Commentary

Location, Location, Location

I can't believe we're winding down our first calendar year of the Digital Outsider (officially begun in May), and I'm pretty happy with the stories we've uncovered so far on the digital transformation of the outdoor media business.

So beginning today, and over the next few columns, I'd like to spend some time thinking about where digital out-of-home may be going next. If you've got any ideas, insights or theories you'd like to share with me, feel free to post them here or email me personally at joe@mediapost.com.

Today, I'd like to think about how outdoor media is beginning to become integrated with online. I think we all sort of take it for granted that any digital medium can be linked to the Internet, and most if not virtually all of the digital out-of-home efforts I've seen over the past year either have an IP element to them, or they are planning for one. Being connected online has all sorts of implications for place-based media that I think we could explore in several conversations -- the role of digitally downloading dynamic, addressable creative and programming content on the fly; the ability for people to interact with campaigns based on their proximity, as well as the content; the potential to extend those relationships into other media that may tap other kinds of content that are part of a broader communications process.

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Those are all important developments. Right now, I'd like to zero in on the data that is beginning to emerge that will enable marketers, agencies and content owners to target people based on where they are. It's a new layer of contextual targeting. And it is a potentially powerful component of behavioral marketing. Let's put aside the privacy discussion for now, and simply focus on the value of providing people with relevant content based on who they are and where they are.

Over the past year, I've gotten to see some interesting applications in this direction, and I do believe that outdoor media increasingly will move toward a behavioral-based planning and buying model, just like the Internet before it, and just as TV is poised to do -- if not all media.   

A number of agencies have already begun integrating proximity into their planning systems, and some providers have begun making it available in their buying, planning, and dashboard systems. SeeSaw Networks comes to mind. I'm not a practitioner, and I only write about this stuff, but SeeSaw's "life stage" planning system makes immense sense to me.

SeeSaw, if you don't recall, is a network of place-based video affiliates in every imaginable location. The power of their planning and buying system is that it enables advertisers to buy reach based on the activities of people in various locations. That could be across networks to reach people in different geographic proximities that relate to a life experience -- like traveling -- or within a specific venue to follow another human behavior, like shopping. The advertising and programming content you might be interested in while visiting the hard goods section of a supermarket can be very different than what you're looking for in produce, but they may also relate. Those are creative challenges, for sure. Just as they are communications planning opportunities.

"Until relatively recently, we haven't had the ability to incorporate location at a granular level," Alistair Goodman told me recently. Goodman is CEO of Placecast, a company that has been cobbling together its own advertising network comprised of location-based media online, mobile, via Wi-Fi, or in fixed locations. To date, most of Placecast's reach is comprised of Web destinations, and increasingly, mobile and Wi-Fi venues, but he foresees 2009 as a year when the "Web will be connected to the physical world," along with the introduction of data-mining that will enable online advertisers -- as well as the offline kind -- to base more of their planning decisions based on geographic proximities, and all the human behaviors they entail.

"We are approaching a time when we will have the ability to customize everything we deliver to the consumer, including the location. That could be content. It could be advertising. It could anything."  For now, Goodman says that still is a bit of a Holy Grail. The reality is that the quality of data integrating online and geographic destinations still has a way to go. And we will have to deal with all the obvious issues before it gets there: a debate over consumer privacy concerns, potential regulation and the development of industry standards.

2 comments about "Location, Location, Location ".
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  1. Kishore Jethanandani from Self-employed, December 21, 2008 at 1:15 p.m.

    The key issue is outdoor media with targeting at a granular level. Outdoors provide a great opportunity for micro-targeting with the presence of a diversity of small businesses, context and locations. Outdoor billboards cannot do the hyper-local targeting. We have developed a technology for display of media on wheels. Some information can be found at www.ledwheels.com. I would be interested to hear about how advertising agencies could use this new Autocasting medium.

  2. David H. Deans, January 11, 2009 at 6:24 p.m.

    Often overlooked, small local-only retailers have an opportunity to utilize digital signage.

    Perhaps we'll see a low-cost P2P network emerge in 2009, where small retailers can join a local affiliate network and syndicate rich media Ads with their peers nearby. There are lots of models, beyond traditional network distribution, yet to be explored.

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