Google Peeks At Location-Specific Mobile Ads Through Latitude

Appeared in MediaPost, February 4, 2009, quoting RM'er Dave Tan:

Google came one step closer Wednesday to providing brands with a one-to-one mobile marketing and ad tool that speaks directly to consumers. The company, which dominates in the mobile mapping space, launched an add-on social network service called Latitude.

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Google Latitude

And while the service clearly aims to focus on social networking--connecting friends and family by sharing their whereabouts--the application could easily adopt mobile marketing applications that target users with special deals and ads at specific locations such as in front of Starbucks or McDonald's as they drive or walk down the street. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on future advertising possibilities around Google Latitude.

Industry insiders are not convinced the service will stop with a social network service to connect with friends and family. The social network is the next logical step for Google to further its mobile services--mapping, networking and advertising--but the technology makes location-based advertising a real possibility.

"From the social networking/tracking perspective, Google is playing catch-up to Loopt, but the long-term aspect of Latitude as another advertising conduit certainly makes it very interesting for many marketers," said Dave Tan, VP of content solutions at Resolution Media, an Omnicom Media Group company. "Mobile advertising tethered to GPS/cell-tower based location information has tremendous opportunities, but consumer privacy will be a huge area of concern."

Tan said marketers will have to tread gently and carefully watch consumer adoption and acceptance of location-specific ads. A few manufacturers have integrated location-based advertising platforms onto their systems with good results recently. Delivering relevant marketing messages will become the key to major adoption.

Google plans to address privacy concerns by requiring users to manually turn on the tracking software and make it easy to limit access or turn off. The company also said it would keep limited records on where people have been, and will only store the person's last location on computers.

Dan Mullen, president at AIM Global, an industry trade group focused on automatic identification technologies, believes the "opt-in" service may work even better between consumers and businesses, rather than between friends and families. It would give brands or retail stores an option to communicate one-on-one with consumers, promote products and services and offer special on-the-spot deals.

Stores would need WiFi or some type of technology that allows them to create a node to transmit to the network. "For instance, how many people truly want others to know their exact location?" he said. "On the other hand, a frequent shopper of a favorite store could be quite interested to get special offers from that store. If the store, rather than the individual, automatically pushes promotions and ads to key customers in the area it will probably seem less intrusive to some consumers."

For now, features are limited. Aside from the person's location, a picture displays on the map. The service uses cell-phone tower triangulation, GPS or Wi-Fi to identify locations on Research In Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerrys, and devices running Symbian and Windows Mobile. T-Mobile G1 and iPhone will soon support the service, too.


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.