This time it’s (too) personal?

Real-time location based marketing – the ideal made real or a step towards a very scary future?

“There’s been some increasingly excited chatter about real-time location based marketing recently, with some particularly interesting examples that have been generating debate about whether this new technology is a really good or a really bad idea.

It’s no secret anymore that smartphones and branded apps are an incredibly effective way to target and engage consumers, in a way that is also very cost effective. By creating tools that your customer base can download and use on a regular basis you can integrate with their lives in a way that ‘mere’ advertising never has. Virgin’s iPhone app for example, based around its ‘Flying without fear’ course allows consumers to access relaxation exercises, fear therapies with a personal video introduction from Sir Richard Branson himself. It’s smart, intimate and useful on a runway (in safe mode of course).

However, the next generation of apps are all using smartphone’s GPS capabilities in a way that enables brands to hit a moving target, so to speak. The mobile social network / game Foursquare signed up its first national UK brands (Debenhams and Domino’s Pizza) this month. The app detects players’ whereabouts and when they visit shops and restaurants they gain points for ‘checking-in’.

Brands get involved by offering deals to users based on for example the number of times someone ‘checks in’ to their local branch. Businesses get increased footfall, and ideally, a network of brand ambassadors who will pass on recommendations. The consumer gets great deals that are relevant not only to who they are, but where they are.

Win-win right? Well not according to pleaserobme.com which aims to highlight the dangers of giving your exact location on social media sites in case the information is used to burgle your house.

Personally I think that’s a bit reactionary (although a number of Liverpool FC’s players may disagree with me) but it does raise an interesting point all the same. The ideal of advertising is similar to the ideal of PR in that the greater the relevance to the audience, the greater the value, whether it’s a genuinely interesting and newsworthy story to a journo or a half price burger to a hungry commuter. But where do you draw the line?

Don't be...

Google Buzz is another new development which has been getting a great deal of ink but it’s the mobile version of the platform that appears the most powerful, by some distance. However, as has been pointed out, you could argue that “Google isn’t really a search engine, or a chat tool, or an email provider. It’s an online advertisement-pushing juggernaut”

So just as Gmail scans the content of your emails to present you with relevant ads, Buzz will combine this with your locational data.

All of which could lead to a day where from waking up and being immediately offered a hangover cure (because Google knows you were at the pub last night) to the local Buzz-linked McDonald’s ‘Buzzing’ you at lunch time and asking if you’re in need of a quarter pounder (as Google knows you went there last week) to a local bar ‘buzzing’ you to see if you fancy another post-work beer (because Google knows what time you leave the office)… And so it goes ad infinitum until there’s no one point in your day when you’re not sharing personal data with Google, and having personalised ads thrust upon you.

It will be fascinating to see how brands will be able to heap innovation upon innovation with this new technology, but it will be crucial that consumers are handed the power to control the medium, otherwise the potential for brand damage could exceed the huge opportunites for new forms of engagement.”

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