When one talks about the worldwide location industry, mobile resource management — fleets and trucks, for instance — aren’t sexy at all, but they make money. What is supposed to be sexy is location-based advertising. According to many analysts, location-based advertising has been hampered by a few things: education for both consumers and mobile advertisers, privacy issues, and relevant proximity information so folks can use it to make purchases. Another concern could be the expense of rolling out indoor beacons.
BARCELONA—Major consumer privacy concerns aside, companies are starting to see growth in location-based advertising, with new markets emerging in Europe. While the numbers of mobile advertising companies has decreased at the Mobile World Congress, held here in February, from just two years ago, the remaining players are seeing a more mature market.
Mobile advertisers are beginning to realize that location is the Holy Grail for growth, said Cameron Peeples, Airpush vice president of marketing. “People going into New York from Newark during rush hour can receive a different call to action because of a created geo-fence. Advertisers can determine whether the traveler is there on business or looking for a hotel and other travel deals,” he said.
Before Mobile World Congress, Los Angeles-based Airpush partnered with AirX, a large mobile ad exchange company. The majority of the AirX inventory, about 120,000 Android applications, includes highly-sought-after GPS location data, the company said.
There are large differences between the North American and European markets for mobile advertising, Peeples said. “The mobile advertising market [in Europe] is definitely evolving. The European market is key for us, dramatically higher than other markets,” he said. “[The European] market seems to have people connected to a lot of things — they are more mobile, use public transportation more, and always have a phone that is more centric to who they are.”
Making location-based advertising relevant to the consumer is still a major challenge. “Our focus next year is on native advertising. Native advertising combines not only the right message, but the right delivery vehicle,” Peeples said. “No one bicycling enthusiast wants ads tailored for someone who wants flowers.”
Peeples said the privacy issues are a big deal, but his company’s services are opt-in. “A lot of it is loyalty advertising. It’s all opt-in,” he said.
xAd Partners with Waze, Sees UK Growth
Another mobile advertising company, New York-based xAd, is also making inroads in Europe. “We are in the UK right now, which is really WiFi-focused. A lot of our early [location-based] advertising efforts are in education — to educate consumers and the advertising agencies about the power of location and mobile,” said Monica Ho, xAd vice president of marketing. “Not all location is created equal. The real value of [location-based advertising] is the proximity target to market to.”
Right before Mobile World Congress, Waze selected xAd as its third-party provider of search and display mobile ads in the United States. Waze, which was bought by Google in a deal worth more than $1 billion, is a top three map and navigation app in the iTunes store — a ranking that was probably helped by the Apple Maps debacle in 2012.
The companies say the deal will place xAd’s mobile ad targeting technologies into Waze’s location-based advertising platform.
Ho said there are still two areas of concern for location-based advertising: relevancy to the consumer and privacy issues. “There was privacy backlash from Nordstrom collecting consumer information from their Wi-Fi system,” she said, referring to the controversy last year when the retailer was accused of capturing consumer information during an indoor positioning test.
Apple to Roll out Upgraded Maps on iPhone 6
Speaking about Apple Maps, many industry analysts says the company has come a long way since the very public embarrassment nearly two years ago over map inaccuracies and flaws. The company recently released iOS 7.1, but is expected to rollout iOS 8 when the iPhone 6 debuts later this year.
With the debut of the iPhone 6, an updated version of Apple Maps will also be released, according to published reports.
Last year, Apple bought two companies, HopStop and Locationary, to allow the company to entrench itself once more in the location business. How firmly those roots prove to be, and how well they serve the company against archrival Google, remain to be seen.
Apple has been stockpiling companies and mapping software since its introduction of Apple Maps on iOS devices, which had a rough start. GPS World’s LBS Insider reported extensively on the problems Apple encountered with its mapping software. Some of these problems included sending drivers to a wrong location and direction.
After the mapping software problems were made public, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized for the mapping software’s problems and even suggested that users go to such competitors as Waze, MapQuest, and Microsoft’s Bing.
In other location news:
- A Wall Street Journal reporter basically said there was nothing much new at Mobile World Congress — and that the excitement and action was at the outlying conferences at Fira Montjuic. One of these more interesting conferences, Four Years From Now, or 4YFN, featured start-up companies making pitches and displaying their new products, some of which included location capability.
- The Mobile World Congress final stats. Organizers said MWC had more than 85,000 attendees from 200 countries — an increase of 13,000 from the previous year. It’s now being touted as the biggest and best wireless show.
- In February, GPS World reported that TruePosition had purchased Skyhook for an undisclosed price. Skyhook provided location services to a number of companies including Apple and Samsung. The interesting issue is Skyhook’s lawsuit with Google, which alleged that the Internet giant influenced smartphone manufacturers to abandon the Boston-based company. According to published reports, the legal action still is going forward.
- AT&T Mobility is shuttering its location-based Alerts marketing program. The company said it would release an updated version later this year. AT&T Mobility launched Alerts in late 2012. It featured free opt-in, location-based text message alert service. Participating retailers included Stapes, Gap, Zales, Neiman Marcus, and others.
- I didn’t go to South by Southwest. Is my cool-guy card revoked? One of the reasons I didn’t is because, outside of meetings that were not part of the conference, there was not one location industry announcement made there. Maybe something will change my mind next year, but call me an old fogey — I just didn’t see the need to go to Austin this year.