Why going back in time really takes advertisers to the future

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Why going back in time really takes advertisers to the future
Andrew Darling

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, you’ll have noticed that the date 21 October 2015 tripped off the calendar last Wednesday, the day Marty McFly and Doc Brown travelled to from 1989 in Back to the Future 2.

The arrival of “day light savings” this weekend caused another minor ripple in space and time, as we wound back our clocks to claim another hour of daylight/sleep on Sunday. Meanwhile, people in Turkey don’t even know what time it is.

The past is a powerful, powerful aspect of our lives. The relationship between the past, present and future shapes our behaviour in the world. And one of the most powerful ways of making sense of this relationship is by understanding that the places people have been helps to predict their future intentions, and therefore influences the marketing messages they could be receptive to at a later time.

When impressions and formats are everywhere, location context is king

Thanks to smartphones and good data management techniques, the ability to analyse that location relationship has become turbo charged – creating data touchpoints with consumers’ lives that go far beyond simple audience profiling. Using historical behaviour – both digital and place and time – advertisers now have the ability to predict the future. Sort of.

Because the future is not completely predictable. Does this mean there is no point in thinking about the future?


Some behavioural processes reflect large trends that are not so unpredictable. Mobile devices provide a rich source of contextual information for understanding customers on a personal level. Contextually-driven dynamic data has been an industry utopia for years but now the technology and data is available, there is no good reason why it should not be the reality. Mobile is at the centre of any successful programmatic advertising strategy; not taking it seriously will not only damage the overall customer experience, but negatively impact the bottom line.

We should all know this by now, right?

The past is indicative of the future

Accurate location data is the most valuable information when it comes to understanding user context. Location-based services using geo-fencing technologies are already making great strides in the retail sector by driving footfall into stores. However, understanding users’ historical location behaviours is a powerful contextual means for advertisers to do more – re-target their audiences at a later date across multiple screens and platforms, including OOH, TV and Social.

Take the example of devices seen at Lego Stores. 6,600 unique devices were identified by our AdsOps team in one week at stores around the UK – of these devices, 50% were previously seen in proximity to Primary Schools, 20% in Sports Stadia and 5% at Comicon. This location behaviour suggests we have an audience of parents, sporting families and comic book enthusiasts & collectors who could be retargeted later at locations they are likely to be seen at in the future, such as Toy Stores, Children’s Sport Shops, Comic Book Events or Family Holiday locations such as Center Parcs.

Image 1: 6,600 unique devices were identified in one week at Lego Stories, of these devices 50% were previously seen at Primary Schools, 20% in sports stadiums and 5% at Comicon.

Image 1: 6,600 unique devices were identified in one week at Lego Stories, of these devices 50% were previously seen at Primary Schools, 20% in sports stadiums and 5% at Comicon.

Finding audience scale

It’s not about anyone individual’s location, it’s about finding audiences based on lots of peoples’ location habits. Figuring out ways we can scale that kind of targeted approach is what Blis has been perfecting for many years now.

Similar to the Lego Stores example above, Blis also looked at devices seen in two other types of retailer – Lidl and Tradepoint Stores, and tracked their previous location behaviour to predict audience profile and future location habits.

Lidl Stores

Over 18,000 unique devices were identified in two weeks at Lidl stores around the UK. Of those 18,000, 15% were previously seen at competitor Aldi, 4% were seen at Waitrose and 32% were seen at Universities.

In terms of audience profiling, Aldi visitors could be classed as ‘budget shoppers’ who respond well to deals or offers at high street chains.

Waitrose visitors – ‘no preference shoppers’ who respond best to proximity campaigns regardless of the brand.

University visitors – ‘students’ targeted at student housing locations with offers for study supplies or student offers/deals.

TradePoint Stores

21,000 unique devices were identified in a week at building materials supplier TradePoint stores around the country. 6,300, or 30%, were previously seen at Selco and 25% were seen at B&Q.

This suggests the Selco visitors were working tradesmen, likely to own a van and respond to campaigns for other trade stores. Whereas those seen at B&Q stores were more likely to be DIY enthusiasts likely to respond to campaigns around home improvements.

Mobile location is the glue that binds the entire cross-channel customer experience together. Preferences, locations, and usage behaviour blend together so that advertisers can deliver experiences, messages and promotions that are highly appealing and valuable to customers in that moment.

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Andrew Darling is Communications Director at Blis. He is responsible for Blis’ global communications and PR activities, as well as marketing operations in APAC. Andrew is a seasoned tech marketing and communications expert, Chair of the IAB SG Mobile Committee and former Telecoms, Media and Technology journalist.
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