News Analysis: Pinpoint Targeting

By Britt, Bill | Marketing, January 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

News Analysis: Pinpoint Targeting


Britt, Bill, Marketing


Europe's Galileo satellite positioning system will allow for more precise mobile marketing, writes Bill Britt.

The world of location-based advertising as portrayed in the film Minority Report, in which ads are personalised to Tom Cruise's character as he walks past stores in the Washington DC of 2054, came a giant step closer after Christmas with the launch of a satellite that will enable tailored messages to be sent to an individual's mobile phone.

A small UK company, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL - a spin-off from the University of Surrey), built and launched from Kazakhstan a satellite to test the technology for a pounds 2.3bn network of 30 satellites planned to go live in 2010.

This Galileo global navigation satellite system, a joint venture between the European Union and the European Space Agency, will compete with Global Positioning System (GPS), the existing system operated by the US military.

The European system is designed for civilian use and can pinpoint a mobile phone or car within one metre, whereas GPS currently only allows civilian users access to positioning to within 10m-30m.

Of huge significance is the possibility that the EU may require future mobile phones to contain a receiver chip, bringing the price down to a couple of pounds and at a stroke creating a new mass medium for reaching consumers.

Galileo's backers say the system's pinpoint accuracy provides more commercial opportunities and would not be subject to any sudden switch-off by the US military for security reasons.

Targeted advertising

Galileo's biggest impact on the day-to-day lives of most Europeans will most likely be the ability for governments to require cars to contain a receiver chip, thereby creating a monthly billing system for road charging based on distance, route or time of day. But there are also significant opportunities for marketers to introduce precision marketing messages at the point of sale.

Max Meerman, director of research at SSTL, says the technology will allow marketers to send location-specific advertising messages direct to a person's mobile phone or car.

'The advertising would only trigger when the consumer is in front of a certain store. It could even target advertising if they are standing in front of a certain aisle,' he says. 'Of course the system doesn't know where you are unless you allow it to. It's not Big Brother.'

The Galileo system has mapping capabilities and can direct a user to the closest restaurant, pub or cinema, or alert them that a friend is nearby.

Critics claim Galileo is simply a costly ego project for politicians who don't want to rely on the US. Mobile marketing experts have confidence in the technology, but agree the real challenge is for marketers to develop compelling services and communicate them to consumers. The technology is there, but that does not mean consumers will want it.

In addition, consumer fears about having their privacy invaded and mobiles spammed must be addressed. …

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