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Interview

Location-based marketing: A Q&A with AdNear's Ken Parnham

16 July 2015
Location-based marketing: A Q&A  with AdNear's Ken Parnham

Location intelligence platform AdNear recently announced its expansion into Europe and the appointment of Ken Parnham as general manager for the region. He speaks to M&M Global about the innovative tech that powers AdNear, enabling clients to glean highly-detailed behavioural and demographic information and accurately target consumers.

Singapore-based AdNear is just two years old and yet in that short time it has not only managed to build strong foundations in its native market, but has expanded into Australia, South East Asia and Japan and has a client portfolio that includes brands and brand owners Procter & Gamble, Audi, Unilever, BMW, Adidas, Ford, Samsung and Ikea.

Parnham, formerly managing director of data privacy management company TrustE, is based in the company’s new London office.

AdNear's Ken Parnham

M&M Global: It’s more common to see ad tech companies launch in Silicon Valley, extend their reach into Europe, Australia and then Asia. Is it quite unusual to see that happening the other way around?

Parnham: It’s one of the things that really appealed to be about the company. The attitude is different. It’s more strategic and thought through than going hell for leather. A lot of the American companies tend to see London as a money pit - ‘Let’s get in there and get people on the ground, we’ll make loads of money out of it, then we’ll launch in Europe.’

Tell me about AdNear’s background and global reach.

We were founded in 2012 and are headquartered in Singapore, even though our tech hub is in India, plus we have offices in Australia and now in Europe. In South East Asia, there are a lot of smaller offices dotted around, while Japan has got pretty good revenue growth.

We’ve just opened an office in San Francisco, where our CEO and CTO are based. We’re going to build a small product team there based in the Valley.

What does AdNear offer clients?

In a nutshell, what you’d call AdNear is a location-intelligent platform. It leverages historical location data, puts it into context and helps data-driven marketing. The key point is how we do this and what differentiates us from the likes of PlaceIQ.

We’ve got proprietary technology - a black box which a few years ago was put it into taxis and vehicles driving around cities in Asia. The box picks up on Wi-Fi and telco signals and it stores the location of those towers. Then what we’ve done is at the backend using our database we’ve managed to map the latitude and longitude and create grid.

So take London. We have a grid mapped out using the locations of all the different telco towers.

The second phase to it was that we have over 260,000 apps that we’re linked to by third party or directly. Now whenever a consumer uses their phone to open an app, it pings the Wi-Fi tower that we’ve got already mapped in a longitude and latitude grid, and we can tell where they are.

The third part to it is we then buy in Experian data, household data, demographics, all that type of information, so we get a more complete picture.

What sort of information and insight does the tech give clients?

To give you a loose example we can establish a consumer profile . For instance, she’s someone in London, she’s female, 35-40, quite affluent because of the area she lives in and we know she lives in Mayfair because we see her phone there from 10pm till six in the morning.

We know where she works within 10 metres, she’s an auto-enthusiast because we see her a lot around Audi showrooms, she’s a high-frequency traveller because we see her at Heathrow airport a lot.

So using this inferred data we then build a picture of her and that means we can more accurately target her with marketing and advertising.

It’s their whereabouts, the behaviour of the person, the demographics and what they’re interested in. Holding that information makes for a very powerful conversation.

How does your platform differentiate you from your rivals?

Our competitors use GPS which is turned off 70% of the time. We use GPS as well when it is on. But a lot of people turn it off to save battery drain.

Some of our competitors also use IP targeting, but that can be fallible because you can have you IP database in Sheffield and you’re actually based in London. We do use those other methods if we can’t use the latitude and longitude combination.

Why expand into Europe?

It was demand-driven. We’re the leading mobile intelligence platform in the APAC region and we’re dealing with global agencies like Mindshare, GroupM and global brands. A lot of these guys are headquartered in the UK and there is more revenue in the UK [than in other European countries].

How many staff have you got at your London base?

We’ve got three at the minute and are looking to get a senior sales person onboard. We’re taking small steps. Then we’ve got to work out our grassroots and move up from there.

The feedback I’ve had from trading desks this last three months has been highly positive. We’re offering something different.

You’ve got an impressive array of global clients? Are you going to be looking for European and UK clients?

Yes absolutely. We’ve been having conversations [with prospective clients] and had great feedback.

Would you say that mobile technology in APAC is far ahead of where it is in Europe?

No. What I would say is that advertisers are more likely to take this up. The technology exists globally, it’s just that the appetite for it is very different. I think the people that have been over here have been doing very basic campaigns, using GPS, so the agencies haven’t allocated bigger budgets to it.

But I think what we’re seeing in Europe grow exponentially - and I think video’s driving this growth - is mobile data.

Where do you see mobile technology market heading in the future?

We’re moving from an ad-tech company to a mar-tech company, whereas the other guys that deal with mobile class themselves as ad-tech companies. There’s a few companies that do the bits and pieces of what we do, but there’s no one that completes the whole picture.

I think the market will become more data-driven, just because clients get more bang for their buck. They are reaching the right audience.

The second part of the future is probably around more audience curation tools. Say you’re McDonald’s. You'll have a [database] with unique user IDs from phones and you'll be able to see where your users are and what their spending habits are - so how you can get them back from the competition. So I think the future is greater insights, which will require bigger data.

What sort of growth are you targeting in the UK and Europe?

Success is the only thing. I think we will be successful in the UK. We’re not going to think about Europe until the end of the year or start of 2016 - there’s just too much to do over there. Europe and France are always more difficult to conquer especially around the privacy rules.

From the first three months, the warm reception we’ve had means it’s going to be a very successful year for AdNear in the UK.

It’s definitely the most competitive [European market], and with competition usually comes advancement because you have to find better, smart and cheaper ways of doing stuff in order to win clients.

Ben Bold, London

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