Mark Slade
Mark Slade 9 May 2019

Dealing with the ‘Bad Location Data’ Domino Effect

Bad data can have devastating consequences for marketers – but it frequently goes unnoticed. This is particularly true when brands and agencies run location-based advertising campaigns. Naturally they rely on the campaign reporting to inform future media strategies. Yet this is a sector plagued by inaccurate and fraudulent location data. In fact, as much as 80 percent of location data may be inaccurate. Trusting blindly in campaign reporting could prove to be costly, with huge sums of ad spend going to waste.

So how does this ‘bad data domino effect’ work?

Let’s take a retailer which is using location data to inform its campaign targeting and creative strategy. The brand analyses regional factors including the weather, store locations and area-specific promotions to update its creative. However, the campaign underperforms. The brand team and its agency partner trust the delivery report from the data supplier showing proper delivery so they point the finger at the creative. Then, they update their messaging and deploy the ad again. But the problem was never the ad concept; it was that the location data was inaccurate. Now the brand has wasted resources in the form of human and financial capital by deploying a new strategy based on bad data.

This scenario is not uncommon in the advertising industry. Location data inaccuracies give brands a false view on which markets to invest in. The data also impacts campaign results that affect subsequent decision-making. The biggest cost is to brands who are working from incorrect strategies, thus not generating the results they paid for.

The domino effect of bad data can be especially felt on the agency side. When an agency adjusts a targeting or creative strategy, this impacts how its employees spend their time and which DSPs and vendors it employs. It is difficult to undo this work, with no one wanting to take real ownership for the mistake.

How should the industry respond?

It’s time for brands to be more sceptical. While there are some effective verification platforms in market, brand managers have no means of testing the validity of their location data. They blindly trust campaign reporting and their agency partners.

Brands need more granular tools for analysing and verifying data so they can understand the type of information they are building their strategy upon.

At an industry level, greater transparency is needed. It currently costs too much to keep the promises the industry has made to marketers, so agencies and buyers end up turning to cheap inventory to stay within budget. In a transparent market, brands and providers could evaluate the true value of data and make more considered investments.

What standards should brands and agencies adhere to?

Unfortunately, location-based advertising is an unmonitored and unregulated landscape. While there are already initiatives such as JICWEBS for brand safety, ads.txt for fraud and the IAB gold standard for quality.

Until there’s a recognised industry kitemark, brands need to establish their own standards. And many are putting the spotlight on transparency across the supply chain. Procter & Gamble's Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard the latest to call for a digital media clean-up effort. Unilever is another which has set up a trusted network of online publishers and platform to combat ad-fraud.

Location targeting and location data insights are a highly effective ingredient of successful marketing strategies. When location data is accurate, it is immensely powerful. We can't rob brands of this, but for location-based advertising to work, brands need tools to optimise their campaigns. Otherwise, the dominoes will keep falling.

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