ULocate Launches Ad Network for Location-Aware Mobile Devices

3/9/10Follow @wroush

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an ad network with a focus on delivering hyperlocal ads, not only through Where but through a dozen third-party publishers.”

ULocate’s dissatisfaction with the ads it was getting through established networks is a common enough story in the mobile industry, where the supply of ad slots—places in Web pages, apps, or games where ads can be shown—still greatly outstrips the number of ads that advertisers are willing to pay premium prices to place. That’s why so many ad slots are filled by cheap, non-targeted, and (to some) annoyingly cheesy or tacky ads.

Gilmartin says uLocate still “gets really great campaigns” from Quattro, but that these campaigns never include enough ads to fill all of the available slots on Where. “When the premium inventory ran out, that was when we were getting some of the run-of-network stuff, and that is the stuff that didn’t perform well,” he says. “We love Quattro, and they obviously did some pretty cool things to get acquired by Apple, but we’ve seen, with the click-through rates on hyperlocal ads, that consumers are really reacting in a very positive way.”

ULocate’s experience aggregating content feeds for the Where app, which includes information such as local traffic, weather, gas prices, theatre listings, and restaurant recommendations, gave it a headstart when it decided to go into the ad-broker business. “To build Where, we put mechanisms in place to ingest content and reformat it if needed and deliver it to end users on any device,” and the company is applying the same mechanisms to ads, Gilmartin says.

The fact that uLocate has access in most cases to handset location data supplied by cellular operators themselves, rather than relying on built-in location-finding systems such as GPS chips, was also a big advantage, according to a blog post today by CEO Walt Doyle (who is a panel speaker at Xconomy’s Mobile Madness forum). “We have been using network-based location to improve the Where product experience, and are now also utilizing it for the optimized delivery of Where Ads across all phones,” Doyle writes.

ULocate will make money on the Where Ads program by keeping a small slice of the fee advertisers pay for each slot. But this wasn’t the only reason the venture-funded startup created the network. To make geographical targeting pay off for advertisers, Doyle writes, the company needed to be able to reach lots of people with its hyperlocal ads—more people than it can reach on its own through Where. “We needed to grow our audience beyond our own walls if we wanted to deliver an audience of scale to the local advertiser,” writes Doyle.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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