Let’s Get Physical: PlaceIQ Chips Away At Online/Offline Attribution

PlaceIQEnterprisePVRDoes seeing an ad lead to visiting a store?

Location data company PlaceIQ wants to answer that ever-thorny question with the launch of Enterprise PVR, a metric designed to measure foot traffic at specific locations by tracking on-device consumer behavior in the physical world.

PVR, which stands for “place visit rate,” is a metric PlaceIQ originally brought to market about three years ago, having developed the KPI for the retailer client of one of its long-standing agency partners, Starcom Mediavest Group.

The enterprise version opens PVR up to other third-party players to apply across their various media buys.

“The idea is to connect omnichannel ROI to the physical world,” said PlaceIQ CEO and co-founder Duncan McCall.

PlaceIQ, however, is far from the first company that’s tried to tackle the connection between advertising and action.

ZenithOptimedia, for example, entered into a partnership with NinthDecimal in March to measure how mobile spend impacts offline conversions. Placed, another location player on the scene, tracks offline behavior through an opt-in mobile panel of 500,000 US adults who agree to have their activities tracked and answer survey questions about their purchases.

But PlaceIQ takes a different approach, McCall said.

“We’re focused on scale and on unmolested observed behavior,” he said. “We not asking people questions. We’re cataloging what people are actually doing.”

PlaceIQ uses its access to opted-in location data – the company claims to have data on around 100 million mobile devices in the US – to track real-world behavior tied back to ad exposure. The data itself is anonymous, McCall said, noting that PlaceIQ does its measurement by looking at advertising IDs rather than PII.

The measurement is also decoupled from PlaceIQ’s media offering, meaning that clients are encouraged to apply the company’s location data however they please. Connecting addressable TV to offline visits is one potential example.

“We’re trying to get beyond the idea of just buying targeted ads,” he said.

But location is far from a panacea for the online/offline attribution challenge. Fraud and inaccuracy issues mean that location – a seemingly binary designation – isn’t always something an agency or a brand can trust, a fact that McCall readily acknowledges.

PlaceIQ claims to filter location data from ad requests using an internal algorithm it calls Darwin, which analyzes latitude and longitude to assess quality and usability.

For example, Darwin will test cell towers, ZIP codes and Wi-Fi signals to decide which lat/long pairs have too few decimal points to be considered accurate designators of location.

Darwin also attempts to determine whether the location data it receives represents real human behavior. Most people spend the majority of their time at home and work, with periodic visits to locations such as stores, entertainment venues, restaurants or bars. Darwin examines whether a particular device regularly moves through a cluster of locations that makes sense – home, work, home, bar, home – or whether those movements are all over the map. In the latter case, the coordinates get tossed.

“We spend a lot of time trying to figure out the accuracy question,” McCall said. “But there’s no silver bullet for this.”

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