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When you talk to Blis Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Aaron McKee, he will tell you that in essence, location data lies at the heart of the business.
Traditionally, many clients have equated location insights with proximity targeting at a hyper-local level. Blis has used location targeting to deliver effective ad campaigns for large brands, including McDonald's, Volkswagen, Unilever, and many others. However, the value of using location data for clients goes beyond simply proximity targeting - it covers retargeting based on prior locations visited, including targeting entire households at home, as well as layering on other types of consumer data to enrich customer understanding.
Blis was one of the first companies to unlock the power of location data, both for proximity targeting as well as historic retargeting.
Aaron says: “When we work with grocery stores, for example, depending on the brief, we might explore what is the impact of a new grocery store entering into their area in terms of actual foot traffic? How does the foot traffic vary by socio-demographic factors, by income, by other kinds of factors?"
Today, of course, Blis' work with brands goes beyond measuring foot traffic, especially with the exponential rise of online shopping, they are also driving consumers to websites.
Aaron McKee, Blis' Chief Technology Officer, makes sense of how people move around in the real world.
As Chief Technology Officer, Aaron runs the product and engineering organization and is responsible for technology across the business. He works closely with sales and finance teams as well as every aspect of the business to make sure that they balance the present pragmatic needs with the emerging trends that Blis sees in the industry. “A lot of my role is working across the business with stakeholders, partners, customers – and effectively translating what we see together as being the direction we should go, and hopefully we point the ship in the right direction without running into any icebergs."
The thing that excited Aaron most about being a CTO is being able to build things on a grand scale. That includes being able to go from an idea to implementation, leveraging a team.
“I used to play with LEGO a lot when I was a kid," says Aaron. "And it was inspiring to go from a box of bricks into a spaceship or a castle. And I think a CTO is one of those roles where you get to do that on a repeatable basis, and that's amazing."
Aaron's degree in computer science and psychology plays a role in how he sees numbers and data. “I think by understanding human behavior, you're able to understand the data in a far more nuanced and robust way. If you don't understand the numbers, you're not able to tell if it's a good number or a bad number. You're not able to tell a story with it."
Blis is one of the first companies to unlock the power of location data.
The story starts with location data from HERE. Blis integrates that data into its platform to ensure that the right consumers see relevant ads at the right time and place.
The key to effective targeting is data reliability. HERE helps Blis increase the amount of reliable data on which marketers can base effective advertising campaign planning and targeting.
“There is wisdom that we can derive from the basic underlying aspects of human nature that a critical mass of data gives us and unlocks for us. Beyond that, it's really focusing on the accuracy and precision of our data," says Aaron.
There's an economy of scale underneath the amount of data that Blis sees. A person standing in London and a person standing in New York, have things in common.
The most important trend that Aaron sees is the ongoing maturation of privacy worldwide. “GDPR having launched a couple of years ago in Europe, things like CCPA emerging in California, POPI in South Africa, and pretty much every major company, including Apple with IDFAs, is exploring how companies like us and others use data to effectively reach and understand the end customer. At Blis, protecting consumer privacy is paramount."
The focus is on making sure that consumers have control over their data and how companies use it. And that's been a very positive force of change within the ad tech ecosystem. It's also one of the most disruptive points that ad tech has seen.
No surprise that consumer privacy and transparency remain a priority for Blis. Historically, ad tech has not been known for being a transparent industry. Aaron's take is that there is a better way to run a business, especially in the current era – for consumers and Blis' clients. “Effectively, we're running campaigns on behalf of our customers, and we want to be transparent with them. We're one of the few, if not the only companies in our space, that operates that way. We're transparent with how our cost model works. We're transparent with how we configure and run our campaigns. We're transparent with the data that we use for them."
Blis stands out among its competitors as the only company with a truly global footprint. They work with a lot of multinational brands and take the global knowledge of their clients' brands and help them with a local strategy. There's an economy of scale underneath that global operation and the amount of data that Blis sees.
HERE data allows Blis to focus on the problems that they want to solve, uniquely relative to their competition. Aaron says: “We are effectively wasting our resources if we spend even five minutes on the domain of POI data. Partnering with HERE allows us to focus on the thing that we are uniquely able to do as a business."
With a solid foundation of innovation, high regard for privacy and transparency, and a reputation for the accuracy and precision of their data, Blis continues to pursue that next kernel of wisdom that tells the story.