Audience Targeting in Mobile: 4 Key Elements of Context

A person standing under a weather vane

Many people will tell you that understanding mobile context is key to delivering a relevant mobile ad experience. However, it’s not an exact science and very few have been able to define mobile context explicitly enough to make it actionable for marketers.

Four key mobile context elements, when used in combination, can result in increased user engagement and campaign performance.


A user’s location is an essential component to the mobile experience as 68 percent of smartphone activity is conducted out of the home.

Much can be inferred from a user’s exact location beyond their point on a map, such as the type of businesses a user might be interested in based on their proximity, the type of activities they may be engaging in (in the case of someone in an airport or at an event), or even if they are in a place where they would have the ability to view and/or engage with advertising (in the case of a car on the highway).

In fact, location is probably the most important proxy for contextual relevance in mobile as audiences are typically on the move resulting in constantly changing locations – and with that, constantly changing user context.


Like location, time of day and day of week play key roles in defining audience context.

Data shows that during the day mobile users tend to be in a more active search mode when leveraging mobile (i.e., they know exactly what they are looking for and need that information now and fast) vs. in the evenings when mobile devices are used for more leisurely experiences such as shopping or browsing articles.

Analyzing time of day data related to mobile campaign goals can reveal important targeting strategies.

For example, a fast food chain is looking to promote its breakfast sandwiches and soup choices in both San Francisco and New York City. Beyond the obvious time zone difference that would surely affect ad placement timing, there is no need to promote breakfast sandwiches all day, and promoting lunchtime soup specials during the evening hours would most likely miss the mark as well.

Analyzing available data based on time of day and day of week means more informed and less wasteful mobile campaigns.


While location and timing are key components to planning a successful mobile campaign, mobile user behavior is essential is understanding and reaching intended audiences based on inferred intent.

Mobile audiences start to really take shape when we pay attention to the type of content they engage with, applications they frequent, or searches they conduct. And this information can be used to develop contextual messaging for key mobile audiences.

For instance, if a mobile user is on a travel site, it can be inferred that they are looking to make upcoming travel plans and therefore a relevant advertisement may include a deal on flights or hotels. In fact, a 2012 Nielsen study found that 40 percent of smartphone users clicked on a mobile advertisement because it was relevant to what they were looking for.

In order to both target and engage mobile users based on context, user behavior must be part of the equation.


While weather may not be the most obvious contextual factor, overlooking it could be a detriment to your mobile ad campaign. Because smartphones have become our constant companions, they essentially experience all the weather conditions we humans do – so why should our mobile advertising experience be any different?

Weather conditions affect everything from our mood to our purchase decisions. As a result, marketers have a great opportunity to align their targeting and creative to speak to and fulfill the various needs mobile users may have that are unique to each weather occurrence.


As you develop your audience-focused mobile campaigns, it’s important to remember that mobile context is always changing.

An effective contextual strategy today may be ineffective as early as tomorrow – so keep testing and researching – and always maintain an open vantage point that will allow you to discover new and evolving contextual elements.

It’s essential to fully understand the context of your mobile audiences and apply those learnings in a meaningful way to build and implement the next level of mobile advertising success stories.

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