Facebook PMD Blinq Media Pivots, Aligns With Gannett Sibling ShopLocal

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gannett-shoplocal-blinqFacebook ad platform Blinq Media has made some big changes since Gannett bought it last year for an estimated $92 million.

Among those changes is a potentially powerful tie-in with ShopLocal, the dominant player in digital ad circulars and Blinq's corporate sibling at Gannett. The idea is to convince ShopLocal's existing customers (national retail giants like Home Depot, Sears and Toys "R" Us) to export the creative assets, copy and pricing data they have in its system into Blinq-powered social ad campaigns.

"Local at a national scale, as well as a local at a local scale, is something untapped and largely unserviced, even by Facebook," Blinq Media Chief Strategy Officer David Rollo told AdExchanger. "There's a window of opportunity for us to have a first mover advantage in that space."

To catch that window, Blinq is redirecting significant development resources to the ShopLocal integration.

Among the first fruits of its labors with ShopLocal is a tool known as "Wisdom of Crowds," which identifies which products in a digital flyer are hot and which are cold with customers. For a client like Staples, for instance, Blinq and ShopLocal might identify a group of printers that are selling well, or a set of mobile phones that aren't. It can then push those "hot or not" products into market-level social media campaigns.

The larger opportunity is to run dynamic Facebook campaigns using assets already stored in ShopLocal's system. This has the potential to reduce ad operations headaches, lowering the bar to do "local-social."

"It mitigates continually asking for assets or copy or price, especially as they switch out by markets," said Rollo.

From Gannett's perspective, aligning Blinq with ShopLocal is consistent with an increasingly integrated approach within the company's vertical marketing holdings, according to BIA/Kelsey Senior Analyst Peter Krasilovsky. In addition to Blinq and ShopLocal, those holdings include rich media vendor PointRoll, CareerBuilder and Key Ring, a mobile loyalty/rewards platform purchased last year.

Gannett has already leveraged ShopLocal data in an online ad format called PaperBoy, which mimics the offline circular, and it seems likely marketers will be exposed to more coordinated product offerings across Gannett's digital marketing tools.

"ShopLocal has been an underleveraged brand with tons of potentially valuable information," Krasilovsky said.

Meanwhile, Blinq is making other changes to its platform, aside from investing in the budding local opportunity.

The company has backed off its licensed self-serve Facebook ads product for agencies, partly because maintaining it was drawing resources away from the integration with ShopLocal and other product plans, Rollo said. Another factor is a shift in Blinq's revenue model. At first it was mostly licensing fees; later it became a blended model with both SaaS and managed services, and most recently it has shifted to primarily a managed services model.

The self-serve interface is still available to agencies and marketers as a compliment to managed services, but Rollo says the company could no longer respond to the volume of requests from agencies only interested in paying a platform fee.

One such agency is VivaKi AOD, the centralized agency trading desk solution at Publicis Groupe, which had previously used Blinq for Facebook ad buys but stopped recently. Chris Paul, AOD's general manager, said it phased out Blinq because the self-serve product was deemphasized.

In another change, Blinq has rebooted its LIFT (Likes Interests and Fan Targets) tool. Previously positioned as an optimization engine for so-called lookalike targeting, it is now geared to predictive targeting. Specifically Blinq claims it can detect "interest saturation" (e.g. Nike fans are also running fans) and find more oblique connections that represent untapped social advertising opportunities (Nike fans are also action movie fans). Blinq says the approach has helped reduce cost-per-social-action by anywhere from 30 to 70%.

Blinq has around 60 employees in five offices. As Facebook evolves, it says it wants to support a wider range of marketing services on the platform, including Facebook Exchange, the Custom Audiences CRM database matching product, and the Partner Categories third party data program.

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