Three ways geo-targeting can drive better performance

Joe Webster

Planning Director

Let’s paint a picture: You’re planning a media campaign. You’ve identified your audiences and started to build segments based on various behaviours, interests and demographics. Maybe you’ve also thought about where that user is based. Is it a UK campaign? Does your brand perform better in certain regions? Do you have physical locations and want to increase awareness in that vicinity?


But what if you could use location to do more?

We’re living in a mobile-first world

How frequently over the last 5-10 years have you been told “it’s the year of mobile”? Well, that time has passed. It no longer needs to be said, because our mobile phones are ingrained in our day-to-day lives. According to Statista, almost 50% of all smartphone users spent over five hours a day on their phone in 2017, and over half of those were on their phones for more than seven hours a day. Almost an entire working day – or a night’s sleep!


Doesn’t sound possible? Just think about your average morning. You wake up to the alarm on your mobile, check your messages and catch up on the news. Before leaving the house, you use your phone to check the trains. On the commute, you’re glued to your screen, catching up on a box set, checking the sports results or scrolling through social media. Notification: It’s Tom’s Birthday! You quickly send a DM to your colleague to organise a card in the office. Now there are transport issues, so you check your phone for alternative routes, relying on Google Maps to get you there. And that’s all before 9am.


The point is, it’s no longer the year of mobile. This is a mobile-first world. They’re at the centre of everything we do, and that is a massive opportunity.


It’s likely we spend almost as much time engaging with our phones as we do actively processing thoughts, theories and ideas. Mobiles have become an extension of our consciousness, which means marketers have a captive audience. It seems we’re not that far from Futurama – having content streamed straight into our brains. The mobile device is just a stepping stone.


It can seem scary – like The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. But this is why we’re a regulated industry with acronyms like the IAB, ASA and GDPR. It’s why platforms have strict regulations on what and how you can advertise – particularly in the field of relevancy to the user. Ultimately, the industry only works if we can enrich a user’s experience, not interrupt and irritate. We have to be respectful.


So how do we deliver meaningful messages to the audiences we want to reach?


I believe mobile and location are key – geotargeting, in other words.  Let’s take a closer look at what it can do, what it can tell us and what it means for reporting and results.

Combining out-of-home with mobile geotargeting

Let me give you an equation: ((audience x device) + location) + out of home = improved click-through rate (CTR).


iCrossing UK ran a summer brand campaign for a leading travel provider who wanted to increase awareness and consideration, leading to an uptake in products and services. While this was a vast, integrated campaign across multiple channels and media types, one tactic proved to be highly effective – combining out-of-home (OOH) and geotargeting.


Location was always key for this client – in terms of catchment area, but also demographics and competitor battle zones. As a result, there was always an intention to run mobile geotargeting for various strategies, including reaching commuters at specific times during the day. But the magic here came from working directly with the offline agency to integrate with OOH media buying.


While digital flexibility allowed us to run across more locations than OOH alone, we upweighted digital presence through mobile display placements around known OOH locations. The creative was adapted to provide a complementary, cross-media messaging strategy. The mobile and OOH creative worked independently, but provided a deeper, more enriching story when brought together.


As a result, we saw an almost 50% increase in CTR on mobile display when ads were served in the vicinity of OOH media, compared to those that were shown independently in non-OOH locations. The impact was even greater at train stations in peak hours (which do historically have a higher dwell time – thanks, Southern Rail!), with an almost 65% increase in CTR when paired with OOH media compared to those without.

Using location to define audiences

In the case study above, the user’s mobile device told us their current location, helping to inform the creative served, dependent on the time. But what can historical, ringfenced location data tell us about our audience?


Sometimes a brief lands on your desk and you’re left scratching your head about how to reach that niche audience. Standard tactics like third-party audiences, contextual keywords, topics, placements and publishers aren’t always the answer.


Location doesn’t necessarily inform the whole story, but it can contribute significantly to the puzzle, providing the perfect marriage between real-world and virtual behaviours. Frequency is also key – a single sighting in a location does not indicate intent. Frequency and layering of information points are important.


Let’s look at teenagers interested in science and technology, for example. While many platforms have demographic targeting, it’s not possible to segment for under-18s specifically. But using location data and frequency, we can identify users regularly seen in secondary schools within school hours on a daily basis.

Geolocation and footfall

As an extension of audience information, what if we were to look at location data in other ways? We know it can be used to inform us of audience types and to reach those users, but this data can also help us plan the best places to advertise.


Why separate online and offline? As a digital agency, we sit on huge amounts of data and insight from our campaigns. That data can be used to help us plan and execute media delivery based on the locations of best-performing ads. This can impact bid adjustment, placement and creative in certain regions, but taking this one step further can give us insight into the planning of locations for OOH media.


As an extension of this, using a geo-ringfence allows planners to examine high footfall traffic areas of interest, whether in proximity to a real-world store or perhaps a desired audience catchment area – like gyms, coffee shops or travel agents. This can then help to define the selection for OOH and mobile campaigns.

Measurement of offline media

How can you measure the effectiveness of a billboard? Did it result in real-world sales or more visits to your website?


Typically, this is a hard question to answer, and there are various methods of measurement, including engagement and awareness surveys and econometrics. Combining your OOH with mobile technology, however, can be a more tangible and comprehensive measurement tool, enabling us to tell better stories and use that insight and data to enrich further campaign activity.


Looking back at our case study example where we served mobile display creatives near OOH media, exposed users can be tracked for in-store footfall with a geo-ringfence to that area. It’s also possible to action this for non-digitally exposed users. If the user is near a billboard, with latitude and longitude-pinpointed accuracy, the same tech can be applied to measure footfall in-store.


In summary, geolocation is more than just the targeted area in which ad content is served. Historical location habits can inform audience and media, and real-time location can determine the media that’s displayed, but also provide traceable results and insights. It’s how we combine these elements that helps us deliver a results-driven, integrated media campaign.



Case in point. We no longer simply carry devices, they are an extension of ourselves. A portal we use to access our desires, but also a window for others into our behaviours and movements. Not only in The Twilight Zone, but wherever people walk upon this earth – our mobile world.

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