Digital advertising is still in its adolescence, and companies are struggling to get it right. Facebook’s most recent digital ad crisis, where it allowed advertisers to filter users by ethnicity, resulted in housing discrimination. In this article William Merchan, CMO, Pathmatics, talks about how companies of all sizes can learn from Facebook, and can properly leverage geolocation in digital advertising.
Compared to the ad industry as a whole, digital advertising is still in its adolescence. As a result, marketing teams across industries are endlessly testing different combinations of social campaigns, website banners, and video pre-roll ads to find the best combination to reach the right audience, boost awareness, create leads, and achieve the myriad of other items in a marketing team’s laundry list. While nailing the perfect marketing campaign mix is improbable, the right mix of ad ingredients-- think engaging creatives, quick and quippy copy, and perhaps most importantly, precise geotargeting--can help.
Geotargeting is when a brand delivers targeted ads to users based on their location. While the idea is simple, many marketers have learned that successful geotargeting can be difficult to execute, and when done poorly can take down an entire campaign. Just look at Facebook’s most recent digital ad crisis, where the company allowed advertisers to filter users by ethnicity, resulting in housing discrimination against minority groups. The brands involved lost credibility and trust with their audiences, which is often hard to earn back.
Also Read: 4 Reasons Why Location-based Marketing is Set to Disrupt Marketing in 2019
This problem isn’t unique to Facebook advertisers. Companies large and small can make geotargeting mistakes, lessening their ads’ effectiveness on prospects and clients, and in more serious cases, resulting in the loss of potential customers altogether. To learn from mishaps, here are three key lessons marketers should note to avoid poorly performing ads and nail their geotargeting strategy.
Stop chasing unicorns
One question that many marketing teams scratch their collective heads over is: How do we know we’re targeting the right audience? Though tricky to figure out, advertisers can, and should, strike a healthy balance between casting a wide-enough net and personalizing a message to resonate with target consumers.
However, companies often chase after audience “unicorns.” These are rare, if not impossible-to-find consumers from an ultra-specific subset of the population. For example, if a popular women’s retail brand is interested in targeting millennial women, chasing unicorns might look like tailoring ads specifically to females in their 20’s who shop at Target on Tuesday after an evening yoga class.
Marketers implementing this kind of strategy aren’t likely to see much engagement, so it’s crucial to widen the net just enough to include a variety of potential consumers who fit desired personas. Targeting a larger age range (18-35, for example, in lieu of 20-25 years old), or expanding location settings (outside of consumers who solely shop at Target), at the onset of your digital ads publishing, are both great places to start.
Don’t fence in your ad strategy
Though they sound similar, geofencing and geoframing are two very different ways to go about geotargeting.
Geofencing is a technique using mobile GPS to create a geographic, virtual “fence” that alerts advertisers when potential consumers enter or exit a specified, virtual area. This is a solid strategy for companies targeting mobile users in a specific location who want consumers to see their ads immediately after stepping inside “the fence.” For example, if your company is a big box retailer, you might set up geofencing around a competitor’s location so potential customers receive your ad upon entering the desired area.
There are downsides to this approach, however. Simply because a potential customer is in a specific area does not mean they are shopping at the competitor’s location. Additionally, geofencing often relies on bad actors – e.g. fake users or those who just grazed the geofence – in the data, due to the virtual boundaries often based on GPS or RFIDs that make it hard to pinpoint customers at precise locations.
Geoframing and geofencing methods both collect the same unique ad IDs of mobile devices located within a specific latitude and longitude. The difference with geoframing is that the anonymized data is scrubbed to protect personal security and tracked back to the home, where ads are served just days later through devices connected to the household IP. Despite the ability to serve ads in real-time with geofencing, many companies find geoframing more efficient as they see increased conversions and higher click-through rates (CTRs).
Also Read: What is Geolocation and How is it Being Used in Targeting and Advertising?
Ditch programmatic, invest in mobile
There’s another digital ad trend that’s slowly making an exit from the industry: programmatic advertising. In the past, many brands have invested heavily in programmatic ad spend, but this strategy often leaves marketers blind to when and where their ads are being placed and exactly what audience they are reaching.
In the last few years, there’s been a discernible shift in big brands’ advertising strategies and mixes. Major brands like Spotify and Walmart are minimizing or completely eliminating programmatic ad spend from their digital ad strategies in exchange for complete visibility into where and how their ads are being placed.
As consumers tune in to brands’ digital marketing tactics (including real-time geotargeting), marketers will have to shift their focus off programmatic. A possible solution: Invest more in mobile, which continues to skyrocket in usage. Between 2016 and 2018, consumers’ time in-app grew 50 percent globally, with app store downloads increasing 35 percent. This is good news for brands, as mobile and in-app advertising allow for more direct and personalized targeting.
Using geolocation to level up
As the advertising ecosystem continues to evolve, marketers must adapt in order to succeed. Big brands like P&G;, Walmart, and Microsoft have lead the way by crafting and shifting their ad strategies expertly. By creating not just ads, but full experiences for the user, it’s no surprise that these brands continue to lead the pack in digital advertising. Companies can now quickly identify where their audience lies and update ads at the click of a mouse – a level of personalization that hasn’t existed before. By heeding these three simple lessons, marketing and advertising teams can stop chasing unicorns, and implement successful digital ad strategies.