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In a cookieless world, location is king

More effective measurement will make it easier for marketers to leverage location-based advertising via OOH as an important part of their marketing mix.

In a cookieless world, location is king
[scharfsinn86/AdobeStock]

Apple’s shift from opt-out to opt-in for data tracking has sent shockwaves through the marketing ecosystem.

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With less personally identifiable data, marketers will need to rely more on context to reach their target audience. Moreover, using one of the most powerful forms of context—location—will become almost impossible on mobile devices without first-party location data.

But location targeting remains possible with out-of-home (OOH) media like billboards, transit shelters, and buses. OOH advertising ensures ads run exactly when and where they are most relevant on both digital and static formats. When merged with aggregated, anonymized audience data, OOH location-specific ads provide a powerful way to reach audiences.

Marketers can effectively address both upper- and lower-funnel marketing use cases by using location as context.

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Upper funnel: Use location as a proxy for audience.

In an increasingly cookieless world, it will become harder to find specific audiences online. Context will re-emerge as the best way to find people. Traditionally, context has been driven by content: news might reach an educated demo, while a cooking magazine would reach a foodie.

Location is another powerful form of context. Demographically similar and like-minded people have a tendency to cluster by location. Claritas was one of the earliest to take advantage of this trend through geo-targeted Prizm clusters.

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By leveraging non-personally identifiable census data and device data, we can start to build excellent audience profiles of specific locations. Marketers, in turn, can reach the locations that over-index in their desired audiences.

Need parents? Target ads in kid-friendly neighborhoods. Looking for retirees? Put ads near senior centers. Want Spanish speakers? Place Spanish language ads in neighborhoods with large Spanish-speaking populations.

Dayparting can further power context. For instance, an alcohol brand wanting to reach bar hoppers can advertise in a nightlife district at 10 p.m. A sports betting brand looking to reach sports fans can advertise near the stadium before and after the game.

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Lower funnel: Get close to transactions.

In the online world, Amazon Ads and Google Search generate huge dollars because they are close to the transaction. Nothing is better for an insurance broker to generate leads when they can advertise directly to people searching for insurance.

Out-of-home location-based ads can do for the offline world what Amazon and Google do in the online world by stepping in front of the transaction to influence behavior.

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Marketers can put ads near the point of purchase: outside retail stores, near tourist attractions, close to restaurant locations, and around movie theaters. Further, they can conquest their competition by advertising near competitor locations.

Smaller formats, like kiosks, urban panels, and bus shelters, have particular appeal in letting marketers get close to the point of purchase.

But what about measurement?

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Targeting locations should never be about targeting an individual in a public space like in the movie “Minority Report.” It’s also not necessary for success. All that is required is a common sense media strategy. For instance, if you want someone to order a beer at the bar, advertise near the bar at 10 p.m.

But marketers will need some non-personally identifiable data for measurement and attribution to know their ads are effective. There are two good solutions for this challenge.

First is modeling. There are many excellent ground truth sources of population data—starting with the census—that can be supplemented with aggregated, anonymized mobile device data to understand the audience profile of who actually saw the advertising. These profiles can even measure moving media formats like bus exteriors by leveraging GPS data for the bus routes. Several providers can supply this kind of data.

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Second is sampling. Identifying users who have explicitly opted in to tracking, data sciences companies can get a statistically relevant sample of the audiences exposed to an ad and understand their behaviors in a privacy friendly way—especially for foot traffic and digital actions. Opt-in surveys are an additional way to accomplish this.

More effective measurement will make it easier for marketers to leverage location-based advertising via OOH as an important part of their marketing mix.

The most innovative marketers are increasingly recognizing that location will be one of the most powerful forms of context for many use cases.

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Indeed, in a cookieless world, many marketers may want to keep in mind the favorite quote of real estate agents everywhere: “location, location, location.”


Chris Grosso is the CEO of Intersection, a leading out-of-home media and technology company focused on America’s largest cities.

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