Emerging Technologies

Advertising Innovation: Personal Yet Anonymous

By Marianna Kantor

New advertising campaign combines personal and anonymous data

The Esri Brief

Trending insights from WhereNext and other leading publications

Brands looking to deliver real-time personalized messages have a new tool. In Los Angeles, billboard giant Lamar Advertising is partnering with two well-known brands on an innovative way to reach customers and prospects in specific locations—all with the help of anonymous data.

In a first-of-its-kind experiment, Lamar teamed with Delta Airlines, fitness club Equinox, and flight tracker FlightAware to create a personalized out-of-home (OOH) advertising campaign, The Drum reports. Lamar obtained anonymous data from Delta and FlightAware showing the flight numbers of planes arriving at LAX from five international and three domestic cities. They used that data to trigger digital billboards near LAX to display tailored messages for arriving travelers, such as: “Just landed on flight DL9293? Sweat the Amsterdam out.” The ad directs viewers to a web page where they can book a “sweatlag” workout—a class designed by Equinox to preempt jetlag.

Engagement through Personalization

While personalized advertising is a goal of many leading businesses, companies want and need to be mindful of concerns over how they use personal information. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law and the recent data scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are two useful bellwethers.

In the case of the Equinox digital campaign, marketing takes an alternative approach, adopting a method of personalization that helps businesses customize messages without breaching customer privacy.

Esri’s Eric Pollard helped define the personalization trend in a recent WhereNext Think Tank interview:

With the advent of digital shopping and e-commerce, mobile device usage, and varied store formats, the era of a one-size-fits-all approach to consumers is over. Department stores have shown us that trying to be everything to everybody without having a targeted focus is no longer a sound business plan.

Against that backdrop, out-of-home advertising is enjoying a resurgence, using measurement techniques and location intelligence to keep pace with advertising on digital channels such as Facebook and other social media.

Marketers at Lamar, Equinox, and Delta are using OOH channels and location intelligence in a new way. They combine an understanding of how people move through the Los Angeles area with novel messages related to personal travel experiences and communicate those messages in real time through billboards.

Location Context and Impact

Companies that master the use of location intelligence to deliver personalized messages in relevant places stand to gain the attention of customers and prospects. In her recent podcast How Data-Driven Commerce and Location Intelligence Are Fueling Retail, Retail TouchPoints editor-in-chief Debbie Hauss suggests that anonymous location data is an intuitive way to make a strong impression on consumers—especially in the world of OOH advertising:

… if I’m walking by a digital sign at a bus stop, for example, it may show some relevant content for me. That is really impressive and that’s really impactful. I think when retailers are thinking about location, they don’t necessarily think about on-the-go [messages]. That’s definitely going to be growing in importance.

To engage consumers, brands must deliver a personalized message at the right time and place. Equinox’s sweatlag campaign demonstrates how innovative businesses are discovering new ways to do that—while, at the same time, making connections with potential customers and respecting personal data protection standards.


To learn how GIS-driven location intelligence is benefiting businesses in the age of the customer, listen to this podcast with Forrester analyst James McCormick.

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