How We Build Location-Based Advertising Audiences

August 15, 2022

Since 2017, Gravy has been creating location-based advertising audiences that allow advertisers to responsibly reach in-market and interested consumers with information about their products and services. In fact, advertising audiences were some of the very first products we built using location information here at Gravy, and they remain extremely popular among advertisers today. Gravy Analytics now offers more than 1,000 audiences based on people’s visits to places and areas of interest, and partners with 15+ leading data management platforms (DMPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs), to make those audiences available for use by advertisers.

As such, we thought it was high time to talk more about how we build Gravy Audiences, how they are sold to advertisers, and why advertisers choose to use our advertising audiences in the first place. We sat down with Brian Lerner, Gravy’s Senior Director of Customer Success, to learn how Gravy Audiences are built, and more about the advertising industry as a whole.

How We Build Location-Based Advertising Audiences

Gravy: What exactly is an advertising audience?
Brian: An advertising audience is a list of mobile advertising IDs associated with mobile devices that have something in common. Advertisers use it to target their ads to a specific group of people who might be interested in what they have to offer. Think about it—in the old days, if you wanted someone to see an ad, you had to buy inventory based on where that person might be. This could be buying a TV spot on a channel or program, or a magazine or newspaper ad in a certain section that you think will attract your type of customer. Today we have programmatic advertising, which allows advertisers to reach out to specific people based on indicators that they are the right person for their brand to reach.

At Gravy, our audiences are almost always built on place visits. So, any device included in an audience has been observed at a relevant place or area of interest. For example, a device in the Pop Music Fan audience might have been seen at a music club or a Dua Lipa concert. Another device in the Mall Lovers and Frequent Shoppers audience might often visit stores like Target or Bed Bath & Beyond or go to a local shopping center.

Gravy: Why do advertisers use audiences?
Brian: Like most of us, advertisers have a limited budget and want to use it wisely. Audiences let advertisers reach people who are more likely to be interested in their product or service. After all, why spend money to advertise something to someone who doesn’t want it? Most of us don’t want to receive ads for products we’re not interested in, and most advertisers don’t want to spend their advertising dollars reaching people who aren’t interested in what they have to offer either. 

Gravy’s location-based audiences allow for targeting on a powerful indicator of interest—where people go. After all, who is more likely to buy an NBA jersey—someone who watched a game on TV, read a basketball article on, or went to a game in person?  

Gravy: Does that mean advertisers are only reaching people who are interested in what they are selling?
Brian: Honestly, no. But targeted advertising can be pretty accurate and perform far better than other advertising models. Audiences are never perfect, regardless of the methodology. A purchase-based audience based on a loyalty card might think I am my mother, and target her with a torrent of ads for Tcho Chocolate that she will never buy. Location-based audiences can get confused in different ways. For instance, if someone visits a Starbucks for a break in between meetings in the big city, they might not have bought coffee, but we may still place them in a Coffee – Starbucks audience. If they do so regularly during a month-long project, we might even classify them as a Brand Loyalist – Starbucks despite them never purchasing a thing from the brand. Any given Starbucks visitor might not actually respond to a Starbucks ad or even be the “right” customer, but as a group, they’re much more likely to be interested in what Starbucks has to offer than the general public as a whole.

Gravy: How does an advertising audience get created?
Brian: It all starts with an idea for an audience. Some are straightforward to create, such as our audiences that reach people who go to fast food restaurants, like our Fast Food Diner – McDonalds, or Fast Food Diner – Taco Bell audiences. Others require a little more thought. If I were to use visits to furniture stores to create my Furniture Buyers audience, for example, I’d probably reach a whole lot of people who’d already bought a piece of furniture. In cases like this, we look for leading indicators that suggest someone will soon be in the market for new furniture—like students graduating from college. Our audiences can also be inspired by current events. With an election around the corner, for example, we built new political district audiences that political advertisers can use to reach people by state and local voting districts. 

Gravy: Can Gravy build an audience around any location?
Brian: The short answer is no. We can build audiences almost anywhere, but we don’t build audiences around visits to any place that we consider to be a sensitive location. Sensitive locations are places like elementary schools and daycare centers, homeless shelters, healthcare centers and cancer clinics, and places of worship. You get the idea. We don’t think it’s a good idea to create audiences around places where there’s an expectation of privacy. In fact, every single idea we have for an audience has to pass a consumer privacy review before we can even build it. 

Gravy: Consumer privacy is certainly a big topic. How risky is it that my device is in an advertising audience?
Brian: Keep in mind that a Gravy Audience, at its core, is a big aggregated list of mobile advertising IDs. That’s it. There’s no phone number, name, address, or other information included that would make it easy to connect an advertising ID with the actual person who owns the mobile device. Moreover, the advertising IDs are not shared with the advertiser using the audience. So, audiences are privacy-friendly, and being in one does not result in anything more than you being served ads based on your device. 

Gravy: How do advertisers buy an audience?
Brian: Audiences are available for purchase via several leading DMP and DSP platforms, including LiveRamp, The TradeDesk, and MediaMath. When an advertiser is setting up a programmatic advertising campaign, they can choose to target their ads to one or more of the literally thousands of different audiences available through these platforms. Really, it’s more like renting the audience, because the audience data is only used to deliver the campaign to the right devices and is not given to the advertiser.

I should note that some platforms also have their own technology that makes it possible to find even more consumers similar to those that are already included in a Gravy Audience. Every DMP has its own special sauce, so to speak, so be sure to compare offerings.

Gravy: Can advertisers build their own advertising audience?
Brian: Yes, advertisers can ask us to build an audience that meets their exact needs, as long as it complies with our privacy rules and has the scale to work. We’ll work with advertisers to understand their target audience, then work with them to identify the places and events where their target audience might visit. From there, we’ll assemble the audience on their behalf and deliver it to the DMP or DSP of their choice for use. Remember, every audience needs to pass our consumer privacy review.

Gravy: Thank you, Brian, for sharing your expertise with us. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about the audience business?
Brian: Not all audiences we brainstorm make the final cut. For instance, we mentioned our audience Fast Food Diner – Taco Bell, but you might not know that we contemplated refining a subset of that audience and naming it Mexican Pizza Fans when sales of the Taco Bell menu item spiked in May. Dolly Parton and Doja Cat had even started to work with Taco Bell on a TikTok musical. Stay tuned, though. Gravy launches new audiences every month, and Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza is expected to return to menus this fall. 

For more information about location-based advertising audiences, schedule a consultation today.

Scroll to Top