Google Latitude, Privacy and Mobile Marketing

Google’s new application called Latitude is just one of a growing number of efforts that help extend social networking into the mobile space.  But its role is also to help further develop Google’s online marketing and advertising apparatus into what will be a very lucrative mobile space.  After all, Google CEO Eric Schmidt declared in 2007 that the biggest opportunity online was “Mobile, mobile, mobile — it’s probably the most wide open space out there right now. Also, local. Most search companies don’t take advantage of the local data inherent in the web.”  Last year, in an interview with a German newspaper, Mr. Schmidt explained that “The next big wave in advertising is the mobile internet.”

Latitude fits in with Google’s plans to expand its mobile marketing business, and this should raise both privacy and consumer protection issues.   Reporters covering the online ad business spotted Latitude as a move by Google to broaden its mobile marketing clout.  For example, Laurie Sullivan from MediaPost noted that:

“Google came one step closer Wednesday to providing brands with a one-to-one mobile marketing and ad tool that speaks directly to consumers. The company, which dominates in the mobile mapping space, launched an add-on social network service called Latitude.

And while the service clearly aims to focus on social networking–connecting friends and family by sharing their whereabouts–the application could easily adopt mobile marketing applications that target users with special deals and ads at specific locations such as in front of Starbucks or McDonald’s as they drive or walk down the street…Industry insiders are not convinced the service will stop with a social network service to connect with friends and family. The social network is the next logical step for Google to further its mobile services–mapping, networking and advertising–but the technology makes location-based advertising a real possibility… said Dave Tan, VP of content solutions at Resolution Media, an Omnicom Media Group company. “Mobile advertising tethered to GPS/cell-tower based location information has tremendous opportunities…”  

Writing on, one marketer explained that “Google’s merging of a utility like Google maps with social networking is a great opportunity for marketers. Until now, social apps like those on Facebook and MySpace were used when primarily when one wasn’t doing anything else, making advertising to that person difficult for driving call to action. With Google Latitude, social networking is integrated into tools that people use while doing something or seeking something.

Of interest too was the announcement this week by Google Health partner Anvita Health that it was introducing “a new mobile viewer for Google Health that is built on the Android platform..The Anvita Mobile Viewer enables users of Google Health to view their Google Health profile data from Android-powered devices…This allows for on-demand and real-time view of their medical records anytime and anywhere and provides for more flexibility when visiting physicians, pharmacists, and other care provide…Anvita Health provides innovative health care analytics to its customers who, in aggregate, manage more than 50 million lives.”

Google should acknowledge whether Latitude will eventually be linked to marketing, and also if it is collecting any analytical data when users agree to use it.  For example, what kind of mobile health marketing does Google plan to do, and will it be connected to Latitude?  One of the frustrating things about Google is that it always attempts to frame what it does for the public as some beneficent gift.  It’s privacy PR video for Latitude describes the service as a “fun, useful feature.”  It should be more forthright about its plans for mobile marketing, and should develop a system which clearly informs users how the data will be collected and used.  Google should also more closely examine how to empower mobile users so they have real control of what data is collected–including what is used for marketing and advertising purposes.  But we are working to get the FTC to actually develop safeguards for this mobile marketplace, including ensuring “opt-in” really gives users knowledge and control.
PS:  It never hurts to see what Google is telling major advertisers they can do via its DoubleClick Mobile: “Now publishers can deploy mobile advertising with the same confidence and control as online display ads…gives you all the power you need to deliver truly effective mobile campaigns. When creating your ad, you can make use of link text, jump pages and roadblock pairing to deliver greater impact…DoubleClick Mobile enables you to manage and report on your mobile advertising campaign through every click. We’ve made it easy to set campaign dates, define mobile specific targeting criteria and get full reports on all mobile campaigns.”

Marketers Urging Targeting of Hispanic Tweens, including via Mobile [Annals of Mobile Marketing]

There’s nothing to say except read what this marketer wrote for MediaPost’s Engage series.

Excerpt:  “To effectively reach Hispanic tweens…Don’t forget mobile. Many tweens already have cell phones, and they use them daily to text their friends. Text messages are a key way to connect with tweens, especially if you offer them a fun service, such as daily horoscopes, that doesn’t feel like an ad. Cell phone numbers can be collected right alongside emails in your lead-gen efforts. You get a branding boost, as well as their mobile number in your database for future text messaging campaigns.”

source:  Make Your Marketing Dollars Pay: Target Tweens.  Engage Hispanics:  MediaPost.  February 6, 2009

Google Lobbying: Why Congress Should Not Use the new YouTube Senate and House Video Hubs

Google is taking a lobbying tactic developed in part by CSPAN years ago–offer members of Congress a free service so they can be seen by the public.  That kind of electronic or digital campaign contribution helps insure that Congress will think twice about biting (or regulating) the video hand that feeds.  Google’s new YouTube Senate and House Hub channels raise a number of concerns and policy questions.

