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Today I had the chance to talk with David Staas, newly appointed SVP of marketing at JiWire. The Panorama Capital-backed company has a network of 25,000 Wi-Fi hotspots through which it reaches 15 million monthly uniques. It serves targeted ads based on location and audience.

The way it works is that one ad is shown at the start-up or login page to a Wi-Fi network. In certain cases, an offer for free Wi-Fi is made if the user is willing to spend some time on the advertiser’s page or sign up for something.

At the heart of JiWire’s targeting are the data it has compiled over the past few years on these Wi-Fi networks — what they are, where they are and who their typical audiences are. Its partners are top public Wi-Fi networks like AT&T, T-Mobile and Boingo.

Location, Location Location

Access to such data enables pretty granular audience and location targeting. In speaking with Staas, it became clear that JiWire can provide even better targeting than the mobile devices and platforms we’ve been so excited about lately (this is also separate from Wi-Fi positioning).

The company enables advertisers to know not just latitude and longitude of a given user, but also which Wi-Fi network he or she is tapping into. An example would be knowing that the user is sitting at a particular airport or inside a Starbucks, where JiWire has exclusive access through AT&T.

“We know that about 30 percent of the people connecting from a cafe are making a purchase during that time,” says Staas. “We know age, demographics and other things, like the percentage that are in the market for a major automotive purchase in the next 12 months.”

Staas adds that JiWire has targeted display ads in the past to include localized calls to action such as driving directions to the closest auto dealership or movie theater. Its top advertisers include Microsoft, Volkswagen, Sony and Charles Schwab.

With things like airports, there is even ability to go deeper by targeting users who are hopping on a Wi-Fi network in an executive lounge as opposed to the airport’s general network. In this case, the call to action might be to download a white paper, says Staas.

“Where we see the best performance in terms of CTRs and engagement is when we help the advertiser better understand the audience,” he says. “Business travelers in the executive lounge of an airport are served ads for premium brands like MasterCard, Toshiba, Hyatt.”

Redefining Out of Home

JiWire works directly with lots of advertisers and agencies. The latter have proved a good source of revenues because many are gaining interest in digital out-of-home advertising. DOOH has lots of the same benefits of what JiWire is doing but is sometimes not as measurable — especially in airports.

“The big five consulting firms all advertise in airports,” says Staas. “The challenge is qualifying it. You’re reaching families and distracted travelers. If you target Wi-Fi, your ability to hit the business traveler is ridiculously higher.”

When asked for an example, Staas cited an undisclosed hotel chain (case study forthcoming) for which it was able to achieve 39 percent clickthrough rates. This compares with average online clickthroughs of about 0.2 percent. Of that 39 percent, 70 percent completed the process of filling out their information.

“Overall, that’s a 27 percent conversion rate,” Staas says. He admits the numbers aren’t always that favorable, but they’re still surpassing the advertisers’ goals on average, due to the precise location and audience targeting.

“Typically what we’ll see is at least a 2x to 3x multiplier over what the advertiser’s benchmark is. We’ll sometimes see it as high as 10x.”

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  1. The growth of the free WiFi services that are supported by paid advertising is growing as more and more people begin to appeciate how targeted the ads can become and the sort of granularity that can be achieved that is virtually impossible in any other online service. Our company, ( actually builds community based free WiFi networks that draw upon both local and national advertising to support it – whilst surfing the free WiFi in say, Lake Havasu in Arizona, visiting boaters can sit in the water accessing the Net and see money saving ads and coupons from local businesses. By the nature of where they are located, non-competitive ads can be shown to them throughout their online session. Acceptance of the model has been exceptionally high – over 1700 unique users in 5 weeks of operations, nearly 100 free WiFi hotspots serving over 200,000 minutes of WiFi per month.
    We now plan to build out our network in Ojai, Ventura, San Diego and Temecula in CA, Vernal in UT, San Antonio in TX and more will be announced shortly.
    There is much anecdotal evidence from JiWire and dSpot that clearly demonstrates that the ad supported free WiFi model is here to stay and brings huge benefits to the advertisers like no other online medium can.
    Watch out for the behavioral analytics and the URL/Domain targeting features that dSpot will demonstrate and you can see that we are only just touching the tip of the iceberg in this marketplace.

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