Upfront Digital Media CEO: Brands Looking for Hyperlocal, Niche Audiences

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upfront digitalProgrammatic buying, which helps advertisers automate the ability to reach very specific audiences in particular locations with predictable costs, has become more and more popular among agencies and brands in the past few years.

To explore this phenomenon, we spoke recently with Jonathon Shaevitz, the CEO of Upfront Digital Media, a programmatic ad platform, who explained how large brands and small businesses alike can use these new tools to target hyperlocal audiences.

Have you seen a growth in brands looking to target hyperlocal audiences?
For sure. We are living in the age of big data. Brands today want to find very specific audiences — the equivalent of left-handed jugglers.

Let me give you the example of a large global food company that recently ran a campaign with us. This company has hundreds of thousands store locations across the country. However, they had launched a new product and wanted to target it to a few thousand hispanics in very specific zip codes. We divided the campaign into two buckets. We ran their ads on English-speaking websites and used a combination of audience and geo-targeting to deliver the desired audience. We also advertised on hispanic websites and targeted the ads to the desired areas. What’s more, this company was able to track the shipments being shipped to the different locations and correlate them to the ad buy.

So what’s more important for a brand in this context? Is it buying the right audience? Or is it being on the right site?
It really depends on an advertiser. For advertisers selling very niche products, it might make sense for them to be on a particular site. However, if advertisers want to get very specific audiences at scale, we recommend that they start buying audiences in the geographic areas they want to target. Once the campaign kicks in, they can always optimize the buy and expand their site list.

Suppose you are a dry cleaner with one location in New York. Traditionally, you might have had to confine your buy just to the local radio station or newspaper. But there’s a lot of waste associated with this approach – there’s going to be tons of people reading the local newspaper who don’t live in your specific area and who will never use your services. Today, this dry cleaner can target people living within a few blocks of his shop and show his ads on sites in the local area, and also around the world.

How do you see mobile playing a role in the future of programmatic buying?
To state the obvious, mobile is huge. Over 35% of our volume comes from mobile devices. Advertisers need to speak to consumers wherever they are, be it on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Are there specific types of mobile creative you find work well on mobile devices?
I’ll tell you what doesn’t work so well: things like the banner ads at the bottom of the screen result in a high number of accidental clicks. These units might not work so well for advertisers.

We’ve found that certain kinds of rich media creative work well. I would recommend that you keep your mobile creative targeted towards driving transactions. A retailer wanting to run a mobile ad campaign might be better served offering a coupon than running a brand awareness message.

Do you see programmatic buying playing a large role for small businesses in the future?
Programmatic has always been around for small businesses. Google had done programmatic for local businesses very well. And their new ad platform is packed with great features to help businesses target very specific audiences — a pizzeria can now serve an ad to an audience within two miles of his zip code only during the lunch hour. That’s really specific. At Upfront, we are seeing brands deploy similar campaigns with highly sophisticated target in a very successful way. I expect that this trend will accelerate for advertisers of all sizes.

How does a retailer measure if an online campaign drove sales at a particular location? Are there any methods you think work better than others?
You can use companies like IRI, Datalogix or Dynamic Logic. They can run highly targeted studies to determine if your campaign worked.

Whatever you do, I would encourage you to keep it simple. There’s this story of a hotel chain that was developing a complicated software system to determine just which newspaper had to be delivered to which room. An executive from this hotel chain happened to stay elsewhere while traveling. He was surprised to see the newspaper of his choice delivered to him in the morning. He asked the reception just how they had managed to accomplish this feat. The receptionist told him that all guests were asked to specify their preference during check-in. The bellboy then looked at the preference of each customer. He went to the newsstand and purchased the newspapers each guest wanted! So I would say that all a retailer has to do is keep it simple. Offer a coupon. Give a phone number. You’ll be able to see very soon if your strategy and creative are working.

Arun Krishnan is a marketing consultant living in Amman, Jordan.  He was previously the VP of Marketing and Communications for Pontiflex.