March 17, 2008


By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)
“Geo-targeting” is a hot buzz term in the mobile industry these days. It's basically a fancy way of saying “Let's have a different ad for every locale. Let's customise our message based on where someone's from or where they happen to be right now.”

Targeted advertising isn't new. It's actually been with us for a long time. The best example is The Yellow Pages, not the one you get online now but the voluminous hard copy that used to be delivered door to door. In many countries, these business listings and ads were customised by postal codes or districts. Consumers in Jefferson County received a different book than someone in neighbouring Oldham County. This made sense, right? Targeting helps brands deliver the right message to the right customer, i.e. those customers most likely to make a purchase. And from the consumer's perspective .... when you're looking for a plumber, you want a professional who will come to your home, not someone who will have to travel from far away.

today's mobile age, the big question about geo-targeting is just how far do you drill down, how specific should we get. Do you localise all the way down to street level so that someone on Robinson Road gets a different message than a person on Cecil Street?

Relevance is the key here and geo-targeting helps advertisers connect better with consumers. However, as in any business activity, there are costs involved. In this case, there's the cost of tailoring the creative content plus the cost of disseminating each ad. Advertisers need to know the number of people who will see – and act on – each local ad and then do a cost benefit analysis. What's the cost per viewer? The cost per converted consumer?

How granular can you get before you lose the critical mass that advertisers need?

With mobile devices, there's another element to think about as well. Phones are personal devices. Users decorate the screens with customised screensavers. They download ringtones and other bling. Cyber-hawking, based solely on proximity, is like trespassing. You risk a severe consumer backlash not to mention a poor response rate.

So highly-targeted mobile campaigns need an opt-in element. For example, at a cinema, users can be asked to use their phones to rate the film. Movie-goers will participate if they're offered a chance in a lucky draw or a discount on their next movie ticket.


One company that has done it right is Kodak India. They ran a campaign on the myGamma network called “Shoot It, Win It” that encouraged consumers to take digital photos and print them at a Kodak shop. Participants stood a chance to win prizes. Thanks to country-specific targeting, the Kodak ad banners were only seen by Indian users. After clicking, these consumers were directed to a registration form and a store locator with a drop-down menu that had state and city listings. The campaign engaged consumers and helped them to locate a photo store nearby. Plus, Kodak India registered new sales as well as gathered information from the participants who opted in.

Here at BuzzCity, we call this “filtering” - drilling down to get the targeting desired, so advertisers can differentiate between consumers in Boston and Bombay and between inner-city Chicago and the suburbs. Other filtering techniques include personalised local news, classifieds, price guides and restaurant directories.
Another way to filter is to target based on consumer interests. Ad agencies should take a look at the niche communities sprouting up across the mobile space – from newlyweds to sports enthusiasts - and tailor creative campaigns to them.

You see, you don't need GPS to locate your consumers. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “it's the content, stupid” not the technology.

myGamma has added four new countries. Welcome Croatia, Namibia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen! We are now in 66 countries and have 2.5 million members. The Gamma advertising network, meanwhile, is serving one billion ads every month. That's a jump from 2007 -- which was already a good year – when we served 5 billion ads. The Gamma network should top that figure by June.