Fenced In: Geolocation, GeoFencing & Hyperlocal Targeting for Advocacy & Politics


New contributor! This post comes to us from Mike Smith, CEO of GreenSmith Public Affairs, LLC in Reston, Virginia.

Guess what: you’re leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs wherever you go, and political marketers know it.

When you sign-on to a WiFi network, whether at a coffee shop, office space or a political convention, as a user of the high-speed network you are providing tacit permission for marketers or political operatives to capture your information and send you messages. What many may not realize is that this personal address information is captured, stored and may be leveraged for months after the initial “sign-on” encounter. .

We’re used to seeing ads on mobile devices based on where we are, but the technology is moving beyond straightforward geotargeting Whether it’s being used to market food or fashion at the shopping mall, or pushing a political platform and agenda, the geolocation capability of most smart phones and smartpads means “geofencing” is taking over as a tactic. More than Big Brother, this technology targets people in a specific area with their permission – generally obtained when someone opts to use the sponsor’s WiFi network.

Last summer, I attended both the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, respectively. I was there to lobby for a platform statement on reducing opioid deaths and heroin overdoses by not over-prescribing powerful painkillers at the hospital. Armed with stats that one-in-ten people who have a surgery will become dependent on the opioids they are administered, we were successful in gaining platform consideration from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) who chaired the DNC platform committee. .

But that’s not why we’re here today: at both conventions, political advertisers used geofencing to great advantage. .

“The campaigns and the media tents were able to collect the audience on WiFi and then target specific campaign messages within that radius,” said Allie Vadas, a director with Jellyfish in Baltimore. “We can cultivate them even if the user doesn’t perform an action – one just has to target messages within proximity. Once you start the conversation, you will have time post-conference or political convention to still get them!” .

How long does this “connection” last? Literally months, and maybe as long as a year. .

“If you provide the WiFi service, and the browser lands on your page or does a search such as ‘Near Me’ – they are placed within your audience circle. The cookie is enabled (for tracking) and they stay there up to a year,” said Vadas. “Then, it’s off to the races!” .

Ariel Dietz is director of mobile advertising for AOL in the Mid-Atlantic. She explains how it all works: “what actually has to occur for a user to receive an ad in geofencing is you have to drop a pin on a building or location for the ad (or content) to be served,” said Dietz. “The user has to have their smart phone location signal turned-on, be using their phone and stay within that geofence. You have to understand how geofencing works but also how it could scale depending on the inventory.”

She said that AOL has “massive scale and so that means we can be targeted but also go broadly.” With the Verizon deal, AOL also has access to phone data. “The quality of the signal matters and the main opportunity comes with location data through IP targeting. It is scaleable.”

What we are talking about is a hyper-targeted and “place-based” campaign. However, once you as an advertiser collect the location and place the cookie, experts say it really becomes about how you tell your story. To keep audience or political operatives engaged, you have to stay relevant.

Like many Epolitics.com Readers, I have worked in and around association management, in my case for over 25 years. A large part of advocacy work includes finding new ways to deliver messages. From Capitol Hill (or state capital) Days, to moving people and grassroots organizations at your political and policy conventions to join your cause, geofencing gives the messenger the power.

Diana Innes is the director of audience engagement at Storyfarm, also in Baltimore – and helped run the video ad campaign for Rep. Bernie Sanders. Storyfarm helped deliver the Sanders victory in Michigan where he won in the primary. “It was unexpected,” said Innes. “The Sanders campaign was mobile video heavy and we did the geotargeting to reach young voters and that was a big factor in the campaign.”

“It’s not about one video,” said Innes. “It’s all becoming more personal. The conversation you are having with your audience is more about staying relevant; more campaigns and brands are going to look to video as a larger digital channel within geofencing.”

Localization and strategizing for how to hit mobile devices is the wave of the future. Google search and “Near Me” searches now run the table for restaurant choices or consumer decision-making, and the political world is catching on fast. You have your phone to thank for it.

Top photo: By Jjron, via Wikimedia Commons

Written by
Mike Smith
View all articles
Leave a reply