5 Ways to Use Location-Targeted Ads During a Pandemic

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With millions of people cooped up at home for months on end, location targeting has taken on a new purpose. While out-of-home (OOH) advertising dropped significantly this spring, the industry began to rise again in early summer as states began to loosen their shelter-in-place orders. That sort of ebb and flow is expected to continue through the fall.

In the meantime, savvy brand marketers are finding better ways to take advantage of location-targeted advertising to inform consumers about shifting variables such as store hours of operation and social distancing requirements. Despite some apprehension among advertisers worried about seeming to capitalize on a catastrophe, surveys show that consumers are OK with being targeted with ads right now. More than 90% of people surveyed say they think brands should continue advertising during the crisis.

Here are five examples of ways that brands can start using location-targeted advertising to more effectively connect with consumers during the pandemic.

1. Creating Geofences (and Exclusions)
Billboards are out. So are many of the other channels that brands have traditionally used to connect with consumers during their morning and evening commutes. Instead, some brands are creating geofences around the places where they know their customers are going. For example, even during a pandemic, we can’t avoid going to the grocery store or the gas station. Many people are flocking to open spaces like public parks as well. Instead of creating geofences around their actual places of business, retail stores and restaurants are putting geofences around the places where people are spending time right now, and they’re sending promotions, like discounts and limited-time deals, to bring those people back to their stores.

2. Using Street-Level Smart Screens
Fewer people are commuting, but ride sharing vehicles are still crawling the streets in most metro areas. Brands are capitalizing on this by running programmatic ads on smart screens placed on top of ride sharing cars. Unlike static car-top displays, smart screens can change depending on the vehicle’s location in real-time. So a restaurant’s advertisement might only display when the ride sharing car is within one-mile of its location. Or, an ad for a shoe company might only display when the vehicle is near a park with running trails.

3. Optimizing for Time
Every dollar counts for brand marketers facing budget cutbacks. One of the ways brands are getting more juice from location-targeted advertising during the pandemic is by adjusting the ad scheduling on their campaigns. Brands can use knowledge of their target audiences to determine the ideal time to turn their ads on and off. For example, a brick-and-mortar retailer might only run OOH ads during the hours when its stores are open. Or, a coffee chain might put its location-targeted campaigns on pause in the afternoons, when people are less likely to be drinking caffeine. Being able to pause ads based on real-time conditions is one of the reasons why targeted advertising gained such a foothold to begin with, and it’s continuing to be a game changer during the current crisis.

4. Targeting Entire Households
Technology from location-powered advertising firms like Blis is being used during the Covid era to help brand advertisers identify and reach entire households at scale. With the right targeting technology, and using historical location behaviors, brands can deliver personalized ads to multiple devices in the same home. This strategy is especially effective during times of state or county lockdowns, when essential purchases for the entire household are most likely being made by just one person.

5. Focusing on Connected TVs
The channels that brands use to connect with audiences have changed during the pandemic. Some channels have become significantly less effective, while others have grown in popularity. According to data from Nielsen, there has been a nearly 60% increase in the amount of content watched, and three-fourths of consumers have broadened their media options through streaming subscriptions and TV connected devices. This makes advertising through connected TVs especially lucrative for brands, and particularly those brands that can target their ads to specific audiences. We know that a consumer who is watching TV is likely to be at home, so the ideal messaging here would be different–perhaps focusing on comfort and security–as compared to the messaging a brand would use to target consumers who are outside at a park or playground.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.