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The third place: Completing the advertising puzzle

7th Jul 2017
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It may sound like something from sci-fi series Stranger things, but ‘the third place’ is an everyday concept.

First coined by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg in 1989, the term describes a space we visit to relax and socialise when we’re not at home (the first place) or working (the second place).

Thus far, the theory has mostly been used as a basis for examining modern social identity, yet there is another group for whom it is also paramount: advertisers.

Time spent in first and second places might be predictable, but what consumers do in third places is often the missing piece of the targeted advertising puzzle. Now, thanks to location tracking, that piece is within reach.

Tracing the full consumer journey

One thing nearly all consumers are likely to have with them wherever their third place may be is a mobile device. Indeed, smartphone penetration in the UK alone tipped 80% in 2016, and this year it’s expected 90% of devices will be either a smartphone or tablet. And as consumers use mobile devices on the go, they produce an abundance of valuable location data.

For example, if an individual joins a Wi-Fi hotspot, the connection provider can leverage their IP address to locate them and create a unique identifier for their device, without making them personally identifiable. Or if a consumer loads up a GPS-based app, like Uber, satellite signals can be used to establish precisely where they are and trace their movements. By layering this data with other insights, such as in-store purchases or online brand interactions, advertisers can build a cohesive picture of consumer journeys and behavioural patterns — and identify their third place. Wi-Fi data for instance may reveal they visit a particular café at the same time each week, while GPS might show they frequently drive to a certain store.

So, whether an individual coaches a running club every Saturday or attends 2-for-1 cinema nights on a Wednesday, brands can decipher their third place and tailor messages accordingly. For instance, the running club coach might receive recommendations for running shoes on a Friday, while the cinema goer might get vouchers for drinks before the film starts.

Forward-thinking advertisers are also starting to collate location insight and add it to a bank of data that creates an in-depth view of consumer habits over days, weeks, and months. Using this information, they can ensure all tactics, from programmatic ads to in-store offers, deliver consistent and personal messages. 

Bringing dynamism to location data

Most advertisers are aware that it’s not enough for creative to look good: if it’s going to pique consumer attention, an ad must also be well-timed, ideally placed, and personally engaging. Location data offers much of the information needed to achieve this. It provides insight into a consumer’s current environment and activities, but only when combined with advanced real-time tools like dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) does it enable advertisers to tick every box.

In combining location insight and DCO, advertisers can build one campaign with many faces: multiple versions of ad creative that are instantly adjusted to align with different variables and boost contextual relevance. For example, ad creative can be adapted to appear in the local currency, feature discounts for nearby stores or reflect the current weather — rain or shine.

When consumers are in their third place and in a state of relaxation that enhances receptivity, the mixture of location-based campaign strategy and dynamic creative can be deployed to serve messages that quickly capture and keep their attention. Ads can consequently deliver value for individuals as engaging messages, and increase the chances of conversion for advertisers.

It is therefore no surprise, that location tracking is a technique more brands are investing in. And considering its ability to offer a granular view of where consumers are, what they do and how they behave, there is a growing agreement that it’s an area all advertisers should be exploring as a basis for both long-term decision making and short-term campaign tailoring.

As the data source that has finally allowed brands to complete the puzzle of how to target ads effectively, location insight marks a new stage in personalised advertising. No longer will messages only be accurately targeted for the first and second place, and not for the places individuals visit in between. Instead, the blend of precise location data and smart dynamic tools will mean ads form part of a consistent and captivating story covering every place that matters to each consumer.

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