top of page
Family - A Seattle Advertising Agency

Common Mistakes People Make Running Geotargeting Campaigns


I walked into a large studio as my lead actress walked out of a small fitting room. She was nearly in tears. Along with the wardrobe assistant, she had arrived a tad early and my clients asked her to start auditioning outfits for our upcoming shoot. She roared at me from across the studio, “This is what they want me to wear!”

The problem was obvious. She needed to look credible. She looked… distracting. They had selected a form-fitting, colorful tee-shirt and a blazer, one size too small, for my voluptuous actress. On the far side of the studio, my clients (both men) flashed me a big smile and shook thumbs up enthusiastically.

At that moment, the rest of the wardrobe department walked in. Their eyes bugged out in horror like a Tex Avery cartoon. This was so wrong and everyone knew it. Except my clients.

Sometimes clients have bad ideas.

And lately, several clients have asked me about (or flat-out told me we’re doing) a geotargeted advertising campaign. In my experience, it can be a really effective mobile strategy. But it’s not for everyone. So don’t get caught chasing the latest shiny object. Consider all the factors you’ll need to make it work before someone walks you into the lion’s den.

What Is Geotargeting?

It’s a simple concept. An ad network serves a mobile ad to a person who visited (geotargeting) or a person who is currently in (geofencing) a specific location. Technically, it’s a little more complicated.

Your phone regularly transmits signals. Carriers can identify those signals. They don’t record sensitive information – just the fact your phone was at a specific location. So if your phone was recorded at a specific location an advertiser wants to target… bada-bing! They can send an ad to the mobile website you’re visiting.

So sometimes you’ll see an ad on a mobile website because an advertiser bought placement on that website. And sometimes you’ll see an ad on a mobile website because your phone was identified at a specific location.

Understand Your Spillage

The trick to geotargeting is knowing where your ideal customers are or will be.

Here’s an example I use all the time. My client needed a strategy to sell cowboy hats. So I studied the tour pages of top country music artists. Think: Chris Stapleton, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Then, I looked up the address of every arena they played last year. That’s a geotargeting plan. Next, I checked when and where they’re playing for the rest of the year. That’s a geofencing plan.

Here’s why that strategy worked. There are lots of people who like cowboy hats at these concerts. And since they had enough money for a concert ticket, they have a bit of discretionary income.

But keep in mind, a lot of people being served ads will never buy a cowboy hat. I refer to that as spillage. And there’s a lot of spillage in geotargeted campaigns because you’re targeting all mobile devices at a specific location. Most of the people won’t convert. But the people you can reach… are well-qualified leads.

Know Your Numbers

With geotargeting campaigns, you’re charged by the impression, not by the click, so you need to understand these clicks are going to be expensive. Expect to get fewer leads, but better leads. That’s why this type of advertising isn’t for everyone. The math doesn’t always add up.

If you work with a margin of $5 per unit… boy, a $10 cost per click doesn’t make sense. But if you have a margin of $20 or more, I’d buy those leads all day.

The only other option is to reduce your cost per impression. And the only way to do that is to swing around accounts large enough to buy direct. Again, these campaigns aren’t for everyone.

So going in, you have to understand a lot of people aren’t going to buy. But it should produce better-qualified leads – and those leads should buy enough to more than pay for the campaign.

Seeing Is Believing

With this type of advertising, you need to constantly monitor the campaign.

Check where the ads are being served. If your audience is female, then running ads on mobile sites over-indexing for men is a waste of impressions. And you’ll probably want to blacklist certain sites right up front for political views, sexual content or questionable news stories.

Know the Expiration Date

Be prepared to frequently change your creative. Geotargeted audiences ignore these ads after a few weeks. So budget accordingly.

And buy enough impressions to test multiple offers with a single audience before jumping to a different audience. You can dream up a lot of different audiences to explore. Be patient. If they’re not responding, it might not be the audience. It might be your offer.

Mobile is the whole ballgame right now.

But before you consider a mobile geotargeting campaign, make sure it’s the right fit for your product or service. Plan for the hard work it’s going to take to tame the savage beast.

Wardrobe Malfunction Averted

Who knows how we ended up with a rack full of blazers the wrong size, but one trip to a department store solved the issue. It turned a simple fitting into overtime, but the next day my actress looked fabulous. And my clients begrudgingly agreed the new ensemble was a much better option. And who could hang a price on that?

Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for freelance consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike.


Want to make your digital marketing 10x better? Read all about it.

bottom of page