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Street Fight Summit: How Foursquare, Pandora and Verve are Using Location to Sell Local Advertising

Written on
Jan 16, 2013 
Author
Tim Sohn  |

Executives from Foursquare, Pandora and Verve weighed in on the importance of location – and other factors – for publishers in targeting local advertising on  Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Street Fight Summit, 82 Mercer in New York City. Street Fight’s deputy editor, Steven Jacobs, moderated the discussion.

Above: Steven Jacobs, deputy editor of Street Fight, moderates a panel discussion with Tom MacIsaac, CEO of Verve; Steven Rosenblatt, CRO of Foursquare; and Brian Colbert, VP of Mobile for Pandora. Photo by Tim Sohn.

Zip Code Importance

Brian Colbert, VP of Mobile for Pandora, talked about how Pandora uses location data to target local advertising.

“We look at our digital and radio footprint as both a national play and also a local play. When you register for Pandora, we get all your demographic information. So, we know if you’re male or female, we know your age, but very important, we know your zip code. That really helps us localize the experience for our users,” he said.

Colbert added that Pandora, which launched a self-service ad platform several years ago for small businesses, not only has demographic information about its users, but also information on what music people are listening to.

According to Colbert, Pandora is hiring more sales employees, and not only in large markets like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It’s also hiring in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Baltimore.

“We have done local campaigns already. We have seen great success metrics with local car dealerships, local QSRs, and those campaigns really do perform even a little bit better than national campaigns because they are so targeted to that particular user,” he said.

Making Sense of Location Data

Steven Rosenblatt, chief revenue officer of Foursquare, said his company has seen 3 billion check-ins, millions of businesses on the platform and 30 million users over three-and-a-half years, and his company is “making sense of the data.”

“Location without context and relevance is really not that powerful, so what we’re doing with the data on the ad side and working with businesses – large and small – is really understanding what consumers want,” he said.

Rosenblatt explained that Foursquare consumer history information — from check-in history to proximity to what their friends are doing – to target “the right ad to the right consumer at the right time.” He added that consumers are actually going to stores that they find on Foursquare, checking in, making purchases, and finding new products and services.

Location as a New Data Set

Tom MacIsaac, CEO of Verve, said his company looks at location as a new data set, but location is just as important as other types of data it has collected over the years.

“We’ve targeted cookie data. We’ve integrated third-party data to enrich that, but, you know, in very broad strokes. Location brings a whole new dimension. It is in many ways as indicative about intent, about demographics, about context, as the sorts of things that people target on cookie data or content,” he said.

MacIsaac, calling location the “third leg of the stool,” said there are several other important factors that have been around for a while: content, cookie data, and third-party data.

“Content is still important, the sorts of things that we target on cookie data, the ability to integrate on third-party data. That’s the broad way of looking at location, that it brings a very new important, valuable data set from which inferences can be drawn. But in many ways they’re as powerful as the inferences that have been drawn from these other things we target on,” he said.

MacIsaac gave an example that a person who is at a Whole Foods market in a suburban region on a weekday during school hours is probably a soccer mom, but that interference could also be included from related content and click-through data.

Other key takeaways:

  • Mobile will likely force publishers to focus on search advertising and migrate away from banner ads.
  • Localized ads are more relevant, personal, and immediate, leading to sales.
  • Some brands offer discounts and rewards, such as AmEx and Starbucks, while others, such as Victoria’s Secret, only promote products.
  • Publishers need to make creatives sing.
  • Hiring the right talent is important.
  • Mobile is about behavior, not technology.




Tim Sohn loves the news. Growing up, he and his family always read The New York Times. His love for newspapers began in 1996 when he joined the staff of The Echo, the student-operated newspaper at Western Connecticut State University, from which he graduated in December 2000 with a bachelor’s degree. Sohn rose through the ranks at The Echo, as writer, production director, co-editor, and editor-in-chief. After lacking any awards for several years, The Echo received a national award when Sohn presided as editor of the weekly print and online publication.

Since graduating from WCSU, Sohn has predominantly worked at daily newspaper/digital media companies in capacities including assistant news editor, evening editor, copy desk chief, copy editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief.

Now, Sohn is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on technology and social media. In September 2012, he received a certificate in digital marketing from mediabistro.

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