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xAd Completes Programmatic Shift With Self-Serve Location Ad ‘MarketPlace’

Much like buying keywords on search platforms, mobile publishers can sell their geo-targeted placements to buyers in real-time. HeartMedia, OMD Worldwide, Universal McCann, and KFC’s agency Blue 499 have signed on to give the new platform a test.

The use of a smartphone’s location settings has firmly become the equivalent of the PC-based web’s tracking cookie when attempting the serve an ad to the “right person at the right place at the right time.”

That realization is the foundation for what most marketing providers operating in the mobile space have been attempting to harness over the past two years. In keeping with that industry direction and increasing demand from advertisers, agencies, and publishers, xAd is continuing its 7-year evolution from a mobile ad network specializing in “hyperlocal” to a mobile programmatic platform with the debut of its self-serve buying, selling, and reporting product, MarketPlace.

Introduced on Tuesday at the four-day Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, xAd’s MarketPlace is being positioned as an end-to-end location buying platform that “enables marketers to reach consumers in the moments that matter most, allowing them to finally break the barrier between online and offline sales.”

Think of it like buying keywords on search but now advertisers and brands can buy locations, said xAd founder and CEO Dipanshu “D” Sharma.

“For the first time ever, marketers will now be able to leverage real-time consumer intent like they can do today for search — but for the physical world,” Sharma said. “Users will be able to buy places like keywords, leveraging past behavioral trends and real-time data to make incredibly informed marketing decisions. They’ll then be able to execute those campaigns almost immediately from within the platform.”

Tracking Along With Mobile’s Rise

Not that xAd needs to lay out the rationale for this latest addition to its geo-data and targeting capabilities. But the specific reasons for deepening its smartphone-based programmatic tools are clear, as xAd cites the fact that 86 million consumers will make a purchase on their mobile device over the course of this year. Plus, it hopes to grab a chunk of the U.S. mobile ad spend that is estimated to top nearly $60 billion by 2018 — with location-based ads expected to drive over 40 percent of that mobile spend in the next five years.

xAd MarketPlace MainxAd can target roughly 300 million unique monthly visitors thanks to the relationships with app developers/publishers during its early days as a mobile ad net. As a sign of its extensive reach and scale, xAd records about 300 billion ad impressions per month across 70,000 mobile apps on its platform for more than 1 million advertisers.

Those numbers translate into confidence for xAd’s MarketPlace, which has attracted major ad agencies OMD Worldwide and Universal McCann, as well as digital media buyer Blue 499 for KFC and Asia-focused luxury magazine and website publisher HeartMedia.

Location As An Intent Signal

For the most part, advertising can be considered most effective when it can directly influence a viewer’s behavior. The idea is that mobile ads should be able to tap into consumers’ “micro-moments,” such as when a person searches on their smartphone for a “restaurant near me.” Aside from searching, by knowing the time and place of where a person is, an ad can be sent to their phone and potentially influence a choice that can be inferred by examining location patterns of certain audience segments.

To put it another way, a person’s location can be considered an important signifier of their “intent.”

“Through our ongoing partnership with Blue 449 and xAd, we’ve been able to leverage the most accurate location data to reach our target demographics in the most critical moments of intent,” said Jack Foley, KFC’s digital brand manager. “The continued growth of mobile will only increase the importance of location data and our need to leverage it in the most strategic way possible. MarketPlace has the potential to help us do this through providing a more granular view into real-time consumer behavior, then allowing us to act on that behavior within one platform.”

Appealing To Agencies, Not SMBs

By aiming MarketPlace squarely at agencies and their trading desks, xAd is looking primarily to brand advertisers and enterprises as the main audience for its self-serve product.

It’s an interesting distinction from what rivals like Verve are trying to do. Verve, like xAd, has been working to shed its old identity as a “mobile ad network” and evolve into a fuller data-driven provider of mobile ad serving. This month, Verve opened up its platform to tap into SMBs and the idea of “local programmatic” as a self-serve buying tool.

Still, SMBs are largely committing to social media marketing services for their digital needs and are eschewing the purchase of mobile display inventory.

Rather than compete with a number of other companies to try to change that behavior, xAd is putting all its focus on the major spenders who increasingly want performance based ads as a way to generate ROI.

In any case, the focus has its appeal to major agencies.

“One of the most critical challenges in engaging with a potential customer is having the scale to reach that individual wherever they may be, while remaining agile enough to create a personalized, relevant, in-the-moment interaction,” said Joshua Lowcock, EVP, head of digital, US, at McCann Worldwide. “Unlike search and social, MarketPlace’s location data paints a picture of the here and now, allowing us to flex with our target audience.”