Waze Local Launches With In-App Ads To SMBs For The First Time

This has been two years in the making and what's most exciting is SMBs now have a way to advertise locally and see the impact of their advertising," says Matt Phillips, Head of Waze Local.

After a year in beta, Waze is opening its advertising platform to SMBs as the Google-owned crowdsourced driving navigation app aims to capture the growing digital spending by local marketers.

Waze Local essentially offers the basics of what multi-location enterprises from Dunkin’ Donuts to Allstate Insurance have used on the app since Waze began offering ad products in 2011, albeit with less customization than the larger advertisers get access to.

That said, the ads on Waze Local start at $2 as part of the company’s message to marketers: this is affordable and simple. The other message to local marketers is that they’ll also now have access to Waze’s 100 million-plus monthly users and its 500,000 community volunteers.

“After talking to advertisers for the past two years as we sought to figure out how to include them as brands that our users would want to reach, we came away with two things,” said Matt Phillips, Head of Waze Local. “They want to generate location awareness and in-store visits. SMBs are not interested in driving clicks to their websites. They want real-world impact. They want the ability to do that in a digital advertising context to be quick and easy. They don’t have big marketing teams, so they want the reporting to be simple as well. We took those needs and addressed them in Waze Local.”

Waze Local Ad Formats: Promoted Search, Branded Pin, and Zero-Speed Takeover

The three ad formats are Branded Pins, which highlights a store’s location on the Waze map to drivers within a set radius; Promoted Search, which gives priority ranking to advertisers whose keywords match what a Wazer is looking for (“Where’s the best lunch special near me?”); and the Zero-Speed Takeover, a billboard that appears across the app’s entire screen when a car comes to a complete stop and disappears automatically when the car is in motion.

There are also tiers for SMBs of different sizes: the “starter” program is for businesses with one to 10 locations and starts at $2 a day and is limited to Branded Pins and Promoted Search; the “Waze Local Plus” offering includes the Zero-Speed Takeover and live support for $100 per day.

Kung Fu Tea’s Three Month Driving Test

The program began in Waze’s home country, Israel, in 2016 and has been in beta for a little more than a year. While Waze isn’t revealing how many marketers have tested Waze Local, it did say that in the U.S, businesses advertising on Waze Local saw a 20.4 percent increase in monthly navigations to their locations.

One beta tester whose experience with Waze Local is being made public is NYC-based Kung Fu Tea, which has about 150 franchises in the U.S. Australia, Canada, and Vietnam.

While a little larger than most SMBs, Kung Fu Tea is using Waze Local to promote 16 franchises.

“In December 2017, we saw a 30 percent increase in navigations to our Springfield, IL Kung Fu Tea location through the power of our Waze Local advertisements,” said Mai Shi, Kung Fu Tea’s marketing manager. “Over the course of three months, more than 5,500 drivers were navigated straight to the front doors of 16 Kung Fu Tea locations via Waze Local.”

Avoiding Clutter

As Waze creates much wider lanes for smaller advertisers, it’s also aware of the balance between managing user experience and ad clutter. Is there any worry that there might be conflicts with the Waze enterprise team now that smaller marketers will be appearing in-app as well?

“We work very closely with the Waze for Brands team,” Phillips said. “And the system takes into account how many ads a Wazer sees and when. The algorithm actually tries its best to deliver pins on that app for any advertiser. So, there’s no emphasis on one or the other.”

Even as the full rollout is just happening now, Phillips offered a preview of features and initiatives.

For example, Waze Local will soon be opening its api to local agencies and resellers that want to make the placements programmatically. And there will likely be more offerings for Connected Car dashboards as well. The Waze app is already part of Android Auto, the Google Assistant integration for cars that is available in 400 models. And Waze has its own integration in Ford Motors’ Connected Cars as well.

“Voice activation is an incredibly useful feature already with Waze,” Phillips said. “From a safety perspective, you can tell the Waze app to navigate you to your favorite local coffee shop. So we’ll certainly be exploring how we can use voice with advertising. But we’ve been taking a very gradual rollout strategy to everything we’ve done because we want to make sure that whatever we do, we get it right the first time.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.