For example, what happens to the user data as people click on the Congressional YouTube channels?  Does Google get to collect, analyze and use such data for its growing political online advertising business?  Beyond privacy, should Congress be endorsing a private for-profit venture as the principal access point voters and constituents need to use?  Does the use of YouTube create a potential conflict of interest for members of Congress who will need to regulate Google–on such things as competition (the DoJ recently described Google as a monopoly); privacy, consumer protection, etc (remember, Google sells all kinds of ads for mortgages, credit cards, junk food, health remedies, etc.).

It’s not a coincidence perhaps that Google’s YouTube congressional channel announcement comes at the same time the company is expanding its online ad business for politics.  As Ad Age reports this week,“The end of an election season usually means dismantling the campaign apparatus until the next cycle. But not at Google; not this year…Rather than packing it all away until 2010, it’s hoping to build a year-round political-advertising business one House seat and hot-button issue at a time.  “There are 500,000 elected officials in the U.S. With the advances we’ve made in geo-targeting, we think this will be part of every political campaign in the country, as well as issue campaigns,” said Peter Greenberger, Google’s director of election and issue advocacy…Google doesn’t yet offer targeting based on congressional districts, but with ZIP code and city targeting, politicians and advocacy groups can cobble together a reasonable approximation of a congressional district.”

The in-coming Obama Administration has had the support of Google’s CEO, and company officials have played a role in the transition.  But the new administration should develop a digital outreach approach to the public which is public–and non-commercial–in nature.  It shouldn’t show any favoritism, even if Google is the leading search and video service.  It should be a a government via dot com.

see: “Election  is Over, but Google Still Chasing Political Spending.”  Michael Learmonth.  Advertising Age.  January 12, 2009.

The IAB (US) “mobilizes” to Fight Against Consumer Protections for Online Media

Watch this online video of Randall Rothenberg speaking before a June Federated Media Publishing event. In Mr. Rothenberg’s worldview, demon critics of advertising (such as myself) are deliberately trying to undermine democratic digital media. This would be absurd, if it wasn’t so sad. Mr. Rothenberg is using scare tactics to whip up his members into a frenzy-all so they can fight off laws and regulations designed to provide consumers real control over their data and information. Luckily, Mr. Rothenberg will be on the losing side of this battle to protect consumers in the digital era. Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic understand how the digital marketing ecosystem raises serious concerns about privacy and consumer welfare. We have to say we are disappointed in John Battelle, the CEO of Federated (who wrote a very good book entitled The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture). Mr. Battelle should know that the online marketing system requires a series of safeguards which protects citizens and consumers. There is a balance to be struck here. Online advertisers have unleashed some of the most powerful tools designed to track, analyze, and target individuals–whether on social networks, or watching broadband video, or using mobile devices. We have never said there shouldn’t be advertising. We understand the important role it must play, including for the underwriting of online content. But the online ad system should not be designed and controlled solely by ad networks, online publishers, trade groups and online ad lobbying groups. It must be structured in a way which promotes as much freedom for individuals.

The Shopping Cart Tells You What To Buy–and knows if you did!

Just when consumers tighten their wallets and purses, a new system emerges that will use data collected from us to target us while we shop in grocery stores. Here’s an excerpt from MediaCart’s pitch to advertisers:
“With MediaCart, consumer product brand marketers can deliver full-motion video advertising to shoppers as they approach various product locations in the store – whether walking down an aisle, approaching an end cap or standing at the checkout.

Direct One-to-One Ad Targeting. By collecting shoppers’ preferences through loyalty card information, prior shopping history, geographic locations and shopping times, advertisers are able to channel valuable communications to individual shoppers and deliver a powerful visual message right at the point of purchase.

Tracking Your Advertising Investment. The MediaCart® system tracks each cart’s location, dwell time, and shoppers’ purchases. This information will give valuable feedback on shoppers’ responses to alternative ads, offers, displays or message frequency. Advertisers are able to measure the true impact, quickly determine what is most effective, and adjust advertising messages and promotional offers as quickly as sending an email.”

Microsoft, by the way, is working with them. Be sure to see the picture of the cart on the press release.