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Why Geographic Targeting Matters for Digital Advertising

Tim Leys

Tim Leys

CEO & Partner at Consumer Intelligence Group (CiG)


Our collective existence has evolved to the point that we no longer need to leave our homes to acquire what we need or want, if we so desire. Today, most transactions can be done with a simple click or swipe on our smartphone. Thus, advertising dollars have followed the clicks and the promise of better targeting and measurement from digital. Nevertheless, geographic targeting serves an important role today.

Target audiences precisely with geography

We’ve heard a lot from marketers recently that targeting and reaching audiences through digital is more difficult than ever. Some suggest that IP targeting is the solution, but its unreliable inaccuracy means it is not the easy fix. At CiG, we’ve determined that geographic precision is a stable, accurate, and effective way to reach target audiences with ease. Here’s how our unique targeting makes the difference for Canadian marketers. 

While we may not need to leave our home to buy something, knowing where we live is still critically important for advertisers. Whether it’s opening a new retail location and assessing foot traffic market opportunity, testing a new product in a specific region, or a grand opening offer for a new restaurant franchise, geography matters to marketers.

For many businesses, geographic accuracy is important to reduce spillage of digital ad spend against audiences outside of their serviceable area. The intelligentVIEW platform was designed with this challenge in mind: how can we support marketers in developing high performance campaigns in the digital space with the precision of traditional strategies like direct mail?

So, unless we’re all planning on foregoing ourselves IRL and existing solely in the Metaverse, geography and accurate location-based marketing absolutely matters when it comes to getting the right messaging to the right people at the right time. In fact, geographic precision can not only increase the effectiveness of our digital campaigns, it can also be the ultimate connector between all media channels to truly deliver accurate and effective omni-channel programs.

Geographic targeting in digital advertising is missing the mark

Before we discuss the opportunities geographic precision can offer marketers, we must first ask ourselves: how accurate is the data most advertisers are using today to determine geography?

Once upon a time, traditional direct marketers trusted the geographic accuracy of Canada Post data and were confident that their offer would be delivered into the mailbox of their target audience. Today, we’ve shifted that trust to our digital advertising partners. Google and Facebook have claimed top billing in this arena as leaders in digital advertising as well as behavioural data gathering and analysis.

But while Google and Facebook may know everything about what you’re up to in the online world, chances are they can’t accurately locate you in real life. Why? Most geo-targeting capabilities still heavily rely on IP addresses.

IP addresses in the earlier days of the internet were mostly static, and their geographic locations reasonably accurate. You could be relatively assured that if you bought geo-targeting, your message was being connected to audiences in at least the right part of a city, if not more precisely. Not direct mail accurate, but close enough.

Today, almost all IP addresses are dynamically allocated by your ISP (internet service provider) and can change every time you restart your Wi-Fi router, turn on your cell phone, or move between mobile towers. VPN usage compounds this problem. This makes it virtually impossible to maintain a geographically accurate location on that IP address’ home location.

That’s right, your IP location is most likely inaccurate - see for yourself:

1.  Open your browser and search “what is my IP address”.

2.  Your IP address should appear at the top of your search results.

3.  Open a new browser window and search ‘locate my IP address’ and find a platform that will show you your location based on your IP address.

4.  Copy & paste your IP address into the platform.

5.  A city and postal code location that has been identified based on your IP address will appear… is it yours?

Why does this matter?

Savvy marketers looking to add a layer of geographic precision to their campaigns typically pay a premium to use geo-targeting tools to select a country, city, and even down to what is considered the most precise in digital, 3 digits of the postal code (FSA). These data sets are compiled based on IP addresses which, as you just learned, are known to be inaccurate.

“Ok, but we’re using geo-fencing!”

Experienced marketers may also use geo-fencing: a sophisticated method of serving ads based on devices entering a geographically determined area, which is significantly more accurate. But all we know about these devices is that they visited a target store, location, or event. Without an accurate connection to where that device ‘lives’ in many ways, advertisers can feel stuck; unable to accurately retarget and connect with those audiences.

With change comes opportunity

At CiG, we’ve developed an enhanced digital geographic targeting methodology that improves digital efficacy and enables marketers to connect the digital to the household.

Access accurate geo-targeting using advanced device IDs

Our methodology uses mobile advertising identifiers (MAIDs), a unique pseudo-anonymous identifier tied to a mobile phone, and connects it to a rooftop (a specific street address). MAIDs are compliant with current privacy law, as geolocation information is collected through apps where users have given permission to use this device information. We can connect a unique MAID to an address by analyzing billions of device movement transactions to accurately approximate where a device lives.

Best of both worlds: connecting the physical to the digital

This apex of opportunity not only elevates digital advertising performance it opens an entire new area of opportunity for increased omni-channel efficacy. While Google and Facebook may know everything about our online behaviour, real insights and robust data sets are still tied to postal codes (think census and survey research data), and now we can connect the two. 

Our insights platform, intelligentVIEW, takes this a step further and closes the gap between these insights and media activation. We’re the only insights technology platform in Canada today that connects the digital to geography and allows you to buy accurately targeted audiences.

If you’ve clearly defined your segmentation objective as new customer acquisition but are unable to confidently find your audience across channels at scale, executing targeted media and measuring results is impossible. Having geographic links help immensely. Segments that have postal codes, addresses or customer IDs allow greater flexibility in how they can be applied.

Test out intelligentVIEW for yourself and experience the value of merging the power of the digital with the precision of the physical.

Tim Leys

Partner - Consumer Intelligence Group Inc.

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