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Geo-Fenced Ads image

Where and when someone goes reveals a lot about them. Savvy marketers use these clues to target their ads.

Mobile apps report their user's location so they can get a range of services from requesting a ride to finding nearby restaurants. The mobile apps a person uses and their movement patterns provide even more clues about them. Businesses use this information to provide Location Based Services (LBS), and also to find new customers and advertise to them.

Campaigns can use the same approach to reach potential supporters based on their location and interests. Someone attending a rally demonstrates a certain level of interest, but how can the campaign collect details on the attendees and convert them into supporters? Students at a college, or seniors at a retirement community are other location specific groups of potential supporters.

This bulletin explains how geo-fenced ads work and how to use them in campaigns.

Geo-fencing creates a virtual perimeter around a geographical area - such as a rally at a park, school campus or a retirement center. Mobile apps such as Waze and Lyft offer their services based on the user's location. But, there also are other app whose main purpose is to collect details on their user for advertising purposes. Data brokers collect and aggregate information from such apps and sell it advertisers. This advertising method is both effective and controversial. Evan Halper explains the issues involved in his excellent LA Times article “Your phone and TV are tracking you, and political campaigns are listening in”.

Geo-fenced ads are effective because they reach people when they have shown their interest by going to particular place. Someone visiting a car dealership, for instance is a prime target to receive ads about cars for sale.

How Geo-Fencing works

How geo-fencing works
1. Mobile apps continuously transmit their user’s location which is stored with a Mobile Ad ID (MAID). This allows the user to remain anonymous while still offering marketers a great deal of targeting details about that individual. A MAID is different than a phone's Unique User ID (UUID) which is hardcoded to the device.
2. This information about users and their locations is stored in a searchable database. The data collected is historical, so marketers can even search a user's past movements.
3. Marketers search this database to identify targets to advertise to based on where and when they have been. A campaign for instance may ask for the MAIDs of users who attended a rally or were at a college at a particular time.
4. Advertisers only get a MAID and not the user's phone number.  It is possible to cross-reference a user's MAID with other demographic information such as their billing address.
5. Ads are sent to MAIDS by mobile advertising networks such as Google and Facebook and appear inside mobile apps.
6. Clicking on an ad directs the user to a web page with more details. The effectiveness of a campaign is measured by the expense incurred to generate a certain number of responses.

Time-based mobile advertising graphic

This is how a campaign to encourage college students to register to vote through geo-fenced mobile advertising work. Note that the ads can be delivered while students are at school and also afterwards when they are at home.

Encourage Geofencing

Common questions
Can the ads be delivered after a person leaves the geo-fenced area?  Yes. Ads can be delivered to a Mobile Advertiser ID (MAID) both during and after a given time period.

Can people who attended an event at a specific location in the past be targeted? Yes. Data brokers can provide MAIDs of people who attended events in the past.

Can a user's address be found from their MAID? Yes. There are services which can cross-reference MAIDs with the user's billing address.

Who ensures responsible data collection for digital advertising? Two leading groups are Privacy Shield Framework and Network Advertising Initiative.

Can ads be served through Facebook? Yes. Use the MAIDs you’ve collected with geo-fencing to create a “Custom Audience” and have Facebook deliver your ads. Android's Advertising ID (AAID) and Apple's Advertising Identifier (IDFA) are two popular IDs. (Image source: Facebook).
Creating a Custom Audience
Take away
Location specific data collected from mobile apps enable precision advertising. Campaigns can apply the same geo-fenced advertising techniques used by businesses to find and mobilize supporters. Learn more here.
Co-Founder, DemLabs
Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive groups at the national, state, and local levels. Donate here to support our work.

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