Exclusive Q&A With MediaShift CEO David Grant: WiFi Is The New Cookie

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ADOTAS – MediaShift is an ad company that looks at data from WiFi networks to deliver cross-device advertising campaigns to consumers. Instead of looking at legacy ad cookie-information, their patented technology looks to the network to help assemble audience segments for advertisers and agencies around the globe.

Adotas sat down with MediaShift CEO David Grant to talk about the company, direction and plans for the future.

Q: How does MediaShift allow for ad tracking and targeting without 3rd party cookies? How does this work in layman’s terms?

A: All traffic, regardless of browser type or publisher site, moves across a given network.  Browser companies like Google, Firefox, Apple and Microsoft are limited to users who use their browsers.  Similarly, publishers can access data only when users access their sites directly.

MediaShift is not limited by browser or destination sites. Our targeting is network based so we can develop rich data profiles without 3rd party cookies. MediaShift’s technology is deployed at the network layer, which enables the collection of critical and relevant behavioral data on users both before and after they enter the WiFi network.  We observe users across the entire travel lifecycle – when researching travel, booking travel, at the airport and then at a hotel. This level of granularity provides advertisers unparalleled segmentation and targeting based on location, device type and behavioral data.

Our approach becomes increasingly important with mobile where 3rd party cookies don’t work. Mobile is the fastest-growing product within the company. Behavioral intent data coupled with location data enables advertisers to reach and more accurately target and retarget relevant mobile audiences delivering the right content and message at the right time.

Q:  How does this relate to mobile as opposed to desktop? Is there a way to connect the two?

A: When it comes to connecting to the network, mobile and desktop are fundamentally the same. MediaShift’s unique technology enables us to statistically, and in many cases empirically, link mobile and desktop experiences and opportunities.

Q: Talk about the move away from mobile UDID and towards IDFA. What are your perspectives?

A: The migration from UDID to IDFA is essentially Apple and others who may follow suit creating a logical map to physical device IDs. These changes may impact app developers, but are unlikely to have any significant impact to MediaShift since we don’t rely on this information today. Apple would have to fundamentally change the Internet to impact MediaShift’s technology.

A simple analogy: Apple has a history of driving proprietary solutions ranging from protocols and formats to devices and connectors that only work with Apple. On one end, they can control the shape of the power connector that plugs into their devices, but imagine what would happen if Apple tried to change the wall connector to include extra prongs or modified the connector type.  I personally don’t think consumers would re-wire wall sockets or power outlets in order to only charge their Apple devices.

MediaShift is not dependent on standard Internet protocols, but as long as the rest of the world uses them, MediaShiftshould not be affected by browser wars, 3rd party cookie issues or the migration to IDFA that users can, in theory, reset.

Q: Talk about location as the new cookie: What do you mean? How does it work? What are applications?

A: It’s no secret that 3rd-party cookies are crumbling. Advertisers are actively seeking ways to measure digital ad value that solve the problems associated with 3rd-party cookie-dependent programs. With WiFi and on-the-go access exploding, location is a valuable tool for advertisers and offers a solution to the tracking problem that has long plagued mobile marketing.

While marketers are paying a premium for location-enabled ad impressions, it’s important to note that location data is not always reliable and doesn’t offer accurate latitude–longitude data as they are powered with less precise geographic information such as zip codes and IP addresses.

As discussed earlier, MediaShift leverages the physical network users connect to in order to gain access to the Internet. WiFi is just as precise as GPS –- it can pinpoint a user to a specific location. We know the access point the user connects to is a location at a particular address such as a hotel or airport. Therefore, we deliver ads with far more accuracy than simply zip codes.

Location-based applications are unlimited. They provide highly relevant and more interesting offers to users based on their location such as a shopping coupon or a service that finds the closest taxi and automatically requests that taxi without the need for an extra application.

MediaShift’s location-based ad solutions provide hyper-local information to improve the experience and services to the user. As privacy concerns grow, the explicit opt-in services thatMediaShift provides enable advertisers to reach their target audiences in the most privacy-compliant way.

Q:  What is the future of advertising?

A: At MediaShift, we strongly believe Internet advertising needs to evolve to include revenues for network providers. The industry is in flux for WiFi network providers.

Rich media services are exponentially consuming more bandwidth and the number of mobile devices connecting to the network continues to rise at a rapid rate. The user’s appetite for data consumption is increasing.  Bandwidth is not free but users demand free access. WiFi network providers are getting pinched between lower access revenue and higher bandwidth costs. They need relief and arguably deserve part of ad revenues. Traffic is passing through their networks, and they’re solely responsible for maintaining QoS and upgrading network infrastructure.

MediaShift is a revenue partner to WiFi providers and network providers. Similar to how ad servers and ad networks have evolved to aggregate publishers and provide uniformity in online advertising, MediaShift is the first ad network for WiFi networks that monetizes a user’s entire surfing session –- a key point of differentiation. We created an ecosystem that enables network operators to share in Internet advertising revenues, allowing them to defray rising infrastructure costs and enhance WiFi access to their customers. We work with WiFi providers to deliver multiple streams of revenue per session. MediaShif toffers them what it believes is the only patented solution that monetizes WiFi networks at both sign-in and while surfing through pre-roll and interstitial videos.

To date, we have contracts to deploy our technology at 20 top U.S. airports, including four of the 10 largest in the country, and at more than 5,000 hotels in the U.S. and Canada.  This initial footprint provides advertisers access to more than 30 million unique visitors per month. We offer advertisers access to one of the fastest-growing audience platforms targeting on-the-go consumers in the travel and hospitality industry.

On a macro level, we see heavy hitters like Google and Apple trying to control the last mile. We believe network-based advertising has arrived, and that MediaShift is the de facto ad server to network providers. Last-mile advertising is the next evolution of Internet advertising.

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