WE KNOW WHERE YOUR TV IS: Why Location–Based Marketing Matters to Connected TVs
By Will Kreth
Such a baby! Behold, the Connected TV – a young actor in the Internet of Things (IoT).
Sure, it may reliably deliver an 80+ year old medium (television) to millions of viewers, but as a valuable ‘always on’ player in the growing ensemble/mesh of smartphones, PCs, tablets, ugly watches, game boxes, hybrid cars, buzzing drones, Fitbits, washing machines, iBeacons, smoke alarms and whatnot – IP connected TVs are still learning their lines, trying to hit their marks.
Needless to say, ol’ granddaddy Regular TV is not used to acting in ensemble roles – let alone playing second fiddle to anyone. (Nor does it want to be called a “Thing.”) It's been a star vehicle (and domestic star) since before Lucy and Ricky were beamed into suburban enclaves in the late 1950s.
But things are different now. Mobile video and time-shifting have forever changed the game of where and when TV content can be seen. Location technologies like GPS are sharing analytics on where and how this content is being viewed. The good news? Connected TVs definitely have a role to play in the multiscreen IoT – especially in the area of building new models of marketing and advertising relationships.
That’s the view of Asif Khan, head of the Location Based Marketing Association – a Toronto-based, non-profit trade organization that since 2010 has grown rapidly to 16 cities and 700 member companies. With chapters and meetups in NYC, SF, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta, Montreal, London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid, Singapore and Sydney, it’s clear that the interest in Location is global.
With some of the top Fortune 50 companies as members, the LBMA sees itself a bit differently than other mobile associations.
“Most of our 700 members (65%) are the brands themselves, not the vendors or agencies – that sets us apart,” says Khan. “Brands look at us as a trusted third-party resource, a non-profit consortium. And vendors look at us as a way to connect with those brands. My background is not in running industry associations – I’m a tech startup guy. So I bring that mentality to it. We try to do things differently.”
“The way we look at location-based marketing is unique,” says Khan. “Our definition is basically: The intersection of people, places and media. We don’t
equate LBM to mobile (devices). Mobile can tell you where they're at and maybe where they’ve been - from a geo-perspective. That’s great, but from a marketer's perspective – once you know the location of the person you’re trying to influence – the question you should ask is: what media happens to be near them in that particular place? Could be a billboard, radio, television – anything. We’re very focused on media context.”
Khan adds that the LBMA’s diverse membership reflects this broad view: “As important as it is that we have tech company members like Google, Apple, Foursquare and Groupon, we also have outdoor ad giants like CBS Outdoor and ClearChannel – as well as CNN, Associated Press, Fox and NBC – a whole mess of other companies you wouldn’t necessarily associate with location [-based marketing] – because of how we think about it. Pandora and Spotify are members – The Weather Channel, too. All the connected car manufactures are members, along with traditional navigation companies like TomTom and Navtec. You look at the car and think it’s a connected device, part of the IoT. From a geo-perspective, we know where that car is all the time. Can we push a marketing message to the nav screen of that car that might influence where you stop? (The answer is yes – yes they can). This is location-based marketing as much as whatever you can do on your phone today. So, we play in a very diverse sandbox. Tech-wise, we’ve been successful drawing these companies in.
Khan believes that in an era where cookies are set to become an endangered species – esp. in mobile - that “Location is the New Cookie.” Going forward, it will give marketers the ability to look at anonymized and opt-in user behaviors throughout their day. “In a typical day-in-the-life scenario of the average user/consumer,” says Khan, “we’re interacting with screens connected and
peripheral to us at all locations throughout the rhythms of the day (e.g. - home, commute, office, retail/coffee, retail/store, commute, and home again). So, on the TV front – we work with connected TV ecosystem companies like Shazam, Cisco, and others that are building Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) into HD and 4K displays. In the increasing model of TV/mobile co-viewing/browsing, a sponsor could deliver a message that is first seen on the TV but is also sync’d to become a Call-To-Action (CTA) on the mobile device of the viewer. And as the ad will know the location of the user, they could tailor the message to direct the customer to the nearest retail location of the brand advertiser.” Khan’s comments reminded me of something another industry friend of mine said last year:
Khan continued: “This is already happening with ads on Pandora and Spotify. They’re location aware, too. The other side of location in TV is from the content side. In 2011 we worked with Fox TV and our member company Loopt on the show 'Bob’s Burgers.' They approached us with an LBM idea –they wanted to build a fanbase as the show was just starting. So, we partnered with the California-based chain Fatburger in 64 locations to rebrand them as Bob’s Burgers. On one of the episodes, one of the animated characters checked-in on their mobile device. We’re also worked with Bravo on shows like Real Housewives and Top Chef – to drive viewers to real-world retail locations that the characters on the show frequent.”
