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Localized Targeting          Print the current page
by Brian D. Chmielewski

As record numbers join the roster of Internet businesses each year in hopes of orchestrating the next successful online business model or capitalizing on some existing niche market share, distinguishing a distinct web site presence is becoming more complicated. Contrary to earlier claims that the Internet serves to break through global barriers to entry and places every business on a level playing field, many small and medium size businesses are finding international and domestic trade outlets impenetrable, or at the least, unfriendly. While this experience may not hold true for businesses with products or services that serve broader audiences or that require little or no customer support, there are many services, such as theatres, auto dealers, banks, hotels and universities and other local-base operations, who are finding extreme value in localized targeting.

With domain name registration growth and increasing online purchasing behavior signifying acceptance of Internet exchange by both consumer and business owner, and strong sentiment emphasizing personalization, one-to-one approaches and catering to individual needs, localized ad targeted is the leading contender for the next killer marketing ap. Why? Imagine an Internet with indexes full of every business on the globe. Search technology as we know it quickly becomes archaic. Surfers will not be able to locate what they need simply by keyword. The important search factors will become price, proximity, performance and promptness. Beyond the products themselves, the qualities that consumers will expect in the future remain the same as they are today. The consumer wants quality goods, professional, dependable and honest service, fair prices, accountability, getting their expectations met and having access to regional vendors. So, what Internet technologies will arise from the ashes to help consumers in their pursuit for the products or services that match their needs?

For some time, magazines and television stations have segmented their audiences by geography for its advertisers. While several ad networks use domain names to approximate the location of a user, these solutions have not always been accurate because a computer's IP address may be registered in one location, while the user is actually someplace else. Until recently, this type of targeting was all that was available, leaving retail and consumer producers reluctant to use the Internet for delivering more accurately targeted messages.

MapQuest, the Internet cartographic service, is one service that meshes well with the idea of localized targeting. Via its 'GeoCentric' ad targeting service, MapQuest can 'geo-code' locations by area or zip code, providing advertisers with highly efficient geographic targeting. MapQuest offers localized targeting opportunities by presenting prominent banners or links to advertisers to visitors when the click on specific cities and perform searches on specific topics. Radisson Hospitality hotel group was one of the first companies to employ the MapQuest targeting service.

For one-stop domestic and international targeting, DoubleClick network's International package, a comprehensive campaign solution, hones in on sites and advertisers relevant specifically to business industries based on region. DoubleClick's Local Network delivers the broadest audience of truly local residents available on the Internet. With a combination of premium content sites and powerful targeting technology, this service makes sure your ad banner reaches only consumers in the geographic region you desire.

Unlike other online advertising agencies, DoubleClick's localized targeting technology can distinguish residents from tourists, segmenting them to deliver advertising messages accordingly. Targeting by geography and site category enables you to reach local audiences with interests specifically attuned to a particular product or service. Geographic targeting offers the versatility to target by city, state or region, granting businesses of all sizes the ability to triumph in their cyber backyards.

Loews Cineplex Entertainment used the service successfully to generate awareness of a new theatre opening in Maryland, increasing overall attendance, repeat visits to the theatre and increased web site traffic. The service was also employed by FirstStar Bank, who wanted to raise awareness of their services and online banking capabilities to a qualified audience in the upper Midwest USA. FirstStar enrollments into the program increased by 20 percent and web site traffic increased by 30 percent as a direct result of the campaign.

Given the inherent irregularities of the Internet, localized targeting is not yet an exact science. Not only do IP addresses sometimes yield incorrect information, but as alluded to earlier, there's no way of knowing if someone registered as visiting a site about Chicago is actually in Chicago.

Still, the advertising dollars being spent on localization services in burgeoning. Wells Fargo Bank, American Honda Motor Co. and American Airlines can be counted among those who target users through a combination of Yahoo's localized content, their nine city-specific information services, and the user registration data collected through special features such as Yahoo!'s personalized My Yahoo! service.

And the Weather Channel's ability to link localized ads to its 1,300 U.S. weather reporting stations is one of its biggest strategic advantages against other large web sites.

Localized ad targeting offers great returns on investment for those who need to target by geography, but until technological advances in pinpointing geographic location via cookie technology or lead qualification assurance arrives, the service will not be perfect. With Internet fundamentalist cries against cookie technology, philosophical debate about the Internet's 'purpose,' and privacy, lurking and false roll playing all acting as barriers to obtaining demographics, the timeliness of these advances is uncertain.