Where you are is the game changer

For a few months I’ve been keeping an eye out for what mobile media is doing and the potential for advertising in particular.  Everything is coming together for an amazing sales tool and most of us won’t even know it until we’ve been hooked.  That’s not a bad thing, but it’s worth explaining.

Great Apps + Geolocation = Engagement
First we had the iPad and some great apps like Wired Magazine that sold more online subscriptions in its first month than magazines.  It had a great interface and was duly shown off by more than a few people.

It occurred to me then that the ad revenue currently taken up by big ads in a magazine would surely be a target for geolocation.  Put simply, geolocation is a magical piece of electronics that can tell where you are on the planet by working out how close you are to mobile towers. Some kit actually have GPS in them. Here’s a sexy link (Apple) and a more practical one (Wikipedia)

So rather than seeing an advert for Tag Heuer watches or Jaguar, I’d see an advert for a local restaurant or a film at the cinema near to me.  If it was really clever it could then show time specific offers.  The thought was that the more personalised the advertising, the more likely I am to buy.

Surely Google would get into this… picture based AdSense?  We have immersive apps, surely we’ll see immersive local advertising (HTML5 video, forms, book a table, etc.)  But how?

Show me what I like … already
Around the same time – if not before – I got a bit freaked out.  BT were running a test of an advertising product called Phorm.  There was a lot of fuss about invasion of privacy around the concept of tracking what your browsing history and then showing you adverts based on that history.  I thought this was a great idea.

Then I was browsing on Asos.com one day and left to go to Facebook.  There on Facebook instead of the normal ads was an advert for a selection of clothes I’d just been looking at on Asos.  Woah – too much and no warning!

I went back to Facebook later on and saw ads for posters I’d seen on a poster site.  This felt like an invasion of my privacy – exactly the point made by those who opposed Phorm.  However looking at it from the retailers point of view (part of my job) I realised it was showing me content I’d already been engaged with.

Facebook Open Graph
So, if that wasn’t enough, Facebook came along and added the Like button.  Not only did they add the button, but they added what they call Open Graph. This is a way to capture the data of what you like and pull it into Facebook.  It starts to build a picture of what people like on a site and marry it up to social trends.

Some say it’s a further invasion of privacy. Facebook and online retailers say it’s a way to enhance your user journey and deliver content to you that you want to view.

The key is that it opens up the social share arena to show you what your friends and contacts like. Recommendations from friends carry much more weight than reviews.  Favourable recommendations and reviews are a powerful combination.

Facebook are close to announcing a geolocation based API (a way to do things online) which will likely tie into Open Graph to provide location specific suggestions to what you may want to buy.

Enter Flipboard
Then came Flipboard, the amazing iPad app that shows you your Twitter and Facebook streams – opted in content rather than random stuff.

It creates a magazine out of your social network and is of course quite unique. It’s very clever, very intuitive and in the week after launch too successful for its own good.  There will be imitators and eventually more of us will have access to create apps that do the same thing – that’s already started.

However within Flipboard came the  first signs of bringing this all together:

  1. It’s a magazine format with the flip of a page – familiar format that doesn’t shoehorn ads at you in odd places
  2. It has things you want to read in it because it’s shared content from your friends or people you’ve opted to follow (Twitter) or like (Facebook)
  3. With Facebook it’s going to have the ability to take in Open Graph so you can start to see content in the form of products, entertainment and services that your friends not only share, but recommend
  4. It knows where you are – so you’re a sitting duck. Ads aren’t there yet, but they will be.  It’s a significant way for Flipboard to monetise their investment.
  5. More significant still is engagement within advertising. This is where it gets interesting.

Really persuasive calls to action
With any eCommerce website the holy grail is the conversion.  Everything is aimed at getting you through the website,  add your product to the basket, pull you through the checkout and part you from your cash as smoothly as possible.

Amazon is the master at this and runs 1-Click checkout to great effect.  I won’t implement it as I don’t trust myself to it.

Now imagine the scene.

You’re browsing Twitter updates on Flipboard on a Saturday morning with a cappuccino. A friend mentions a DVD.  Flipboard is smart enough to serve up the image of the cover (that’s where we are right now).

Flip the page and you see an advert for the DVD with embedded video content and a buy button.  It’s an Amazon 1-click button and underneath it it shows you all your friends who own that DVD and rate it.

Suddenly you are one click away from joining your friends.  You’re facing peer pressure.  The barriers to entry are down.  When you buy, you’ll join that smiling grid of friends.  You may even get the download instantly…

Be prepared
This is to prepare you.  This is what’s in the minds of the retailers, those trying to make money from the medium and the space.  It will be incremental, but you’ll look back and wonder where that came from all of a sudden.

Doing some good
What will be exciting, will be delivering this same mechanisms to  smaller companies – location based – so that we can be encouraged to buy local.  I live in Edinburgh and I’d love to have ads for local companies appear in mainstream media.

I don’t need a fancy watch or a fast car, but great food, drink and entertainment that match my likes and my location? Now you’re talking.

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