"Need to find the closest ATM machine or a store that sells your favorite brand of chocolate? Go online and map it," the agency advises in the most recent edition of its periodic TrendMarket report, which dubs the new advertising platform: "mapvertising."
The report, subtitled "Getting from Point A to Point Brand," notes that grass roots advertisers have always utilized promotional "brochure" maps to promote local services such as hotels, restaurants and community services, but says rapid shifts in the way consumers are utilizing new online mapping and navigational systems represents an important development for marketers seeking to target destination bound prospects.
"Maps have been around for thousands of years and predate written language. Though like a language, maps contain a system of signs and coded signals, which allow us to not only broaden our view of the world, but to position ourselves in it and make decisions about the routes we will take to change that position," the agency notes, adding, "And now, with the advent of digital and online mapping systems, this landscape is becoming more accessible and interactive than ever before. For marketers, this presents an opportunity to stake an acute position within a new ad landscape."
The report does not attempt to scale the size of the burgeoning mapvertising marketplace, but notes that brands such as Jeep, Fiat, Adidas and HBO's "The Sopranos" have embraced the medium, and that continuing advances in online mapping systems, including satellite imagery, may create new opportunities for others as big software companies such as Microsoft and Google orient their coordinates on the ad platform.
Among other things, Universal notes that paid icon ad listing on maps are beginning to become a popular extension of online search, and one that "inextricably" link a consumer's search with an advertising opportunity.
"As with search engines, maps often yield many results to a search and paid or sponsored listings are often among the options," says Universal. "On some map sites, these sponsored listings appear as little balloons which, when clicked, provide detailed information about the location, services, and often a method of contact of the advertiser."
The report includes an annotation on the leading online mapping providers, including Google, Mapquest, Microsoft and Yahoo.