170 U.S. Brands Are Already Using This Ad Tech That Can Target People in a Specific Building

xAd shows how precise location data is getting

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The motto of the 28th annual Mobile World Congress is "The Edge of Innovation," and xAd's message at the conference is particularly on theme. The New York tech company can literally target you with an ad based on the edges of the building in which you stand, a capability that's brought to life with an accuracy-verification data feed called Blueprints. 

Blueprints works with xAd's larger program dubbed Footprints, a satellite-based system that has been recently utilized in the United States and is now going live in the United Kingdom. It lets brands visualize audiences based on store locations and then target these consumers with mobile ads.

So, in theory, a lingerie retailer can be confident that when it is trying to steal customers currently browsing a a competitor brand's shelves, its campaign is hitting the right targets. The marketer can not only view the location data—the numbers, in other words—but it can actually see the buildings or areas it is zeroing in on.

The bevy of xAd clients in the U.K. that will now have the system at their disposal include Adidas, Pinkberry and Walmart-owned Asda, while 170 brands (including Outback Steakhouse, as seen in the example below) have quietly been leveraging the system in the U.S.

The targeting tools mark a departure from the less-precise ad-serving capability known as geo-fencing, which has for years been based on postal addresses, said Scott Zalaznik, xAd's global head of retail. In the past, the lingerie retailer—to stay with the same hypothetical advertiser—may have believed it was getting in front of a competitor's customers when it was actually just reaching motorists driving down the road.

"The No. 1 enemy of pure location audiences is actually the highway," Zalaznik explained. "We needed to build technology that finds the building themselves."

As of right now, his company can supply mobile advertisers with 16 million "custom fences," as xAd calls them. Through partnerships with numerous popular mobile apps (Accuweather, The White Pages, etc.), xAd is able to target millions upon millions of consumers. 

Additionally, its Footprints software helps retailers get a sense of how many smartphone-toting folks are in competitors' stores. For instance, in a demo given to Adweek on Wednesday, one could know that there were exactly 921,366 people in Walmart's stores at 10:15 a.m. ET. 

Meanwhile, location data has been a hot topic here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. In a speech, AOL Platforms CEO Bob Lord said that now that mobile data is improving, it's time for creative to make a big jump in quality and relevance.

"I have placement nailed; I know where you are and what you're doing," Lord said. "But the reality is that to get to that person and break through … instead of four creative treatments, I need 4,000 creative treatments. Once I have placement nailed I can overlay the index of creativity on top of it and optimize not only the placement but the creativity, but the challenge is getting that."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.