IP Geolocation: Separating Myth from Fact

Andy Ashley, international marketing director at Digital Element, looks at some of the myths surrounding IP geotargeting.

Location has been rightly touted as one of the most powerful targeting tools available to brands looking to engage with consumers on mobile. The ability to hit someone with a marketing message when they are in the right physical location to act on it opens up all sorts of possibilities. These include the obvious ones, such as driving footfall into retailers’ physical stores, and the less obvious, such as demographic targeting, where an advertiser who knows where someone lives can target ads based on demographic data relating to that area.

Yet, despite the rise of the mobile internet and increasing adoption of mobile targeting by businesses, a number of myths still surround IP geotargeting on mobile – myths that I’m going to try and dispel.

Myth 1: IP intelligence is all about location
Marketers can unearth far more about an IP address than its location. Mobile IP data enables the identification of additional connection characteristics such as connection speed and type, distinguishing between wi-fi and cellular networks, as well as mobile carrier and the identification of home or business connections. Premium IP providers like Digital Element can also enable the identification of users attempting to mask their location – by using proxies, VPNs or accessing via the dark web or through a hosting centre – allowing for the identification of suspicious traffic.

Myth 2: IP-based mobile targeting is inaccurate
Our NetAcuity solution delivers 97 per cent accuracy at a city level, and it has 99.99 per cent global coverage of the IP space. Marketers can choose IP targeting at a postcode level worldwide, and in some areas can benefit from hyperlocal targeting down to the city block, neighbourhood or office building. Importantly, this granular level of mobile targeting can be achieved without invading user privacy.

Myth 3: Mobile users move around too much to make the data valuable
Mobile is transitory in nature; however, usage often forms part of a wider customer journey. For example, an airport connection followed by a hotel login could assist in identifying business travellers. IP data can be used as part of a wider location targeting strategy and can be combined with demographic and lifestyle data – often referred to as geotextual or proximity intelligence – to provide deep insight into audiences.

Myth 4: To target mobile users you need a GPS opt-in
Businesses often believe that in order to target mobile users, an opt-in is required. However, it is also possible to locate and target mobile users via IP-based geolocation technology when they connect to wi-fi networks – to save mobile data, battery life and increase browsing speeds – even when their location-based service is off. Given that wi-fi networks currently account for 80 per cent of mobile traffic, IP-based geolocation allows the targeting of mobile users at scale.

Myth 5: acquiring a user’s GPS coordinates is the targeting holy grail
In fact, obtaining latitude and longitude information is not of much use if used in isolation. Our new GeoMprint solution takes often ineffectual lat/long data, and automatically reverse-geocodes it to enrich it with more meaningful location data, such as postcode, country, city and region. This enables the provision of more contextually and locally relevant advertising and content for mobile users.

While it’s tempting to think of precise, accurate geotargeting on mobile as a fairly recent development, Digital Element has been providing location services to brands and advertising partners since 1999.

Our NetAcuity solution is the de facto standard in the ad tech industry, and is used by Teads, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and InMobi, among others, in a variety of ways. The ability to establish not only location but also connection characteristics enables advertisers to serve more contextually relevant messages to  he consumer they are trying to reach.

The truth about IP geotargeting
NetAcuity Pulse Plus adds a whole new dimension to IP geotargeting. It builds on the previous iterations of our IP data solutions by incorporating data from mobile devices, billions of real-time data signals and wi-fi connection points, combined with our internally developed reverse-geocode developed feeds.

Programmatic firm Crimtan has used NetAcuity Pulse in conjunction with out-of-home company Primesight to serve retargeting ads to consumers’ phones when they are close to a billboard ad for the same product, significantly increasing engagement and awareness. Away from marketing, the platform is used by several broadcasters, including CNN, Discovery and Channel 5, to manage geographical rights. Our technology and data is also used extensively in eCommerce to localise content and to help detect and prevent online fraud.

Across all these applications, what’s most important to our offering is accuracy. We believe NetAcuity Pulse is far more accurate than any other platform out there. Our trace-routing technology maps out the world’s IP space and supplements it with data from partners.

Most other platforms tend to repackage registry information data that is publicly available. The problem with this is that when an internet service provider allocates a block of IP addresses, it may or may not register the location of the addresses – and even if does, it often does not have to keep them up to date. A lot of our competitors’ data is therefore inherently inaccurate and has patchy global coverage.

Going forward, I believe the power and relevance of IP geotargeting is only going to increase. As local authorities embrace the concept of the smart city, we are going to see even more free wi-fi provision, and when mobile users have access to wi-fi, they will always use it in preference to a cellular connection. It’s faster, more robust, and it lets them save their data allowance for those times when wi-fi isn’t available. We expect to see the amount of mobile traffic running over wi-fi increase, which in turn increases the utility of an IP geotargeting solution like ours.

This sponsored article first appeared in the June 2017 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here.