Brands Hope to Use Mobile to ‘Conquer’ Competitors’ Locations

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Flag Mobile-local ad network xAd has released a new report that shows a substantive increase in interest from brands in geo-conquesting, the technique of targeting messaging to users at or near a competitor’s location. During the second quarter, nearly one third of every lat-long targeted campaign run on the network included some form of geo-conquesting strategy, up from 22% from a quarter earlier.

Overall, campaigns that included some form of geo-conquesting saw a slightly lower click-through rate than the more traditional geo-fencing efforts, which focus on the areas around a business own locations. But messaging to competitors’ locations generated higher engagement with secondary metrics — like users accessing a store locator or getting driving directions. In a campaign with Outback Steakhouse, ads targeted within five miles of competitors’ locations saw an 11% lift in the number of users who clicked through to a store locator compared to ads served around the company’s own restaurants.

For the most part, the tactic is another arrow in a still-incomplete mobile quiver. Brands are using geo-conquesting to combat dips in sales, particularly in markets where a new competitor has recently entered the market, says Monica Ho, VP of marketing at xAd. Outback, for instance, use the used the tactic in part to counteract a strong promotion by a competitor in a specific market.

Overall, hyperlocal targeting appears to be catching on. In the second quarter, xAd saw a 40% jump in the percent of campaigns that involved some form of hyperlocal targeting. However, that growth is not coming evenly. The company saw increased adoption in Q4 2012 followed by a weak Q1 2013, a trend that Ho says reflects the seasonal attitude of brands toward more advanced geo-targeting strategies.

It’s not a silver bullet, but the growth of geo-conquesting is a strong indicator that advertisers are starting to think about local-targeting in a more nuanced manner. Brand marketers need scale to justify spending, and competitive conquesting opens up another basket of inventory to which marketers can message. To solve the scale problem, it’s not just a matter of increasing the amount of hyperlocal inventory, but finding new ways to use a larger percentage of the existing supply.

Other tactics like device profiling, in which advertisers target devices based on the location data in past impressions, will also start to play a bigger role. These tools not only allow advertisers to move beyond the “right here, right now” use case, but they dramatically expand the amount of inventory, which a local-mobile ad tech firm can touch.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.