Geo-targeting Dilemmas

Here’s a digital advertising dilemma. It’s about geo-targeting and first party data which, admittedly, isn’t a ‘thing’ for many people.

Anyway, here’s the scenario.

This week I have been working in Australia. It’s lovely to be here, even if it is one of those weeks when it’s warmer in the UK. I have been making use of the hotel’s over-priced wifi because I do have work to do during the UK day. As a result, I’ve spent sometime surfing the web.

As you would imagine, I am seeing lots of digital ads for Australian things, including a campaign for ING Direct featuring West Yorkshire’s very own magician, Dynamo. The magic’s quite clever and you can see it on YouTube . It’s this campaign that got me thinking.

This bank account isn’t much use to me. I don’t live here. I’m sure it’s a very fine account and they have noble aims to make Australians take a better lunch break. But I am not going to open one. Sorry.

Or there’s this video for the ‘Australia Works’ campaign. I think it’s a very well made video but it’s party political and I’m a visitor not a citizen.

Now, I’ve also seen a reasonable amount of this Nivea campaign. This may, or may not, be a local campaign (it’s certainly a local voice-over on the video and a local landing page) but at least most of the products, in some form, would be available to me at home. The sites in question probably used the data I provided them to tell them I am male so that I get the version of the product that tries to reassure me it’s very butch to moisturise.

If I’d seen all of these advertisements on a local Australian site that would be fine1 but I didn’t. I saw them all on sites where I am a known, registered and logged-in user. I’ve given all the sites in question some information – partly because they promise to better target ads to me – and they probably collect a lot more data about me. All of which would tell them I do not live in Melbourne; a fact from which they could infer I am probably visiting. Why show me advertisements that are lovely to look at but, ultimately, wasted on me?

It’s not just the sites at fault. Some advertisers specify that ads should be geo-locked within a specific county, which will limit the pool of available creative. That’s enormously short-sighted if you’re placing them on sites that understand I am probably travelling. And that explicitly know I am British.

I know the technology exists to solve this problem so why, in 2013, when we’re all talking about understanding users better to show only relevant advertising, are we getting this so horribly wrong?


1Actually it probably wouldn’t be fine; there are plenty of audience data sources that could work this out for them, but for the purposes of this argument we’ll let it go.

One thought on “Geo-targeting Dilemmas”

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