Skip links

Speaking the Language of Location

Mobile phones and tablets have long been considered “secondary devices” to conventional desktop computers. But roles are being reversed as mobile device usage skyrockets. Naturally, advertisers are reacting to this industry shift; according to eMarketer, 2016 will be the first year where U.S. mobile ad spending will surpass desktop ad spending.

Many advertisers consider mobile location data to be the richest asset in the mobile advertising ecosystem. The earliest smart phone targeting leveraged data provided by centroids, cell towers and user registrations, but these methods were plagued with inaccuracies. For example, user registrations are fixed. A college student might register for Pandora Radio while attending Boston University. Upon graduating, he moves across the country to San Diego, rendering his registration based location data useless.

Mobile advertisers now serve advertisements (Lat/Long in marketing jargon) using one of two geographic targeting methods: location and proximity. Location targeting relies on bid requests from ad-supported apps. The app records the user’s location at the time of the request and hypotheses are reached about a user based on the user’s locational behavior over time. For example, if a user is frequently on the move, popping up at various airports, the user might be classified as a business traveler.

Proximity targeting, also known as geo-fencing, takes advantage of the location signals ubiquitous in ad-supported mobile apps. Audiences are created based on patterns and ads are served when users enter within proximity of a predefined location. An airline advertiser might reach our business traveler by proximity targeting the airports he frequents.

While the geographic precision of location and proximity targeting is impressive, marketers would be remiss not to acknowledge the other factors at play. Guesswork is involved. How old is our business traveler? What gender? Timing is also essential. Is serving airline ads to our frequent flyer when they’re already at the airport really an efficient strategy? The ticket has already been purchased, the airline chosen.

Location targeting is a powerful tool in mobile advertising, but in order to be truly dynamic and effective, audiences based on location targeting should be overlaid with demographic and purchase data. Location data is quickly becoming an omnipresent force in mobile marketing; leverage it intelligently and reach your audience smarter.

Join the Discussion