Users of old cell phones are already used to being the target of snide remarks. Now, they are also the target of customized mobile ads from RadioShack.
Starting last November, the electronics retailer began running ads on the Verve Wireless network encouraging consumers with older mobile devices to visit their nearest RadioShack. By using Verve's dynamic location banner, the ads alerted users to the location of the RadioShack nearest them at the time they were seeing the ad.
The idea is to lift RadioShack's mobile phone sales - a significant portion of its business - by targeting people whose contracts are likely to be expiring.
"Forty percent of their sales comes from mobile devices," said Elizabeth Elliott, senior associate and mobile consultant at Mindshare Chicago, which handled the media buy for RadioShack. "So we figured if we can communicate to a person on a mobile device knowing that device has been in the market for 18 months or more, we can assume that they may be ready to renew their phones sooner rather than later."
The ads appear on sites and in apps within the Verve network that already require the user to provide location data, such as those that give weather reports or help find restaurants.
Targeting devices was possible because Verve's network shows "device type, sometimes model (depending on device) and operating system…all anonymously of course," said Greg Hallinan, CMO of Verve, in an e-mail. "By targeting older BlackBerry devices for example, it is a safe assumption that at a minimum their contract term has passed at least once, and the fact that they are on an older device, OS, etc…you can more accurately infer they are due for an upgrade."
"We combine this with our location data and offline audience data to create targeting 'zones,' which should also yield a higher percentage of consumers in the market for a new phone," he added.
RadioShack is not releasing data on its mobile phone sales, but Verve said the holiday portion of the campaign showed two times the engagement rate of the national average, leading the retailer to renew the campaign this year. Highest click-through rates were on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The original campaign ran from November 7, 2011 through December 14, 2012. RadioShack renewed in Q1, and it is ongoing, according to Mindshare's Elliott.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
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