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Mobile Programmatic Ad Growth Propelled By Geotargeting

But it's not for targeting in the moment, but rather for building more distinct and contextual audience segments, says Simpli.fi's Frost Prioleau.

The tandem rise of real-time bidding and location targeting of consumers’ smartphones is more widely used to create deeper audience profiles for future ad serving as opposed to aiming messages at consumers who happen to be in range of a geofence, says Simpli.fi CEO Frost Prioleau.

That’s a trend Prioleau expects to continue as advertising becomes more entwined between national and local, as well as across digital devices. And it’s a trend that is also gradually reshaping the way clients approach the six-year-old Fort Worth, Tx-based Simpli.fi.

Mobile-First Milestone

As of delivered July 2016, more than 50 percent of Simpli.fi’s impressions on were served on mobile devices. While Simpli.fi’s delivery to desktops has grown 37 percent over the last year, its delivery to mobile devices has grown 150 percent in the same period and now accounts for more than half of its total.

Overall, Simpli.fi’s revenues are up 59 percent year–to-date through July and its platform runs more than 43,000 programmatic campaigns each month.

“July marks Simpli.fi’s emergence as a mobile-first company,” Prioleau says. “A year ago, we were much more skewed to delivering ads to desktops and laptops. That’s where programmatic was still largely focused. Now, we are majority on mobile devices.”

The Structure Of Geofences

Initially, Simpli.if’s “local programmatic pitch” rested on the fact that most automated ad programs were available mostly for large enterprises looking to run national, or even global, campaigns in real-time. So Simpli.fi marketed the same enterprise solutions to local businesses on the buy side and local publishers on the sell side that wanted that same ability to automate and targe ads to the “right person, right place, right device” in real-time as well.

Secondly, the company’s premise of using “unstructured data” as opposed to taking existing audience segment models off the shelf was another differentiator.

“Using unstructured data means we’re not going to deliver pre-packaged audience segments, we’re going to target the audiences that optimize on the fly,” Prioleau says.”That also appeals to the way marketers want to reach mobile audiences.”

In other words, the focus isn’t so much on direct response ads, but on gathering the analytics to target ads to the most receptive audiences when they’re in right place.

“We’ve had tremendous success with our geofence product,” Prioleau says, referring to the “conversion zones” Simpli.fi unveiled last spring.

Managing Geo-Data Quality

Conversion Zones are customizable geofences around a set area that counts the number of consumers that have received a place’s mobile ad and could be tracked physically to mark that they visited a location. The promise of Conversion Zones, like other  forms of attribution, is meant to give advertisers a clear view of how effective their geo-targeted ads are along consumers’ path to purchase.

The problem of in-store attribution — an issue that is caused by varying levels of geo-data quality and the ability to accurately connect an ad to a sale in a brick-and-mortar location — is something Prioleau says Simpli.fi uses layers of data to sort out.

“Looking back to when we started, we started by building a data network to enable us to drive unstructured data from apps,” Prioleau says. “We also rely on search and contextual data networks. We’ve always had to scrub the data to make sure we’re delivering on the most accurate impressions on high quality inventory. We also work to make sure that inventory is seen by humans, not bots.  Plus, we have a whole series of quality controls that we apply to GPS data as well.”

One-Third Of Clients…

As the programmatic and mobile ad spaces have shifted, so have Simpli.fi’s clients’ needs.

“We’ve always had a strong interest in self-serve,” Prioleau says. “Most don’t take the time to pull the levers themselves, so we’ve seen a strong migration to managed service offerings.”

Of the 43,000 campaigns Simpli.fi runs every month, one-third are driven through its automated APIs, Prioleau says, adding, “So that means those customers never see our user interface.”

Another third of Simpli.fi’s campaigns are self-serve, while the remaining third of its users are “in between,” where they’re moving toward self-serve, but don’t quite have the staff to fully manage their campaigns in-house.

As for the divide between national brands with multiple locations and regional/local SMBs, Simpli.fi sees relatively even split.

“We’re certainly seeing a lot more national brands looking to localize their campaigns,” Prioleau says, adding that the categories of clients are made up of financial services, quick service restaurants, retail, travel.

“The other part of the local ad business are the SMBs,” he says. “We go to them through channel partners, primarily media companies such as TV stations, cable companies, newspapers, radio, and local ad networks as well. And they’re all heavily focused on building their mobile presence.”