How ‘Location’ Is Changing The Way Media Buyers Are Targeting Mobile Shoppers

Demographics remains the backbone of ad targeting, says NinthDecimal’s David Stass. But the focus on ‘where’ and ‘what’ people do online are upending those legacy methods.

Mobile programmatic ad buying rose 430 percent in 2015, but the old ways of reaching audience segments remain the overwhelming determinant in where ads are placed, a report from mobile analytics platform NinthDecimal finds.

But as the relatively new forms of audience targeting take hold, subtle shifts are occurring in how marketers’ messages find desired customers.

Vertical Trend Shift: NinthDecimal
Vertical Trend Shift (NinthDecimal)

Interestingly, Retail, which has led the charge on location-based advertising and proximity, indoor targeting via apps and beacons, is seeing its position eroded as other marketing verticals like Automotives and Consumer Packaged Goods enter the fray.

Looking at the changes from 2014 to 2015 in the top mobile programmatic verticals, Retail slipped from second place to third place. During the same period, CPG took the first place slot from Auto, which went into second place.

“Retail actually grew in spend and number of impressions served,” noted David Staas, NinthDecimal’s president. “But it grew at a lower rate than other categories, which sprinted ahead.”

Other takeaways from the NinthDecimal’s study:

  • Vertical industries including healthcare, law, finance and education that are typically more conservative in making advertising technology and digital marketing investments, grew their investments in 2015 signaling that programmatic is becoming a mainstay.
  • The biggest shift from 2014 to 2015 in mobile programmatic buying is in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) moving from 4th to 1st. With spending in areas such as automotive and retail industries taking a much bigger part of the pie.
  • After demographics, the hottest audience segments were Shoppers (17 percent total), more specifically with Luxury Shoppers leading the segment at 49 percent, and 29 percent Department Store shoppers.

Advertisers are still looking to demographics as the backbone of their targeting as they become comfortable with the technology behind more specific segmentation, Stass told GeoMarketing.

“Personally, I think it’s a strategy to hedge their bets while they gain confidence by seeing results that show we really can take the guesswork out of finding their target audiences,” Staas said. “We’ve noticed advertisers will target the same campaign half to demographic and half to a specific audience (maybe the audience is called “people who shop at XYZ and have kids,” where XYZ is the advertiser). Advertisers are used to having to back out of their specific target and reduce or compartmentalize it into demographic clusters.”

Who's Buying Mobile Programmatic? (NinthDecimal)
Who’s Buying Mobile Programmatic? (NinthDecimal)

The reality is that the “people who shop at XYZ and have kids” audience could be a pretty even mix of demographics, by ethnicity or gender, if the specific segmentation hits your target a lot more accurately than demographics alone, Staas added.

“The more [programmatic platforms] continue to demonstrate results, the more we’ll see the shift away from demographic targeting for physical-world based audiences,” Staas said. “As the trust grows from results consistently gained through specific attribute targeting [like geo-targeting] those targeting behaviors will grow.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.