Our Take on the Blue Bar Buzz


Mobile Phone Illustrating Blue Bar Location for Facebook

Mobile has added a big new data set to the table – location data – and with it has come tremendous excitement and investment in our industry and for good reason. Location-based intent data helps marketers go beyond targeting on things like cookie data and search, and precisely reach consumers at that all-important moment when they are interacting with the digital and physical world together. This takes us a huge step farther in the quest to deliver the ‘right ad, right person, right place, right time.’

What’s more, there is tremendous forward momentum. Mobile will continue to stay important to marketers as smartphone sales skyrocket, and users keep their beloved smartphone by their sides day and night. According to eMarketer, the average person spends over 4 hours on their phones each day doing non-voice activities. See our recent blog, The Era of Mobile Programmatic is NOW.

The Changing Tides of an Evolving Landscape

The type and amount of location data that’s shared via mobile apps, the bid stream, and other data sources is always evolving. And as the industry evolves, so too does the technology. Apple’s new iOS 11, which will ship to the public in September, is creating a lot of buzz for pending changes in its approach to location data. For one, a blue status bar will now appear whenever an app is actively using location-sharing when running in the background. Another change: with the current operating system, app developers can choose if they want to allow a user to opt into location services “while using the app” or they have the option of only offering always/never consent. With iOS 11, developers will be required to offer all three options: only while using the app, always and never.

So what does this Apple update mean for the digital advertising community? It’s an open question, but we’re skeptical it will be a game changer.

From a device standpoint, since location services were first introduced, the iPhone has had a small arrow at the top of the screen that has alerted users that location data is being shared. Similarly, Android shows a drop pin marker at the top of the screen. It’s unclear if the blue bar will be something a user can dismiss after the first time an app is used, but, in any case, the bar only amounts to a different form of awareness notification. Secondly, according to Gartner, the iPhone and iPad only represent about 18% of smartphones in the United States whereas Android users make up a whopping 81% of smartphones use.

Taking a step back, at this point, the majority of apps have already moved to a process of using cached location data and ping the OS receiver for new location data only when used. This was a proactive decision made by developers to avoid draining batteries and the acquisition of bad reviews. We expect this move by Apple will expose some of those lingering apps that continue to ping location services frequently who should have already moved to a “on demand” model.

Many of the more popular apps such as maps, weather, etc. offer consumers clear value for their continuous location pings on the OS. That said, we expect to see app developers coming up with new and creative ways to create consumer value around either “using the app more frequently” or “selecting ‘Always’ as the default location setting. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

The Simpli.fi Advantage

If users do choose to alter settings so that apps can only use location data when the app is on then, in turn, it will become essential to have the capability to time stamp, bid and optimize on the recency of when and where the phone is when data was captured. The ability to capture that granular GPS data and then return the ad unit back to the phone during the same use session will be a challenge for many due to the common mobile targeting practice of using older location data from historical logs.

This is a challenge that Simpli.fi is uniquely well positioned to address. Our unstructured data model allows our cross-channel platform to retain the date and time stamp associated with every piece of data. This makes every individual data element – including recency – visible. Bottom line, our platform, by design, does not require an extended flow of location data to leverage recency and to do its job – namely, to help our clients reach their local audience and deliver ‘the right ad, right person, right place, right time.’