MediaShift Bets On Targeted Ads Served Over Airport Wi-Fi Networks

Brendon_KenselEarlier this year we noted that investment company JMG Exploration, the parent company of the ad network AdVantage Networks, had acquired travel ad network Travora Media and rebranded itself as MediaShift. AdExchanger caught up with Brendon Kensel, MediaShift’s president, to talk about the company’s first launch since the acquisition and its strategy for monetizing Wi-Fi networks at airports.

AdExchanger: Can you give us an update on what Mediashift has been working on since it acquired Travora Media?
BRENDON KENSEL: Mediashift is an ad tech company and today we’re the second largest on-the-go network that reaches the travel segment. We’re doing that through our publishing network that includes Fodor’s, Rand McNally, GogoBot, and now we’re announcing the launch of our Premier Airport Network with 20 major US airports. We’re also in the process of rolling it out to about 5,000 hotels that are under contract with us.

Since the acquisition, we’ve fully integrated Travora and we’re really leveraging that strong publisher network and the great sales team that they have. This is our first big launch since the acquisition and it’s a combination of all the collective assets that we have through AdVantage Networks and Travora. The 20 airports we’re working with provide us with about 23 million unique users a month, so this is really quite large.

What kind of ads are you serving through the Wi-Fi network?
So if you were to open your laptop to get onto the Wi-Fi network, you can view a video to access the Wi-Fi for free. If you were to access the Wi-Fi through your mobile device, whether that be a smartphone or tablet, we would offer you the opportunity to download a free app to access the Wi-Fi.

Once you’re on the Wi-Fi network, then we deploy video interstitials while you’re surfing, so we continue to monetize the experience and generate a new stream of revenue for our Wi-Fi partners at the airports. We’re really helping to underwrite the cost of that Wi-Fi network and help provide travelers with a free service.

How are you measuring impressions?
If you’re trying to enter a Wi-Fi network that we work with, you have to watch the video or download the app in order to access the Wi-Fi network, so we know exactly the number of plays and downloads that have occurred. For the video interstitial, we know how many times that was deployed and then of course we know the completion rate of the videos.

What kind of data are you collecting about travelers?
It’s the typical data that you would track. We use the IAB’s best practices as it relates to data, but it’s really to enable us to better target and better segment our audiences to drive higher conversion rates for advertisers.

So is this behavioral data?
Yes, exactly. Because of our network on the publishing side, as well as the Wi-Fi side, we have a great understanding of intentions. We know where you intend to go or where you are going because of your research and the booking of your trip. And so we’re able to target and re-target that user as they’re on a research site, booking site, at the airport and hotels that we work with, which really drives the conversion rates for advertisers within our networks.

What about CRM data like email addresses and phone numbers?
No, none of that.

Where does the programmatic component fit in this?
It’s programmatic in the sense that we have our own ad serving platform in the back-end that drives all this but we’re certainly not a programmatic ad exchange.

How many advertisers are you working with?
Today we work with over 250 different advertisers within our total network and quite a few have already expressed interest in the Airport Network.

Are you also aware of which devices people are using to log on to the Wi-Fi?
Yes. Today, within the airport network, based on the testing that we’ve been doing, about 53% use a laptop and 47% use mobile. And that mobile number is split pretty evenly between tablets and smartphones. Tablets are starting to surge though because people are starting to carry their tablets with them when they travel rather than a laptop. They’re using tablets as their primary device when they’re surfing the internet or checking email. It’s our expectation that mobile devices are going to continue to outpace PCs in the near future and tablets are definitely replacing PCs in the travel space.

How closely are you observing privacy concerns in regards to serving targeted ads through Wi-Fi networks?
We’re very sensitive to that. That’s why we’re following the IAB’s best practices and we’re not collecting any personally identifiable information. Figuring out where the consumer is has been a challenge for marketers as mobile devices get more prevalent. But within our network, we definitely know where you are. We know which airport you’re at, and in many cases we know the terminal where you’re at and we may even know which gate you’re at, which allows for pretty detailed targeting without knowing much else about that consumer.

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