Yesterday I made the comment that it would be some time yet before the mobile technology space related to location based services became boring and predictable. Then only hours later I saw this; following in the footsteps of Google’s purchase of Admob, Apple have just purchased Quattro (backed by Former Lycos chief Bob Davis) who also specialize in delivering advertising to mobile phones.

Mobile advertising is seeing huge growth, with some really novel apps on iPhone leading the charge. Davis was saying a couple of months ago that Quattro had grown from 150 million ad impressions a year ago to 5.5 billion a month this year! But to set the scene on this post, take a look at some comments from a few years ago. The following comes from an April 2007 interview with AdMob’s Omar Hamoui.

The obvious thing that we haven’t yet seen is the local stuff. The phone is always with you. Eventually you’ll know where this person is. So, can’t you tell them to come to my Italian restaurant or whatever? We haven’t seen a lot of that yet, partly because there’s not sufficient volume to [make it] meaningful. You need to have lots of people in lots of places before that matters.

In the same interview he also says:

This is the first time there’s been a connected device that you can actually associate with a person. With a computer — my wife uses my computer at home, I use my computer at home, my kids use my computer at home — it’s a communal device. But the phone doesn’t work that way. And it’s always with you. Usually people sleep with it by their heads, so it’s [with you] literally 100% of the time. There will be some unique things that happen.

I don’t know what sort of a person would sleep with their phone, but supposedly many do. When taken together, those two quotes sum up the opportunity very nicely, knowing who the person is, and where they are.

What about the third piece of the puzzle – knowing why they are there.

I’ll start with the assumption that advertising on the phone is more valuable when it is served to a person away from their home – I already know where the Italian restaurants near my home are located and which one I prefer. This will not be true in all cases, but for most travel/entertainment related services (destination content, not air booking) it is clearly the case that home is less valuable than away. And when it is not the case, the ad may be better served in a PC browser than on a mobile device anyway (especially true for air bookings). Most of this is pretty obvious – I will be much more receptive to an ad on my mobile for a theme park when on a family holiday with children then when in my own city, and I almost certainly won’t be interested if I am served that same ad whilst on a business trip. But an ad for an upmarket restaurant to take clients to will have much more chance of success if served to my phone on a business trip than when I am travelling with a noisy and active three year old.

The phone company has no idea if I am travelling alone or with another passenger in the PNR, the ad server doesn’t either, but the airline (or travel agency) certainly does. I’ve given stats before on a success story using PNR data to generate airline ancillary revenue, but only in the context of where someone was planning to travel to, and not for when they actually get there. Putting the three data points of who, where and why together would make an incredibly compelling offer to advertisers. The travel industry has more to offer in this area than they may have first realized.

It was just over a week ago that I wrote the following:

I have no idea in what form this prediction [Data will transform travel] will come true, but there is no doubt airlines and their partners have a mass of data that can either be used in house, or even merged with third party sources to create extra value to shareholders, and 2010 should be the year in which this becomes a reality.

I definintely wasn’t the only travel industry commentator making such a prediction, (eg. The 2010 future is increased profiling, increased data collection… from Tim Hughes) but there is something that is starting to become much clearer in my mind, and that is one possible way in which this prediction could come true.

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