MM Awards

Pokémon Go - In a Good Place

Mobile Marketing

Rubicon GC James BrownIn our second opinion piece on the Pokémon Go frenzy, James Brown, managing director, UK & Nordics, at Rubicon Project, argues that the popularity of the game highlights the power of location data.

Not wanting to ‘Jynx’ it, but the arrival of Pokémon Go is nothing short of huge – in a crazy few weeks, parent company Nintendo’s shares have skyrocketed north of 50 per cent and workplaces have had to ban the app for fear of employee obsession. It really is shaping up to be the story of the year – not just in gaming, but mobile, tech and marketing too.

Already within a few days of its not-yet-global release, more people were using Pokémon Go than Whatsapp, Facebook, Tinder and Snapchat – apparently, given the option of catching a Pokémon or going on a date, Pokémon wins each time.

Pokémon have been spotted in all manner of locations, including 10 Downing Street and the Pentagon (home to a Pokégym) as Pokémon users seek out their augmented reality warrior pets in the real world. Even more poignantly, people are each spending more minutes using Pokémon Go than using Facebook and Twitter.  So what can advertisers do to exploit this gargantuan opportunity?

Location opportunities
As part of the experience, users can purchase in-app features, such as power-ups and virtual items. But the real value will be in the monetisation of the location opportunities now available – and Pokémon Go is very much on top of this.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the game developed by Niantic (the former Google internal start-up behind GPS-powered AR game Ingress) will be getting ads in the form of ‘sponsored locations’. Advertisers are charged on a “cost per visit” basis, similar to the “cost per click” used in Google’s search advertising, Niantic’s CEO, John Hanke, said.

The potential of location cannot be understated, and the opportunities even bigger for Nintendo and Niantic. They are earning incredibly valuable data from players, which when combined with location targeting, could allow brands to serve incredibly engaging, contextualised advertising experiences.

This is all made possible by galloping advances being achieved in geo-targeting, geo-fencing and programmatic technology. One of the pioneers in this space is xAd, whose technology allows advertisers to draw borders around specific buildings and then match that back to signals from mobile devices, in real-time. It is truly a location-based marketing revolution.

The power of location as a marketing tool uncovers the potential to marry advertising with hyper-targeting across multiple media types. The location-augmented reality proposition takes this even further by packaging it all up neatly for advertisers to easily deliver a unique user experience to the consumer.

Native advertising
Another opportunity here afforded by the fusion of location and augmented reality is that it might create a de facto ‘nativisation’ of mobile advertising – at least in this context. For example, users wandering the streets arriving near a shoe retailer may receive ads from that brand, which would be entirely contextualised and therefore much less disruptive.

This is touching upon the very enticing prospect of native programmatic (no longer oxymoronic nor ‘Farfetch’d’) in games-based ads, which facilitates seamless automation at scale. In equal measure, ‘dynamic creative optimisation’ is the logical follow-on. This form of programmatic advertising allows advertisers to optimise the performance of their creative using real-time technology on multivariate platforms.

And what impact will it have on creating ‘marketing moments’? Marketing moments are known to be extremely important in both building brands and driving purchase, and location is the natural enabler. So perhaps advertisers or brands could establish location-based trails where the user goes from one brand iteration to another, creating a ‘marketing journey’ that is solely the choice of the user?

Another unexplored possibility is that of brands and advertisers developing their own Pokégyms or purchasable items, and assigning them to locations. Perhaps there would also be opportunities for major fast-food chains to set up their locations as Pokégyms, and winners of battles between customers could get discounts?

This is all extremely exciting, especially when you consider the trends underpinning it. As the 2016 Global Mobile Survey compiled by ExchangeWire Research in association with Rubicon Project found, 75 per cent of brand buyers and over a quarter (27 per cent) of agencies predicted that between 81-100 per cent of their mobile buys would be location-enabled in 2016. Whilst a record-breaking $1.1bn has been invested into augmented and virtual reality in 2016 alone.

We can also throw into the mix the fact that augmented reality isn’t exclusively attractive to millennials, (of whom 21 per cent are now mobile-only) but non-millennials too. The more mobile users (and mobile-only users), the more location data will be mined and location opportunities realised.

The foundations have been laid for location to be the driver behind augmented reality, and thus many new battlegrounds have been drawn for advertisers and brands to jostle in and flex the best of their creativity. One thing’s for sure – Pokémon Go has opened the doors for marketers to think about what could be possible with a bit of data and the humble smartphone.

James Brown is managing director, UK & Nordics, at Rubicon Project