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"Location" Is the New Adjacency – But Not a Complete Strategy

While ads that target viewers based on location can be very effective, some verticals have shown much more success with this tactic than others.

Articles and POVs on location-based marketing are everywhere as of late - it has emerged as a powerful tool, particularly for mobile marketers. But it would appear that in most articles, there is an overwhelming singular preoccupation with context. Recently, I read a particular piece arguing that where and when an ad is seen is far more important than the content of the ad itself. There are certainly many shades of truth to the notion that location and time of day are hugely influential, but there are a few more important points to consider before making context-over-content a hard-and-fast marketing rule.

First, while targeting viewers based on time and location can be very effective, our data suggests that there are particular verticals that have markedly more success with location-based ads - it isn’t necessarily great for every brand.

Pharma was an interesting example used in the same article, specifically noting that marketers can target ads to a certain demographic based on proximity to pharmacies. While there is definitely logic to the tactic, there hasn’t been much proof of success, particularly when it comes to measuring offline retail conversions based on individually targeted impressions. What’s more is that this specific example begs the question of scale - how does an advertiser predict how many ad opportunities will occur within a certain geo fence, among a particular age group? The idea is not a bad one, but there is more to consider in terms of how it’s likely to perform.

Looking at other verticals, location-based creative in QSR and entertainment have yielded notably high performance. For me, this is where the context-before-content argument gets a bit hazy: The best creative examples from location-driven campaigns in these verticals are interactive connecting directly to the ad’s content - specifically, the call to action. For example, the content of a QSR video may show people enjoying a delicious burger, and then a portion of the screen displays the distance between the viewer’s location and the nearest burger shack, allowing them to tap for directions. Or, theatrical entertainment video ads can show viewers which theaters in their area will be showing that movie, and call for them to tap to purchase tickets. We have seen far higher-than-average engagement metrics on campaigns with these creative executions.

These examples are less dependent on demographics (everyone needs to eat), but rather the spatial relationship between the consumer and the product or experience. These are just a few examples of why certain verticals lend themselves particularly well to location-based marketing.

Secondly, from time to time someone will say that a well-timed ad that’s ill-placed, or a well-placed ad that’s ill-timed, can hurt more than it can help. In other words, if the campaign isn’t 100 percent served in the right contextual or published environment (aka “adjacency”), the brand will somehow suffer. But this is not blanketly true. Success is dependent on the objective of the advertiser. In the case of direct response, the key performance indicator (KPI) is obviously efficient conversion, so in that case yes, this is true insofar as wasted impressions. However, there is significant data that shows mobile ads, particularly video, have a substantially higher recall/recognition than online video, and even greater when combined with TV. In brand advertising (not DR), which is majority of mobile video strategies, those metrics are tremendously meaningful.

Location and context are absolutely important, but there are many variables at work, so advertisers should really communicate with their partners about best practices for their vertical and objectives before developing lofty expectations about the outcome.