LAT49: Reading Maps for Local Context (and Ad Placement)

lat49.jpg More and more, people are looking at what Google can’t (or won’t) do. One thing Google isn’t doing is selling a lot of ads on a hyperlocal basis. If you look for a plumber in Tribeca, you are likely to get ads for all of Manhattan. That might simply be an issue of making sure it has enough ads to fill the inventory.

But Google also doesn’t generally get a read on information within a map itself. That’s where LAT49 sees a market. The service, from IDELIX Software, a Vancouver-based company, looks to work with providers of customized maps, leveraging Ajax and Flash, and then sell inventory against it. The company has 20 people, including a five-person sales team for selling travel/tourism, sports and recreation, real estate and local (generally).

In December, the company started working with MapQuest Gas Prices to place advertising along with the regional gas quotes. It also works with various vertical sites, such as mapmyride.com, runningmap.com and oobgolf.com to provide customized maps — and relevant ads — for people seeking a good bike route, jogging path or golf course in Southern California, or wherever they are. The ads also aren’t restricted to specific subjects, typically brands (i.e., Trek bike ads). Instead, they can be for a local bike shop, or a favorite watering hole for bikers.

One of the company’s unique attributes is the ability to place ads on top of maps, rather than having them run alongside as with most sponsored search. Chloe Morrow, vice president of operations, says that with most sites, maps are “too small because they have to make room for the ads” — a lose-lose situation.

The ad placement also frees the advertiser from a specific location. With LAT49, for instance, an REI ad is merely placed near a park, because it has an outdoor context. It doesn’t have to be at REI’s downtown location. Starbucks has similar efforts.

The company also says it benefits from being able to move the ad context as people mouse up the map — north, south, west or east. Many people who are planning a trip might take in huge swaths of geography, but always see the same ads from the origination of the search — something that may have become irrelevant (by the time they get to Phoenix).

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