Location: Cannes

Location: Cannes

Everyone attending Cannes Lions this year, saw the bright yellow Snapchat Ferris wheel, with its perfect location outside the Palais. And perfect location is clearly a key focus for Snapchat who recently acquired Placed for $200m to strengthen their attribution and measurement game, as well as the virtual map company Zenly for $250m - a smart move for getting more location data about their users in a user-friendly way.

Snapchat is not the only company doubling down on location data. As Jake Denny from Juice Mobile summarized Cannes:

The common theme dominating conversation at this year's Cannes was data. In various iterations. Location data. Purchase data. Behavioral data. Trend data. Experience data. Creative data. Registration data. Attention data. Intent data.”

 At Unacast, improving the quality of location data is our mission, safe to say we were excited about the data-focused conversations happening at Cannes. I’d like to share some of the differences I observed at this year’s festival compared to Cannes 2016 and what those differences mean for the location industry.

The wake-up call

I’m willing to bet that Snapchat last year didn’t have a clear location data strategy. But, suddenly they woke up and realized, “We need to better understand what our users do when they are not on their phones.” Makes sense considering that it accounts for 70% of their day! It seemed like most of the other companies at Cannes also suddenly woke up to the fact that they only have a 30% view of their users. Last year, Unacast had to work hard along the Croisette, educating people about location data. We were met with bold question marks then, but the sentiment was completely different this year. More or less every company either had a location data strategy or was trying to put one together. You could tell they felt underdressed without one, like they just woke up and had to get dressed very quickly.

We’re getting there, but there’s still work to do

Location data is a broad term, and people are starting to realize the nuances. To simplify, location data says something about where someone is located. Understanding what a location data set consists of has historically not been of the highest priority which has bred a lot of the confusion around the space. This year we saw a new level of sophistication and a clear trend that more buyers of location data want to understand the complex world of different data sources, a jungle of smaller companies and the pros/cons between bid stream data, GPS data, proximity data and beacon data. The most educated players have learned what questions to ask to distinguish high-quality data from low-quality data. However, a large part of the industry still doesn't know what they should be taking into consideration. Judging from the conversations at Cannes this year, soon they will have to.

Fragmentation is painful

Unless you are Google, Facebook or have an app in the top 10 list of an App Store collecting a ton of location data, you are at a disadvantage when trying to get location and proximity data of quality and at scale. The frustration of this situation is understandable, and the questions are abundant. Where do I go? Who is “good”? What does “good” even mean?  How do I evaluate the data? Am I even asking the right questions? Yes, it’s painful having a disadvantage to the big guys and everyone we spoke to agreed. But this has also created a rapid movement to source the right location and proximity data before the big guys run too far. 

What’s next?

As the sun set on this year’s festival, it was clear that although the momentum and focus on location and proximity data is at an entirely different level this year compared to last year, the #1 challenge for companies is to figure out how to take advantage of it. The data tells a new and richer story, but how do you fit it into your strategy to reach your goals? That was the $30 Billion question throughout our conversations at Cannes, and it’s also the toughest one.

There is no turnkey solution, what is required is to understand how the different types of location and proximity data can meet different needs in the market. DSPs, SSPs, analytics companies, location companies and agencies all view the world differently, either they are looking to use the data for retargeting, attribution or data modeling  

The industry (us included) have a responsibility to show, tell and be specific. I’d love to see more companies who have been successful share their findings on what is working or not working, we are currently working hard on getting our results out there.  

Ultimately, I think we are moving in the right direction. I can’t wait to see how far we have all come when we meet again in Cannes next year, and to see all the companies that have followed in Snapchat’s footsteps - having located their location strategy.

Until next year!

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