Targeting Consumers in All the Right Places

Every time someone figures out a way to connect a device to the Internet, it seems the device is also used to deliver advertising.

Take the recent announcement that elevators in office buildings will soon be showing news and entertainment content along with advertising. This was followed by the news that ATMs will be upgraded and connected to the Internet to display movie trailers and other advertisements.

Talk about new media! When banks and elevators become online media, it opens a vast range of targeting opportunities.

When I first heard about the plans to install Internet-enabled monitors in elevators, I thought it was a novel idea. It took me a while to realize just how many ways advertising could be targeted to those viewers.

But when Wells Fargo announced it started installing web-enabled ATM machines to run a variety of video material, including advertising, it quickly became clear to me that we’ve entered a new age in which Internet advertising will become ubiquitous.

The potential for placing highly targeted ads in public Internet displays could be tremendous if operators tap into the profile data already available to them. For example, if sophisticated artificial intelligence were used in elevators to track the behavior of occupants in order to optimize the placement of cars within the building and minimize waiting time.

Just imagine what could happen if elevator Internet media were to use data on floor selection. Media buyers could request ads to be displayed when:

  • Specific floors (with key prospects) have been selected
  • Top floors are selected, providing more time for an ad to be seen
  • Several floors are selected, providing a larger audience
  • Going up in the morning as people head to computers at their desks
  • Going down on Friday afternoons as people head for entertainment

Of course, whenever there’s the potential for improving media targeting with profile data, there’s also the potential for abuse if privacy is compromised. For instance, data from traditional mailing list companies about the occupants of specific buildings could be used to influence which ads are placed in those building.

But targeting ads with elevators doesn’t begin to compare with the kind of targeting that’s possible with bank ATMs.

The new Wells Fargo ATMs display news headlines across the bottom of the screen and allow users to see movie trailers and other videos. Once their network of ATMs is fully web-enabled, Wells Fargo expects to offer stock quotes, e-commerce, and certain types of online banking that currently require a web browser.

There is some question as to whether customers will accept these advertising-supported ATMs. The increased wait time while previous customers viewed the latest movie trailer immediately drew a reaction from waiting customers at the first web-enabled ATMs.

As other banks upgrade their ATM networks and compete for advertising budgets, I’m sure some bank executive will consider using customer profile data to target ads. Banks have the potential to target ads based on account balance, as well as the number and type of accounts a customer has. And if customers use the bank’s credit or debit cards, purchase behavior is already on file.

However, my observation is that banks have not been using the profile data they already have. Personally, I’ll just be glad when my bank’s ATM remembers which accounts I have, that I always want a printout, and that I don’t need to see another ad for online banking because I already use this service.

Whether these new media use anonymous profiling, applications such as elevator traffic, or individual personalization, it’s clear we’ll soon be seeing more and more opportunities to target consumers in public places.

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