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O2, Placecast Erect a Geo-fence to Herd Consumers
By: Jeff Louis
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O2, a leading communications company for consumers and businesses in the United Kingdom, and Placecast, a pioneer in mobile applications for location-based media, launched the first location-based mobile marketing campaign across the pond. 
Brands using the O2/Placecast service soon will have the ability to deliver targeted, relevant, and effective SMS and MMS messages to users. Two early adopters, Starbucks and L’Oréal, have agreed to a six-month trial period.
The service requires consumers to opt-in to the service in order to receive the messages. Offer messages will be sent to consumers based on their age, gender, interests, and location -- a first for a U.K. company. According to O2, the U.K.’s biggest brands will be able to reach more than one million consumers who have agreed to receive the over-the-air offers.
O2’s location targeting feature uses geo-fencing, a wireless feature that businesses use to restrict wireless activity when employees move outside defined geographic areas. Placecast’s geo-fencing service will alert consumers of specials on Via Coffee when a user is within a half-mile of any Starbucks.
Other location-based services, like Foursquare, require users to carry GPS-enabled smart phones. The O2/Placecast geo-fencing arrangement determines location through a carrier's network, allowing all cell phone users to sign up for the service. Gigaom reported the O2 coupon offering will be set to a maximum of one coupon per day for each user, and subscribers can turn this feature off.  

Placecast’s earlier tests with geo-fencing include promotions done with The North Face and Sonic. They reported 65 percent of opted-in users took up offers to purchase items, and 79 percent stated the offers would increase their likelihood to visit a store. Retail outlets and services can enable geo-fenced coupons quickly, allowing them to take advantage of community activities (concerts and street fairs, for example) that are located near the outlet or in response to weather changes.

While Placecast doesn't employ geo-fencing with U.S. carriers, the company is working with international wireless service providers.

Considering the rapid acceptance and widespread use of location-based media, little doubt exists that U.S. mobile services eventually will enable the service. Thus far, the O2 launch is the largest ever carrier-based use of geo-fencing. According to Placecast CEO Alistair Goodman, geo-fencing -- when done correctly -- isn’t seen as advertising, but as a beneficial, relevant offer upon which they can take action.

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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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