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Embrace location-based mobile services: ad:tech panelists

NEW YORK ? Big brands need to lead the way in location-based services on mobile devices, panelists said at ad:tech.

With location-based services comes privacy concerns for consumers. For marketers and brands, there are more opportunities for small businesses than big brands, but the bigger retailers need to lead by example.

?Privacy, is it a real or perceived threat,? said Brian Levin, CEO/cofounder of Useful Networks, Denver. ?It?s a very big and looming threat as to who gets access to location data, when and how long they can keep it.?

Mr. Levin moderated the panel and forbade the panelists from saying Google or iPhone, both big game-changers when it comes to location-based services.

If a panelist said Google, Mr. Levin said that they had to take two sips of beer and if they mentioned the iPhone then the panelist had to finish his beer.

Mr. Levin presented data that showed the Android smartphone would be the No. 2 smartphone by 2012.

?However, the Jesus phone is here to stay and it?s making a difference,? Mr. Levin said about the iPhone.

Location-based masses
Dan Gilmartin, vice president of marketing at uLocate, Boston, said that he thinks mass adoption of location-based services is hindered by the restriction of 3G networks and carriers.

Mr. Gilmartin said that smartphones are driving mobile adoption, but devices need to be on better networks.

Alistair Goodman, CEO of 1020 Placecast, San Francisco, said that marketers care about reach and scale and with mobile they care about giving the consumer a unique and tailored experience because the mobile device is something very personal to the consumer.

Mr. Goodman said he thinks that carriers have to embrace a cheaper price model and join the fray in location-based services because it opens up the platform ubiquity not just for smartphones but for feature phones as well.

Josh Walker, CEO of, Cambridge, MA, said that for location-based services to catch on brands need to stop using mobile for a single promotion and embark on large mobile campaigns.

Dustin Jacobsen, technical director for Barkley, Kansas City, MO, said that his ad agency works with brands such as Build-a-Bear Workshop and that when he is speaking with clients he breaks location into components.

Mr. Jacobsen said brands and retailers could leverage mobile as a means of sending promotions to consumers when they check in with their location.

For example, if the consumer is using Foursquare and says he is at Starbucks then the coffee giant should send that consumer a coupon if he opted-in rather than using weekly SMS blasts hoping to catch the consumer at the retail location.
?If I check in at a Starbucks and get product offer where I get a text message with a dollar off or something it would reach me better because I?m taking action and I?m interested in the brand,? Mr. Jacobsen said.

Naveen Selvadurai, cofounder of Foursquare, New York said that he thinks carriers will catch up, but the primary factor blocking mobile location-based advertising is permission.

Mr. Selvadurai said that marketers sometimes do not think of mobile ads or deals as different than Web and television ads.

Consumers are out and about and when they are served a mobile ad it may be interrupting something, whereas consumers are now conditioned to expect commercial breaks during TV.

Mr. Selvadurai said that he agreed with Mr. Jacobsen?s check in approach because then the consumer is giving the marketer and brand context data.

Mr. Levin said that another problem to consider is that not many brands consider mobile an important marketing tool and they do not budget for it.

Changing the game
Mr. Goodman said that mobile offers the opportunity to change the dynamic around the way a brand and a consumer interact.

?Mobile can create a really valuable service if it?s not something unwanted,? Mr. Goodman said. ?When thinking about it as a program, in our case that give the retailer the ability to send promotions and marketing with SMS programs that their consumer bases finds valuable.?

Mr. Levin said that most retail chains are using location-based services to help consumers locate stores near them, but there is more value for smaller businesses to serve advertisements and get consumers in store.

In order to get the smaller family-owned businesses into the space, Mr. Walker said that national brands need to start leveraging the platform with contests and endorsements.

Location differences
Mr. Goodman said that there are many different ways to determine the consumer?s location such as with GPS, latitude and longitude coordinates and cellular tower triangulation.

While location is important to marketers, Mr. Jacobsen said that retailers like quick-serve restaurants are more concerned with the time of day the consumer is visiting the location.

With the time of day and location, the brand can serve even more relevant ads and promotions.

Mr. Gilmartin said that his company only stores a user?s information for 24 hours. He said that he never has a person?s phone or email and that it is purely anonymous and having a database with no information would not improve anything.

?We have to protect it as end users, if not they?ll force rules on us,? Mr. Gilmartin said about consumer?s privacy.

Mr. Levin asked the panel when they think a consumer will use a location-based dating application to lure another application user into a dangerous and potentially harmful situation.

Mr. Selvadurai said that he does not think there are enough dating applications, yet he compared the potential situation to Craigslist and said it is just a numbers game and somebody will eventually do it.

Spotlight on mobile?
Mr. Walker said that he has encountered brands who include mobile with social media, saying they have experimented with Twitter and Facebook and that they are ready to do mobile, but the budget is still not there.

However, Mr. Goodman said he has seen growth and retailers are embracing mobile.

?Today we?re running lots of pure mobile campaigns, we weren?t seeing a lot of that a year ago today,? Mr. Goodman said.