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This Is The Year Of Investing Heavily In Mobile, Location

Advances in creativity and targeting have made mobile advertising more appealing to major marketers trying to reach local audiences. But advertisers are still getting tripped up by one mistake: one-size messages do not fit all consumers.

Luke Edson, VP for National Markets at YP ("The New Yellow Pages")
Luke Edson, VP for National Markets at YP (“The New Yellow Pages”)

Luke Edson, VP for National Markets at the local advertising and publishing company YP (aka “the new Yellow Pages”), is committed to connecting big business to consumers based on location. He’s been working on it for much of the past decade, not only at YP, but at media giant Cox and the ad network Internet Broadcasting, where he held positions in digital.

Now that mobile is emerging as the tie that binds national and local marketing, Edson is exploring how those threads fit more tightly together when it comes to developing smarter, more effective targeting.

GeoMarketing: How seriously are national brands taking mobile as a way to support their local business interests?

Luke Edson: Mobile, for the majority of top national advertisers, is really the main focus. That said, I wouldn’t say they’ve completely figured out display. But if advertisers understand how to buy display and get results, mobile is still that market where there are still huge amounts of inventory, where advertisers also know from the consumer dynamics that there’s a huge opportunity. All of the people, the CMOs, the VPs of marketing, directors of marketing, do the same thing that you and I do: which is coddle our phone and our iPad. So all those kinds of marketing executives know they need to be there.

Are the strategies and spending in the mobile/local space fully-formed? How far do marketers’ and agencies have to go in terms of figuring out how to plan and buy for mobile/local advertising?

It’s not the year of figuring out, it’s the year of actually investing major dollars to lock in on the winning metrics, the winning partners, and so you’ve got to be in the market right now. That’s why we made that decision to acquire Sense Networks. It’s really critical to our future.

Where is the growth in mobile advertising at the local level coming from – search or display?

The growth is certainly coming from display.

I use Facebook as an example. Facebook isn’t selling search product, and they’re showing their mobile revenues as broken out into billions of dollars every quarter.

The majority of our mobile revenue still comes from search, because that’s our core product, search. But when we’re looking forward into future opportunities, the same thing happens with mobile search that happened with desktop search, which is inventory is just capped. It’s huge and it performs the best, but it’s capped.

Tell me more about the acquisition of the mobile targeting provider Sense Networks and why the buy was critical to YP’s future?

They create behavioral profiles, so by looking at location and big data sets. And without cookies. And so that’s a unique value proposition. The reason we decide to acquire rather than partner is about speed and about the ability to continue to innovate.

Our decision was, ‘Hey, buy a company, get to market faster and be principal,’ and then drive innovation on top of that. And I know everyone here can’t do that, but there are some partnership opportunities.

Is the value of Sense Networks’ capabilities associated with going beyond the general behavioral targeting with added layers of geo-fencing and geo-targeting?

Yeah, that’s exactly right. Consider New York’s Penn Station. You’ve got millions of people coming through that location every day, and they’ve all got a different profile. We live in different places, we have different economic situations, eating habits, shopping habits.

If you market to everybody in the same way, which is what a ring-fence essentially does, you’re missing a lot of attributes. The thinking goes, all too often, if a person is within two miles of Macy’s at Herald Square, they must be a Macy’s customer. That’s not the way it works.

Macy’s customers have a certain profile of age, gender, household income, and you need to layer that other data on top. That’s really important.

Beacons are another way finding a better match between retailers and consumers. Is there a particular success metric attached to Beacons?

Not every company has the wherewithal to have an app that will drive repeat usage, right? Some do. Not every company does. The industry has moved past the app download, and we’re in a space now where probably the next thing they’re going to measure is (and this very much trends with how display happened) a flashy execution, [asking], Can I get a video or takeover ad in front of a fairly large audience? I think publishers like Weather, ESPN, and the big leaders in all the categories can do this well. That’s interesting for about five or ten publishers. Beyond that, the metrics are still sort of unclear.

There’s a store visit metric – being able to know exactly how many consumers entered your store and connected with you electronically in real-time. While it’s not a complete closed loop attribution to how much sales you drove, if you tell a national advertiser that you can measure store visits that have a causal relationship to the campaign that you drove, they’re very interested and they’ll start working with you on different ways to invest, and they’ll share data with you.

The message is: Don’t be satisfied with just delivering impressions and clicks because you’ve got an opportunity to do more here. The landscape isn’t full yet in mobile. There are opportunities to win there. We’ve picked one. We hope it’s a good one.

What other strategies are often missed by national marketers when it comes to developing a mobile ad strategy for their local businesses?

The idea of managing “user flow” is critical. In other words, you can’t just send somebody to a mobile landing page. You’ve really got to think about what you’re asking them to do. You can probably present three options at most, and probably two options are even better, but if you only present one, it’s a failure.

I’ll give you an example. Take an insurance company. If they only ask a prospective consumer to call their office and don’t give them any other option, then the campaign won’t work out all that well.

If you offer them to locate an agent near them, that’s a secondary action request that doesn’t automatically mean a sale. But it’s a good, softer secondary option. Still, that’s not enough.

Lastly, if you also offer the opportunity to schedule an appointment, even if they can’t commit at that moment, the consumer is more likely to be receptive. It all comes down to using a softer sales method by presenting several options that don’t make the consumer feel forced.

In other words, why limit to one use case?

What I often find with national brands is they’re understanding these cases in real time, so they don’t have it completely nailed. If you can offer that help, I think that again from the service standpoint and differentiating on service is hard, but that is one of the points that you can differentiate on.