand association could ensue if there were a security breach, or if the platform were sued for misuse of personal information.

Uncertainty (Who Are the Real Users?)
Everyone is playing the game right now. It will take time to fully understand the core audience—those still throwing Pokeballs—six months from now.

No Real Value
The true value of an ads platform can only be proven over time. Lures can increase the number of visitors who pass by your store, but how does that translate to new customers? What will be the core KPIs of the platform? How will they align to your brand's marketing goals?

At Waze, it took us time to prove that we can influence navigation behavior, or intentional visits to stores, but we've seen brands capitalize on this benefit earlier than we could prove it out. If there is a cultural appetite for risk in your organization, the opportunity could outweigh the potential downsides. 
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