Content over Coupons – TV’s Wheelhouse
Khan thinks that too much focus in early days of LBM was in coupons, deals and discounts (e.g. Groupon). “What’s replacing that is a shift away from 'margin erosion,'” says Khan - “for retailers and brands, towards a better form of value, and that’s the form of content. And TV plays a big role in that. Let’s take a big retailer like The GAP – they spend $$$ on great TV ads with great music. Instead of The GAP saying 'Check in on Foursquare today at the GAP and save 20% on a pair of jeans' – essentially giving their margin away, wouldn’t it be better if I could say 'Hey, you know that great commercial you saw that got you into the store? Let me give you a free copy of that song as a download right now.' So we’re seeing a shift from just discounts and coupons and moving toward an exchange of valuable content. The producers and broadcasters of that content have a huge opportunity to participate in that.”
“Coke is another of our member companies and they get this,” Khan adds. “They look at Location as a way to push their brand story that ‘Coke is Happiness,’ and create multiple opportunities for consumers to participate in the story across multiple media channels. They really lead the way in making consumers part of the story. Last year, we worked with Spotify and Coke to launch “Placelists” – which are just like “playlists” – but include real-world locations where others are listening to the same song – all designed and shared to engage and educate. Coke gets that experiences matter – as a brand that is location/mobile hip.”
Incubate and Collaborate – The Mobile Futures Project
“One of our tenets is 'creative collaboration' – we have all 16 local and chapter presidents on board with this – where we push brainstorming and collaboration ideas (use cases) internally and then pitch them to our member base. We then ask our members to collaborate on these ideas. The response has been awesome. Last year, we were heavily involved in “Mobile Futures” for Mondalēz (where our member company Banjo was able to pitch ideas for their Oreo brand). We’ve set up discussions with major brands and startups that would never happen otherwise. They’d never get the meeting.”
The Value Exchange - Privacy and Permission
Regarding the potential for backlash against location-based marketing, Khan is optimistic: “The way we look at it is, if you can demonstrate real value and relevance to an individual user, they will be willing to share their location data. It’s almost a mathematical equation. You have to articulate opportunities around the value exchange. Four years ago, the stats for Foursquare showed that more than 82% of the location data (check-ins) were driven by men. The media jumped on the results to say 'women are more concerned about their privacy than men.' Today, the data shows an almost a 50/50 split between the genders, and in some instance – more women than men sharing their location data. What’s changed is the brands that are using the services. The first year or so, the sponsoring brands skewed very much toward a male demographic. Eventually, more brands that appeal towards women started to participate and the numbers evened out. Foursquare became of value and relevance to women. Overall, what we need to get marketers to understand and implement is to always know who their end user is, who their target is, and most importantly – what’s valuable and relevant to them – in exchange for that information and data. If we can do that – then these issues of privacy don’t really exist, in my mind. That isn’t to say there shouldn’t be best practices, policies and guidelines that marketers should follow. On that front, we’ve been working with others on the futureofprivacy.org - addressing these concerns with the help of legal experts, academics, retailers and vendors.”
“Screenority” – Locations and Connections
In closing, while the Connected TV may be a young actor in the Internet of Things, it’s a veritable Clint Eastwood in the most valuable Location of all – the Home. Its massive screen is definitely on the LBMA’s radar, and its interaction flow with other “screen actors” on the stages of our daily lives will continue to reveal and unpack valuable new opportunities in the multiscreen ecosystem.
Will Kreth is a multi-screen interactive media strategist based in NYC, working at the crossroads of Connected TVs and Mobile experiences that are powered by innovative brands and digital storytelling. You can reach him on LinkedIn or Twitter.