Digital place-based media — the screens you see at the grocery checkout or in the back seat of your taxi — offers brand marketers a unique way to reach a particular customer at a particular moment. But does filling up these moments of boredom make sense?
We spoke to Garry McGuire, CEO of RMG Networks, about why digital place-based media is taking off, and what to consider before jumping in.
First, why even consider digital place-based media for content marketing?
The industry launched about five years ago, when we as marketers and advertisers found it very difficult to reach the same audiences we were reaching with traditional media. The number of TV channels, websites, and custom publications has become so large that consumers have more choice, and the audience is more fragmented.
The context of location, or “place,” is an important filter for the message. If you think about place-based media, it allows us as marketers to know something about the people who are consuming that content. We know where they are (e.g., on an airplane; in a particular city), we may have the ability through credit card data to know where they live and their economic status, and we may even know — based on their location and time of day — their frame of mind at that moment.
Can you give us an example of how a brand uses digital place-based media in an interesting way?
Every marketer has different challenges they’re trying to overcome. Lincoln, the car company, has been working very hard over the past few years to change the look and perception of its brand to appeal to a luxury car buyer who’s a little bit younger — someone who might currently be driving a Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes. Traditional advertising is a great way to introduce the product, but it’s much more difficult to persuade people to change their opinion about a product; it takes a much longer conversation to do that.
Lincoln streams content across almost all of the U.S. airlines, using long-form content combined with 30-second TV spots on seat-back screens across all of its fleets. The company uses custom, long-form content to show — in a reality TV moment — the experience and reactions of luxury car owners as they test-drive a Lincoln. Lincoln [shot footage] from around the country, interviewing people [as they compared] Lincoln cars with other luxury cars.
The interesting thing about that example is this: You could never afford to buy the traditional TV time to show that type of long-form content, and you’d probably have a hard time getting people’s attention while they’re at home sifting through 200 channels of DirecTV. But an airplane is a really interesting opportunity to have a longer conversation, when the consumer is looking for something to pass the time.
Lincoln has done a lot of research around this particular campaign, and it showed. Lincoln had a 286 percent lift in “intent to consider” the Lincoln brand going forward by luxury car buyers.
How do CMOs sort out whether these micro-channels truly serve their particular customer?
Individual place-based media companies typically own a particular slice of the market. For example, Adspace has leadership in shopping malls. Adspace set up most U.S. shopping malls with what is effectively a private advertising network targeting consumers based on what time of day they shop. Then there’s Zoom Media, which owns most of the content you see in a gym as you’re working out. They also can tell, based on time of day, who’s most likely to be working out (e.g., business people, moms, singles, etc.) and the programming varies based on those audiences.
Each of these networks works with Nielsen to understand the attributes of the audience served by its channel. There’s a lot of data and analytics that go into understanding who exactly is watching the content in a particular place, at a particular time.
How does a CMO begin to solve this problem of developing a custom message for a custom place and “moment”?
We’re so accustomed to producing television spots that broadcast to the masses, so many marketers are still adjusting to this notion of customization. If you think of the up-front TV-buying process, major advertisers buy most of their media at just one point each year, and commit to this traditional TV model in one gulp. This past year was an exception in that many CMOs challenged their agencies to find a video-neutral ad strategy that combined things like broadcast TV with online video, digital place-based video, and mobile video. The latter three all allow for extremely high degrees of customization to target your message based on time of day, what someone is doing at that moment and the extrapolated needs and wants of that consumer at that point.
Creating custom video upends how marketers and agencies work. Instead of a single, big-budget ad, we’re talking about multiple videos, messages and channels. How are marketers and agencies adjusting?
The agency world is really embracing this because it’s so difficult to produce a piece of content that works in every environment with very broad audiences. Digital agencies in particular seem to be embracing it the fastest — largely because they’ve been doing it the past two years with online video.
There’s a massive paradigm shift going on in the TV world right now, which is sort of the 800-pound gorilla of advertising and media. That transformation is called IPTV (internet protocol television). As it becomes fully rolled out, IPTV offers you, the advertiser, the ability to say, “I’m really only looking to target people who drive this particular type of car or have this particular demographic profile.” You’ll be able to drill right down to the ZIP code or the street address for your media buy.
Companies like TiVo have always done very customized, targeted advertising content to specific consumers — but it was always for such a small percentage of the total population that it was a niche-style medium. If you look at some of the big place-based media companies, they are starting to rival television in terms of reach. For example, our company’s network only serves airports and airplanes, but we reach more than 35 million people per month with our content. As you look at the next generation of TV with targeted IPTV and IP advertising, you’ll see a lot of major Fortune 100 brand advertisers moving quickly towards this type of customized content and customized message for a specific location.
You mentioned Lincoln as an example of a sophisticated brand in this space. Can you think of a sophisticated B2B brand using place-based media?
Dell is a great example. Dell already had educational content on its website, on topics ranging from enterprise storage to servers and security. All this content was searchable and segmented for small businesses, medium-sized businesses, and large enterprises. Using digital place-based media, Dell is beginning to repurpose that content and put it on airplanes. If you’re flying and you’re a small business owner, you can learn something while you’re flying. Is it an ad? Not quite. It’s sponsored by Dell, but it’s really more topical information that informs and educates a B2B audience while they’re traveling.
Last question, Garry. Are you telling me that every moment of my day — these little moments of time when I’m content to daydream — are going to be crowded out?
We’ve become so programmed as a society to consult technology. As we stand in line to get coffee, we’re on our iPhones. As we’re sitting in a cab, we’re playing with the TV in the back seat. Like it or not, we as a society are always plugged in. We seek out content to fill these moments of what we call “micro-boredom.” That’s really what precipitated this digital place-based advertising industry — the fact that you actually don’t like sitting there and staring out the window anymore!
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