When You Gotta Go, Look out for Ads

A user-created directory of public toilets offers a new opportunity for local advertisers.

Yojo Mobile announced yesterday that MizPee, its mobile search solution built around this directory, is expanding beyond its San Francisco beta to include other metro regions.

While an advertiser’s first thought might be not to associate her bar or coffee shop with the urgent needs of people on the street, the WAP site presents hyper-local advertising opportunities and sponsorships.

Yojo CEO Peter Olfe told ClickZ News small businesses don’t have many options to market themselves. “With the mobile Web, even local search, it doesn’t get you down to that level. It gets you to the city, or a [larger] neighborhood], but this gets you even closer,” he said. This service specifies the distance a user is from a public toilet, or advertiser, based on a person’s query.

A search for public toilets near the intersection of Geary and Market streets in San Francisco, for instance, identifies the closest 45 toilets sorted by the approximate number of feet from a user’s location. A text ad below the first page of results states “Free coffee, 870 feet away.” A click through to the ad tells the location, and instructs users to show the screen and “tell them that MizPee sent you!” to redeem the coupon.

The offer for free coffee was available all day, though Olfe suggests that ad units can be activated to help businesses manage capacity. A local movie theater can place an ad as showtime approaches if it has remaining tickets. A restaurant with 10 empty tables can buy the same number of impressions to run on MizPee. An alternative for advertisers is to daypart messages to reach consumers when they are most likely to respond to the ad.

While local businesses access the ad management platform from a PC, it’s also possible to create or activate an ad by a cell phone. “Bars and restaurants, more often than not, they don’t have a PC, or maybe it’s in the back office,” said Olfe. “They can go to their mobile phone and activate or deactivate something they have created already.”

Currently MizPee has listings in Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington D.C. and is ramping up its local sales force. Yojo partnered with a mobile ad network to run national ads. “To make this really effective, we actually need a huge sales force,” said Olfe.

Listings are populated primarily by site users who add and rate locations. MizPee also has a section called “Looisms” with trivia to entertain users after a search. Olfe said there are opportunities for sponsorship of the Looisms and other sections. An additional deals section lists ads sorted by area.

Yojo plans to launch MizPee in European cities some time next year, and is developing a similar listings site for parents on the go.

Publishing a directory of public restrooms isn’t a new idea. Vindigo, whose offerings include city guides to restaurants and services, also has a listing of public restaurants in metro areas.

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