Andrew Darling
Mar 1, 2017

Why location data is changing the face of out-of-home advertising

Marrying the digital and the physical can take outdoor advertising to a new level, says Andrew Darling at Blis.

Andrew Darling
Andrew Darling

The debates around digital ad viewability are heating up, as measurement metrics and accuracy are brought under scrutiny every other week. Traditional ads, on the other hand, continue to exist in the proverbial black box. High-traffic malls and transport hubs see hundreds of thousands of visitors, but there is little insight into who they are. When a digital ad gets a million daily views, it’s a vanity metric; when the location of a traditional ad claims a 1 million footfall, it’s prime real estate.

Technology is making digital campaigns more measurable. Similarly, the display ads lining the billboards and walkways we physically visit should also be more measurable with technology. Even if the ad is only an elaborate piece of gloss paper, don’t forget the carefully concealed WiFi access point mounted right behind it. 

Two-thirds of Southeast Asian people are also on a mobile device, which is more than representative enough for a sample size. It is possible to link WiFi addresses and specific locations such as shopping malls. In addition, filtering and tracking location data from GPS-enabled apps can provide insights to customer movement. That makes physical ads easier to track than they first appear.

Omnichannel, powered by location data

It’s one thing to have a placement in a high-end mall. But as physical and virtual worlds converge, it’s far more effective to use location data to run geo-targeted ads to visitors of the same mall. Linking the digital and real worlds using location data adds colour to traditionally black-and-white audiences.

The demographic information afforded by digital, paired with the physical, in-mall experience come together to deliver brand messages at the very location customers go to make purchases.

Besides the point of purchase, location also enables real world ‘retargeting’. Mobile allows marketers to interact with consumers in many places, throughout the day and purchase journey. The challenge is in being available and present when needed or wanted.

Opportunities beyond the point of purchase

By tracking consumer movement over time, marketers are able to make more educated traditional ad buys, even in areas that appear counterintuitive at first. A popular tea brand in Singapore faced this challenge. While its target audience buys its products in supermarkets closer to home, many of them were found to work in the central business district. 

The brand used this insight to create a series of experiential pop-up cafes at the heart of the business district. Professionals in the area can take a tea break right when they need it most. By tracking footfall at the cafes, and using location-based digital ads to drive traffic to the area, the brand was able to measurably demonstrate and maximize the ROI of these offline efforts.

This can also apply to luxury travel retail. One would assume airports and high-end malls would be go-to choice for tourists. But Blis recently conducted research profiling 130,000 tourists entering Singapore during Chinese New Year, and this revealed that travellers are 10 times more likely to visit a mid-market mall such as Bugis Junction than a high-end mall such as Marina Bay Sands Shoppes. 

In fact, close to 90 percent of unique impressions were at mid-market malls. Given the high correlation, it would make sense for luxury brands to leverage these insights into location, in order to stay top-of-mind.

While digital ad spending is growing rapidly, it hasn’t yet surpassed traditional media, which means for now, nothing replaces being physically present. Knowing where consumers are, where they go, where they are going to go, and whether an ad drove them to a store, is key. It all goes back to finding ways to unlock the potential of location data in advertising.

Andrew Darling is director of communications at Blis and co-chair for the mobile and social committee at IAB Singapore

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