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Why location-based mobile advertising is the next big thing

By Chris Rothey

The connected consumer is changing the ad world as we know it. Bask in the nostalgia of what advertising used to be via AMC?s ?Mad Men? television series and indulge in a sentimental two-martini lunch, because, if you have not noticed, we are in the throes of an ad industry revolution.

In the unconnected world, advertisers could reach millions of people at the same time with the same creative. In the connected world populated by smart devices and smartphones, we have got to reach the right people at the right place and the right time.

As ad professionals, our challenge is,?now what?? How do we connect with increasingly crazed mobile consumers who consume much differently than they did even five years ago in a way that makes everybody ? consumer, advertiser and agency ? happy? 

Location, location, location
The answer is easy. It is location.

I say this not because I work for a map and location-intelligent mobile ad services provider.

I say this because, now in my middle years ? but only just ? I have got enough experience to understand that location is the platinum of advertising because it goes directly to who we are as people.
?Where? is the next big ?what? because humans are hard-wired to want to know what the world around us offers and, more to the point, what is in it for us.

Of course, as an ad concept, there is nothing new about location or even location-based mobile advertising.

Remember when we were kids on bikes and heard the ice cream truck bell from blocks away?

That was my first experience of location-based mobile advertising ? that bell. Heard from blocks away, it was a virtual storefront of the first order.

Like Pavlov?s dogs before me, I predictably responded to that bell in a way that any advertiser today would drool over, tearing through the streets following its music. 

The only difference between that ice cream truck bell and today?s version of location-based mobile advertising is that now we have got cooler James Bond stuff.

Put simply, we now have sleek, go-anywhere gadgets powered by bewilderingly sophisticated back-end technology that can deliver location-intelligent mobile ads that drive consumers into local bricks-and-mortar stores, restaurants, hotels and gas stations, where, according to Nielsenwire, 98 percent of the all consumer purchases still happen.

But while Bond is forever cool, it is the underlying bond ? lower case ? that makes both instances of location-based mobile ads work.

The bond between the kid on his bike, the bell and the guy ringing the bell from blocks away is exactly the same as the bond shared today between consumer, location-based mobile ad platform and advertiser.

Understanding this, if you are an advertiser or working on behalf of one who is considering adding location-based mobile ads to your arsenal of tools, the question becomes, ?OK, now which bell do you use??

Also, how do you make sure it rings in the right neighborhoods and is heard by the right people and can precisely guide them, step by step and turn by turn, to that ice cream truck?

Bells of the ball
Even as insiders, it is easy to get confused about the hard facts ? never mind the claims and the speed at which they come at us ? associated with most location-based mobile ad network providers.

Best advice is, do not mistake the claims for the track record. Know that all location-based mobile networks are not created equal.

In this space, so new to so many, that means you should look for a location-based mobile ad network with an intimate understanding of location and the power it yields.

Who has such a deep understanding that they can scale location however you want it, extending that virtual storefront anywhere from a 10-mile radius to a few feet away from potential point of purchase.

Likewise, given the newness of the space, be cognizant that you will be asked to prove return on investment.

Pick a dance partner that measures and can deliver proof of meaningful engagement with prospective consumers. Not just through clicks, which is still a valuable measurement of campaign traction, but through deeper, interactive ad engagement with clear calls to action who can deliver a paying customer to the doorstep of the advertiser.

It is easy to come to think that all location-based mobile networks are roughly the same, but that is not the case.

Likewise, it is easy to get swept up in the razzle-dazzle of technology and confused by all the acronyms.

But if you have the right partner who truly gets location, location-based mobile advertising, as new and as potentially complex as it seems be, returns to the elemental.

Chris Rothey is vice president of advertising at Navteq, a Nokia company based in Chicago. Reach him at .