Behavioral Matchmaking, Part 3: GPS and Behavioral Targeting

In “Minority Report,” Tom Cruise’s character walks into a Gap store. The retailer, using a “futuristic” technology, identifies him and intelligently presents customized offers to him as he comes into the store. I remember this scene vividly because of what it represents for the future of advertising and marketing.

Is this advertising possible in the real world? Perhaps, if you mix the global positioning system (GPS) with behavioral targeting.

If you’re not familiar with GPS, you should be. This technology may ultimately reshape the advertising landscape (and many other communication-based industries) as it nurtures the platform which could, when behavioral targeting is applied, allow true ubiquitous and relevant messaging to be delivered to consumers.

GPS is not just a technology used by governmental military operations or consumer direction-assistant devices found at local electronic stores. It can potentially broaden the definition and application of behavioral targeting and revolutionize the concept of marketing as a whole.

How, you ask? Say “hello” to GPS, the ultimate behavioral targeting platform. And if you’re just tuning in to the series, check out parts one and two.

Marginal Prophecy or Near-Future Reality?

Consumers’ multitasking behavior isn’t news to those of us in the interactive marketing industry. Hundreds of research pieces validate the increasing percentage of consumers who watch TV, surf the Internet, glance at the newspapers, IM their friends, and talk on their mobile phones — all at the same time.

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating, but you get my point. Technological advancements in the communication industries have quantum-leaped us into an age of unparalleled media consumption and a state of “MADDness” (media attention deficit disorder).

Despite all these behavioral changes and chaotic multitasking movements, one fact remains true: All our activities still take place at a physical location, regardless of the virtual potentials “The Matrix” demonstrates. No matter how many transactions we do online, we still go to the supermarket to buy groceries, go to stores to check out the sales, and go to the movies and restaurants with friends. We still travel from point A to point B. Online is simply another dimension of life experience.

A few mobile carriers in the U.S. have already launched location-based advertising using actual signal locations of subscribers’ handsets, but currently there’s no actual linkage between offline locations and online behaviors. Behavioral targeting promises the effective delivery of offers based on the audience online. Why not combine it with the GPS system offline to create the ultimate audience-based advertising opportunity?

An Audience-Centric View

Although today’s advertising techniques have redefined the way marketers communicate with consumers, we could do better. There’s no need to limit your advertising by media silos or by individual placements. One of behavioral targeting’s main strengths is it takes away the fixation of content-based relevance in online advertising and focuses on a target-based platform.

Content-based advertising further continues marketers’ traditional obsession with editorial adjacency (equated to premium cost due to higher perceived relevance). Audience-based advertising, however, focuses on advertising delivery according to the target’s location and movement. In other words, really understanding the audience in every possible way.

Understanding the audience is key to marketing success. Kmart is considering launching a credit card to its customers to ultimately build a customer database. It hasn’t been able to build this database so far because many shoppers pay in cash. Many other retailers (e.g., supermarkets) already have this type of tracking in place to monitor what items consumers buy and purchase frequency to understand their customers.

We’ve already seen mobile-based advertising emerge. But what if we can marry consumers’ offline and online activities? Using the satellite tracking systems, combined with online behavior data, marketers could provide the currently missing link between online and off- and gain a holistic understanding of who their customers really are.

What Does It Mean for Online Media?

GPS represents much more than just a literal technology gimmick; it symbolically represents a tectonic shift in how we view and conduct advertising and marketing.

Like behavioral targeting, GPS is target- rather than place-based. Messaging delivery is based on target consumers (their whereabouts, behaviors, and patterns of media consumption). As Bill Gossman, CEO of Revenue Science, eloquently said in his recent article, “The limitation of a quality place-based inventory makes it nearly impossible to achieve broad, high-quality reach.” The collaborative use of behavioral targeting and GPS will significantly affect marketers and their continuous effort to improve dialogue with consumers.

We’re on the verge of a media revolution, with both behavioral targeting and GPS adoption. As more mobile phones become WAP (define) and GPS enabled (as seen in Asia and Europe), advertising will reach the new height most marketers have been dreaming of.

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