New Internet ad technique can warn of emergencies
The World Wide Web has never had it, because there was no ordinary way for advertisers to know where someone was sitting as they surfed. That has made it impossible for the local hardware store to advertise to its neighborhood, or for national advertisers to target their ads geographically. It has also meant that cities did not have the means to warn residents surfing the web of a broken water main, an approaching storm, a forest fire, or a flash flood. That may be about to change.
Feeva, a Silicon Valley start-up, has invented a way for advertisers to pay for “geo-demographic” placement. In effect, that means advertisers can choose their own zip or postal code — just as they do for mailers.
“What you get in your mail is all based on zip code,” said Miten Sampat, Feeva’s chief architect. “Zip code defines your income level, whether you have kids, how urban your environment is. But you can’t do this on the web, because geography is tough to guess.”
Feeva is teaming up with with Internet service providers — such as phone and cable companies– to detect the zip code of any computer surfing the web. Others who have tried to pinpoint computers, such as Phorm, have stumbled over privacy issues and Feeva is determined not to make the same mistakes.
“It’s not about what you are doing. We track no activity. It’s about what type of consumer you are,” Sampat said. “All we do is say ‘This user is making a request for a web site. We know his or her demography with a high level of accuracy.'” The demographic information is sent nearly instantly to companies that place ads on web sites, and they can serve appropriate ads — or government notices.
That means that as three people in different zip codes surf any site — such as Yahoo, the New York Times, Google, or the one you are on now — they will see different ads, based on their location. A surfer in a heavily student zip code might see an ad for cheap student travel, or for work as a tutor. A surfer living in a zip code with many young parents and homeowners might go to the same site and see ads for mortgages, or a local toy store. A person in a prosperous zip code with an older population surfing the same site might see ads for ocean cruises.
In an emergency, cities or other governments will be able to send warnings to their on-line residents. As soon as someone refreshes their browser on a site that accepts advertising the warning will pop up.
“Our data informs advertisers about where they should focus their efforts,” said Nitin Shaw, chief executive of Feeva. “They get a better return on their investment, better efficiency.” Shaw says web sites will be able to charge more for ads, at the same time that advertisers will get a far better deal because their ads are more likely to hit home. Feeva will get a small slice of the advertising revenue, as will the Internet service provider.
Shah expects the service to go live in 2010. For now, his company is still negotiating contracts with the many different kind of comanies, from Internet providers to ad servers.