Large Brands Experimenting With Location-Based Mobile Advertising

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Agencies and publishers throughout yesterday’s Mobile Advertising Upfront said they were using location-based marketing to get advertisers to allocate a larger part of their budgets to mobile and in some cases are getting small buys from major brands early on.  Specifically, the campaigns:

  • Offer very narrow targeting (which advertisers will always pay a premium for).
  • Enable advertisers to collect information from their target audience that is unavailable through other media.
  • Help advertisers better understand consumers by analysing their behaviour through location-based analysis.

Mobile advertising is still a tiny portion of the overall online advertising pie (we estimate about 2% to 3% excluding text messaging).  In addition, location-based branding campaigns are currently niche, custom campaigns that likely do not drive a lot of volume for the overall category. However, large brands are starting to experiment with these kind of campaigns, which is encouraging for mobile publishers.  If this targeting is combined with scale, advertisers would likely make larger buys, growing the overall mobile advertising pie.

Currently, we believe Google and Apple are best-positioned to capitalise on the growth of location-based advertising in mobile.  Both have acquired mobile ad networks (Google/AdMob; Apple/Quattro) and Google recently started offering location-based product searches on mobile phones.  This could help them take share of the overall mobile advertising industry as it grows into a more meaningful part of the overall media buy.  


Havas mobile subsidiary Mobext partnered with an MIT-based company to track the behaviour of consumers known to be loyal to certain brands in order to understand 1) where a brands’ demographic spends most of their time and 2) what is happening around them.  Valuable information about consumer behaviour was collected, such as:

  • Where and how they traveled throughout the day.
  • What days they shop the most.
  • What stores they tend to favour (Pepsi drinkers tend to shop at Wal-Mart, as a hypothetical example).
  • Where they eat.

Mobext is using data like this to improve its location-based marketing offerings and bring larger advertisers onboard.  So far click-through-rates on campaigns like this have been in the 1% to 2% range (5-10 times higher than average online banner CTR) for brands like McDonalds, Sears, Amtrak, and Nike.


Clorox’s KC Masterpiece used boutique agencies George P. Johnson, MAC Presents, and mobile marketer Mozes to reach consumers at Keith Urban concerts in the US.  Clorox used mobile because it enabled the company to directly engage consumers at the concerts, gain information about them that can’t be acquired through traditional methods of sponsorship, and build a base of mobile users that can be marketed to in the future.  At the event attendees texted dedicated numbers to receive better seats, attend backstage BBQs, and win a personal BBQ with Keith Urban.

The location-based campaign enabled Clorox to make a typical on-site sponsorship measurable by collecting important data while engaging with attendees, but also enabled the brand to continue to market to consumers at these events via future opt-in mobile initiatives.  Here are some highlights:

  • 280,000 attendees texted and engaged in the onsite promotions (and Clorox retained the accompanying data on these consumers).
  • 32% of overall tour audience engaged via mobile (this includes texting for the contests, but other methods like requesting songs, for example).
  • 9% of the overall tour audience opted-in for ongoing brand promotions (very valuable to advertisers).

As mobile applications become more prevalent this kind of SMS-based communication could become more robust.

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