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AT&T first US carrier to launch location-based marketing service

March 1, 2011

Multiple brands and retailers have launched geofences and are distributing mobile coupons via ShopAlerts by AT&T

AT&T has beaten its competitors to the punch by becoming the first wireless carrier in the United States to offer a large-scale, location-based mobile marketing program to consumers and advertisers.

AT&T Advanced Ad Solutions and Placecast are collaborating to provide ShopAlerts by AT&T, delivering coupons and discount offers to consumers via their mobile phones when they are near a participating store or brand via geofence technology. Kmart, Hewlett-Packard, Del Monte Foods, SC Johnson and JetBlue Airways are among the initial brands offering coupons via the landmark ShopAlerts by AT&T.

“Mobile is huge initiative for both Draftfcb and our clients this year,” said Patrick Moorhead, senior vice president and group management director of mobile platforms at Interpublic Group’s Draftfcb Chicago. “We feel mobile is a critical focus area for growth for the coming years, and we have been working aggressively to both build our own internal capabilities for the channel as well as leading our clients into position for strategic long-term success.

“When we got word of this exciting opportunity with Placecast and AT&T, we jumped at the chance,” he said. “So many of our clients have goals and initiatives focusing on driving store foot traffic, building relevant awareness for their new products, and with simply enhancing the personal connection and relevancy of their communications, so the function of this ShopAlerts program was obviously well suited to meeting those needs.

“Unlocking this formula around tying message, to moment, to place and time seemed critical to helping our clients continue to advance in the mobile space.”

AT&T is the No. 2 carrier in the U.S. based on the number of subscribers. AT&T Advanced Ad Solutions connects brands with 100 million-plus connections across mobile, IPTV and targeted online display and search platforms.

Placecast is a location-based platform designed to use mobile marketing and geofences to drive consumers into physical environments.

ShopAlerts by AT&T
The location-based mobile messaging service will be available for AT&T customers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco who have opted-in to receive such messages.

The opt-in ShopAlerts service lets marketers engage consumers on their mobile phones and drive them to the point of sale with relevant location-specific offers.

The ShopAlerts by AT&T service is designed to provide consumers with offers, rewards and coupons based on their specific geographic location.

AT&T creates a geofence – a virtual-perimeter around a retail location, event or any geographic area – in order to deliver appropriate location-specific messages.

Participating consumers receive relevant marketing messages when they are inside a geofence, with the goal of making the mobile coupons immediately actionable and redeemable.

The messages are enhanced with information such as weather, traffic and local shopping area details to more effectively engage consumers.

Sears Holdings Corp.’s Kmart is running a campaign offering mobile coupons to opted-in AT&T subscribers.

A Kmart ShopAlert

When consumers enter a geofence surrounding a Kmart location, they receive a text message from ATTDEALS, for example:

“Attention Kmart shoppers, $5 off merchandise purchase of $50 or more at any Kmart. Your nearest store is 1360 Ahsland Ave N, Chicago – offer valid today only.”

HP and JetBlue are also offering ShopAlerts coupons to drive sales.

Drafting LBS brand strategy
Advertising agency Draftfcb clients that are participating in ShopAlerts by AT&T include S C Johnson, the National Milk Mustache “got milk?” campaign, as well as Del Monte’s Kibbles ‘n Bits and Nature’s Recipe brands.

Mr. Moorhead said that Draftfcb advised all four of its participating clients that gaining the tactical experience of developing and deploying programs such as this, coupled with the anticipated learnings about consumer location and mobile behavior, was an opportunity they should not pass up.

“Adding the location trigger to our clients’ messages starts to get us towards this Holy Grail of relevancy and one-to-one communication that has long been the promise of mobile as a marketing channel,” Mr. Moorhead said.

“In specific instances, we are hoping that the location relevancy aspect of this program helps clients drive traffic at retail, drives incremental awareness of products and offers, and in some cases simply adds a layer of high-tech relevancy to targeted brand messages,” he said.

“Obviously by delivering messages to individual consumers based on their behavior – where they are at that moment – our hope is that the uniqueness of that type of delivery really breaks through and stands out to our consumers.”

For the purposes of the AT&T ShopAlerts pilot, the brands are not trying to do anything more specific than the demographic targeting the program provides – it will be available to consumers ages 18-plus in the participating markets.

Down the road, Mr. Moorhead said that he thinks as the program matures out of pilot and is launched nationally, moving towards real scale, Draftfcb’s brands will start to apply a more precise lens to reaching their target audiences.

However, for the moment all of the agency’s clients are hoping to take advantage of the entire opt-in pool that AT&T is generating, with a focus on how the location and SMS aspects of the program perform.

“This trial will provide Draftfcb with unmatched experience with location-based services programs, and a unique scale of visibility into the data and analytics side of these services by virtue of having access to data from not just one, but four participating brands,” Mr. Moorhead said.

Among the four client brands Draftfcb is working with for the pilot, Mr. Moorhead said that the approaches will run the gamut.

One brand plans to leverage the time-and-place aspect of the program to deliver brand messages linked to specific consumer behaviors.

A couple of Draftfcb brands plan to use consumer proximity to certain retailers to make them aware of existing offers they could take advantage of by visiting the store.

Another Draftfcb brands plans to offer links in messages that click through to scanable bar code coupons redeemable at the POS.

Mr. Moorhead said he is seeing a variety of different approaches to how to leverage the technology, with different goals and objectives depending on the brands.

The biggest news may be that carriers are actively looking to increase their role in the mobile marketing ecosystem as a way to engage subscribers and boost revenue.

“This is a huge shift for mobile marketing in the U.S.—it is the first time geofencing goes mainstream with a carrier in America,” said Alistair Goodman, CEO of Placecast, San Francisco. “AT&T has a huge customer base and is known for offering innovative products like the iPhone, and now they can offer their subscriber base the opt-in offers, alerts and coupons form some of the world’s best known brands.

“The location-based promotions can now be distributed to a large number of consumers, and the ability to use geofences lets marketers increase the relevance and scale of their messages, which is a great tool for any advertiser to have,” he said. “This is the first time that a U.S. carrier has embraced this.

“A brand can extend what they are doing in mobile and immediately apply a location element.”

Final Take
Placecast founder Anne Bezancon


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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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