Rocket Fuel Homes In On Location Data With Offline Measurement Tool

RocketFuelIt’s a mobile world and Rocket Fuel wants a piece of it.

The ad network, known historically as a desktop display player, announced Tuesday the launch of Local Lift, a tool that purports to drive in-store foot traffic and measure the results by connecting mobile clicks to store visits.

Although this isn’t Rocket Fuel’s first foray into mobile – it launched a mobile ad suite last year – Local Lift represents somewhat of an evolution for Rocket Fuel, a company which former [x+1] CEO John Nardone, now Rocket Fuel’s EVP and general manager, once referred to simply as “a programmatic marketing platform.” Rocket Fuel acquired hybrid DSP/DMP [x+1] in August for roughly $230 million.

According to Rocket Fuel, the company sees latitude/longitude on about 40% of its 593 billion or so US-based bid requests. Local Lift is looking to capitalize on that need through a partnership with location analytics company Placed. Rocket Fuel and Placed have been working together since mid-2014.

Once Rocket Fuel identifies likely consumers and serves a targeted mobile ad, Placed steps in and provides the measurement piece. Placed maintains a massive opt-in location panel of more than 500,000 people who have agreed to share their location and daily movements in return for gift cards and other rewards-based incentives.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the person in terms of targeting, rather than the device they’re using,” said Nitin Chitkara, director of mobile product marketing at Rocket Fuel. “It’s not just about the desktop channel or the mobile channel, it’s about what we know consumers will actually do.”

Location is about harnessing intent, said Chitkara, pointing to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, one of Rocket Fuel’s clients, as a salient example. Dr. Pepper recently approached Rocket Fuel looking to boost foot traffic and purchase frequency at about 1,000 grocery store locations. Using Local Lift, Rocket Fuel drove roughly 213,000 store visits, which the brand was able to tie back to incremental sales lift.

“Location is one of the biggest indicators of intent and the power of mobile gives us the ability to use a consumer’s location,” Chitkara said. “We’re leveraging everything we known about consumers and combining it with the ability to influence their decisions on the go. That brings us closer to the concept of mobility.”

It Chitkara’s view, mobility is defined as “people, not devices.”

“It’s not just about engaging with a piece of media that was served,” he said. “It’s about driving tangible, real-world actions.”

Because not all location data is created equal, Chitkara said Rocket Fuel only goes for the gold. Broadly, there are two kinds of location data: true lat/long data taken from a phone’s GPS signals – that type of location data is extremely precise and can be accurate up to about five meters – and derived location, which comes from triangulating the IP address of a cell tower with pings on nearby Wi-Fi hotspots.

The latter is far less reliable and is likely to blame for why some agencies and brands don’t always trust the quality of location data. As Verve CMO John Haake, who formerly served as [x+1]’s marketing veep, pointed out in a previous conversation with AdExchanger, not all location data is properly labeled on some open exchanges. “The only real location data you can trust is accurate lat/long data that’s provided by publishers or apps,” Haake said.

That’s also the Rocket Fuel perspective on location data.

“Local Lift is highly dependent on location and we always steer toward true location data,” Chitkara said. “If we’re repeatedly seeing media from certain sites that isn’t working or a type of consumer that isn’t engaging, we’ll steer clear.”

Although Chitkara declined to say exactly how many of its customers are using the new product, he did note that Rocket Fuel has “numerous” clients in five different verticals that are taking advantage of Local Lift, including CPG, quick-service restaurants, retail, shopper marketing and travel.

Rocket Fuel tested Local Lift in-market over the summer, and the product went live with its sales team in Q3/Q4 2014.

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