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Is the promise of ‘right person, right time, right place’ ad targeting becoming a reality in mobile?

By Julian Smith

August 4, 2014 | 4 min read

For as long as I’ve been in marketing communications (almost 20 years!), I’ve heard talk of the holy grail of advertising – to be able to reach the right person, at the right time in the right place with the right message. And yet, in all my years in the industry, this nirvana has remained pretty much elusive, beyond the grasp of media planners and buyers.

Whilst the advent of digital media held great promise for ad targeting the right person with the right message (driven by trackable audience insights) the fact that online advertising is primarily received on a desktop-tethered screen means that it still does not reach them at the right time, place or context.

But now, as more and more consumers come with smartphones permanently attached (see eMarketer’s latest figures on worldwide user and penetration figures) the search for the ad targeting holy grail is inching ever closer.

Smart mobile devices are not only giving marketers access to rich audience behavioural data, as mobile web and app consumption increasingly replicates and/or replaces desktop, but also audience location data, through signals such as cell tower triangulation, GPS and Wi-Fi. This means that for the first time marketers can not only find the right type of audience segment but they can find them in the right type of specific locations. And with mobile usage growing so rapidly they can now do this at scale. A powerful combination for ad targeting.

And if they are unsure how to take advantage of this new opportunity, then there are some interesting ad networks emerging, such as Verve Mobile, NinthDecimal, xAd, ThinkNear and PayPal Media Network, to hold their hand.

As a result, we are seeing a growing number of innovative marketers experimenting with location-related mobile advertising to better target their on-the-go audiences. And, according to eMarketer, they are reaping the rewards.

Renault's location targeted campaign to electric car enthusiasts

Renault, for example, used a highly targeted mobile ad campaign to raise awareness of its new electric car Zoe and drive traffic to local dealerships. To connect audiences who might be interested in an all-electric car, the campaign used a combination of data sources, including proprietary Apple data, Mosaic data and first-party data from Weve as well as demographic and socio-economic variables. The ads appeared on the mobile devices of qualified consumers within a five-mile radius of Renault dealerships and encouraged them to browse relevant content or call the nearby dealerships on their phones.

Scion, a Toyota car brand, delivered a similar campaign through xAd’s SmartFence technology to identify and engage in-market auto shoppers to drive foot traffic to local dealerships.

Columbia's location targeted campaign about winter jackets

To reach people who were likely to be interested in its Omni-Heat jackets in cold climate US cities Columbia combined data sources to deliver mobile ads through the xAd platform. Instead of simply delivering ads to anyone who entered a geo-fence, they only targeted users who had already shown an interest in jackets and other criteria. The advertiser targeted smartphone uses who were approximately within a one-mile radius of a retailer and had performed a certain search action, such as looking up a store or doing a keyword search for winter jackets.

Microsoft wrapped location-based mobile ads around retail stores

To promote new store openings across the US Microsoft worked with NinthDecimal (previously JiWire) to deliver location-based mobile advertising that combined audience segmentation data (zeroing in on specific types of mobile app consumers) with a location layer.

Developments in this area of geo-targeted mobile advertising are only going to accelerate. Recent announcements in the last 12 months such as Millennial Media's partnership with Esri, Pubmatic’s partnership with xAD and YP’s acquisition of Sense Networks point to bigger and better things to come. It really does feels like the holy grail of ad targeting is now just over the horizon.


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