Adobe shows how location-based ads can be functional


We’ve all heard of the contextual ad, but at the Open Mobile Summit yesterday (9 June) a new idea for location-based mobile marketing was raised: the contextual app.

Adobe’s chief technology officer Kevin Lynch explained that in the not too distant future, a mobile user could be served with a choice of apps depending on their exact location, who they are near and which other devices are close by.

Lynch used an array of devices, from the Samsung Galaxy Tab to Apple’s iPad, to demonstrate how the free-flowing new technology could work.

He demoed how a mobile user arriving at the Tate Modern could be presented with an app to guide him around the gallery and point out the latest exhibitions.

Lynch even took his tablet to the Tate’s café, where he could rule out the need to speak to a cashier by ordering his lunch straight through the app.

When a friend arrived to sit next to him, the tablet sensed her arrival and notified Lynch she was close by.

Lynch says: “Proximity sensing will be at a granular enough level to know where someone is within a few feet”.

He could then use the app to “borrow” books, music or magazines from his friend’s device for a couple of hours.

Lynch even took the device to his hotel room where he could use it to control the TV set to watch his own media and turn up the volume.

What was most exciting about the entire presentation was when Lynch said all this seemingly next-level peer-to-peer technology is “really possible soon” – and in some cases already available.

It all seems a tad 1984, and no doubt many people would baulk at using a tablet or smartphone to such an extent that it rules out human interaction.

But Adobe’s demonstration may help brands think differently about location-based advertising.

Until now, the majority of contextual ads have focused on display, coupons or SMS. But “soon” brands might be able to serve up advertising, based on location that actually has a function beyond a web link and a discount.

The possibilities for the contextual app are really exciting and would work fantastically as guides around department stores, give insight into where the ingredients at your favourite restaurant are sourced from or could give queuing bank customers a game to play while they wait.

Lynch allayed security concerns by saying that all forms of contextual apps would be opt-in, although no doubt there would still be room for some spam.

It would be wise for brands to start thinking not only how to target their users depending on their location, but actually serve them with something useful while they are there. Contextual apps could be the answer.

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here


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