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."