Mobile Ad Targeting: A Labor of Love

Stellar creative campaigns alone may not be enough to reach the right mobile audience, at precisely the right time, with that awesome creative message.

This Valentine’s Day seems like an appropriate time to discuss every modern day marketer’s labor of love (and often biggest challenge) — attracting and converting the right audiences via mobile devices.

Armed with stunning creative campaigns, brands, app marketers and their agencies prepare to captivate audience attention and establish an emotional connection in less than 15 seconds. Yet stellar creative campaigns alone may not be enough to reach the right mobile audience, at precisely the right time, with that awesome creative message.

A critical component to executing successful mobile ad campaigns begins with the accuracy and reliability of your ad platform partner’s data and ad-serving algorithms. Your ad platform partner holds the key to effective targeting, and therefore, controls the quality of new app users or customers you acquire. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of various mobile advertising targeting technologies and strategies for the discerning mobile marketer:

Advanced Location Targeting:

The ability to identify mobile users within close proximity of a specific location. Far more exact than zip codes or geo-fencing parameters, some precision-targeting practitioners can serve ads to specific longitude/latitude locations and even detect the difference between the actual store entrance and its adjoined parking lot.

Pros: Opportunity for personalized ads and recommendations based on where the user is located at any given time. Understanding a consumer’s location is beneficial for local offers (e.g., new store grand openings), and event-specific offers (e.g., all football fans inside the arena get a free Coke while supplies last!) This type of targeting is ideal for large brands with multiple store locations (e.g., Quick Serve Restaurants, grocers, big box retailers, movie theater chains, etc.) since large brands will have the ability to reach a big enough sized audience across specific individual locations to make a campaign worthwhile.

Cons: For smaller brands with fewer retail locations, precision-location targeting may be challenging to scale. Further, location alone may not be enough to know about a consumer’s purchasing habits, likes or dislikes. (Sure, we know they are inside a pet store – but do they own a dog or a cat? For a dog-food brand, this detail is paramount.)

For this reason, in order to reach a relevant audience of a decent size, location data may also be combined with other lifestyle behavioral data. In other words, a target profile may include a precise location, combined with other consumer behaviors that have been proven to correlate with the brand. This is not actually a negative, and can be extremely effective.

Beacon Technology:

Beacons are physical sensors placed in-store that can detect mobile devices, and therefore track a shopper’s physical whereabouts while shopping.

Pros: The idea of being able to understand a consumer’s physical behavior while shopping has many implications for marketers, as well as the store managers who control inventory and in-store display/shelving placement. Beacon technology allows the provider to know if a shopper spent more time browsing in a particular aisle of the store. This information is useful for serving an ad for the item the shopper is interested in.

Cons: This technology is still a work in progress and it is still early for mainstream acceptance. Opt-in at the device level could be a barrier to entry.


Sending your ad message to past “clickers” and those who have searched for your product or brand.

Pros: You have good reason to believe these mobile users are already interested in your app or brand because they have searched for or even clicked on your product before. Don’t assume that users who have clicked but not downloaded are uninterested. Go ahead and Target the “Clickers”. The truth is that users may click on an ad many times before they download or make a purchase. These “Clickers” are actually prime candidates for conversion.