AT&T Launches Data Service for Outdoor Advertisers

Carrier Will First Work With Clear Channel to Provide More 'Dynamic' Data to Advertisers

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Sarita Rao, VP, AT&T Data Patterns
Sarita Rao, VP, AT&T Data Patterns Credit: AT&T

AT&T is launching a new service called AT&T Data Patterns, a move that the company said will provide more enhanced audience data for out-of-home advertisers in the U.S.

The carrier is first partnering with Clear Channel Outdoor Americas. Marketers using Clear Channel's network of displays and billboards will be able to better plan their campaigns and place more relevant ads, said Sarita Rao, a 25-year veteran of AT&T and VP of AT&T Data Patterns.

Advertisers will be able to learn the number of people who pass by a billboard or display, as well as stats about that group of people, she added. The service will use AT&T's network information, along with demographic information to provide advertisers with data like age range, income range, ethnicity and gender.

Mobile data is often viewed as very valuable to marketers, in part because it connects mobile habits and interactions to actual people. To that end, one major concern is consumer privacy, Ms. Rao says the company takes the issue seriously and is working to protect consumers' privacy. Data is anonymized and used in aggregate, she said. For instance, the data would show what percentage of passersby are 25- to 35-year-old men, rather than detailed information about the individuals. AT&T's service, she said, "looks at the movements of mobile devices, but what you'll see is that because it's aggregated it becomes statistically relevant." She added that consumers can opt out of having their information aggregated and anonymized through AT&T's website.

Ms. Rao said that today outdoor ad impressions are tracked through U.S. Census data and traffic and pedestrian counts. While those are useful and proven methods, she said, AT&T is working to offer more "dynamic" data to advertisers, including data that's updated monthly (versus much longer intervals), and a much more significant sample size, which is possible given AT&T's customer base of more than 120 million wireless users.

"This technology brings digital-quality metrics to our physical inventory," said Scott Wells, CEO, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, in a statement. "With this sophisticated analysis, it is now possible for advertisers to plan out-of-home campaigns with the same kind of precision they're used to in digital and TV campaigns."

With retail, AT&T said it will also be able to provide data on how many people see an ad for, say, a restaurant chain, and then go to a nearby location -- but that's only if the retail location has AT&T wifi. In other words, the data will be able to show what percentage of an out-of-home audience converts into a store visit.

AT&T is also touting that the Data Patterns service can measure lift, or the percentage of the outdoor audience that passed the ad and later watched the programming promoted in the ad. Data only includes consumers who are AT&T wireless subscribers and who also subscribe to an AT&T TV product like U-verse.

Carriers are increasingly looking to other business ventures for new revenue streams, particularly as subscriber growth slows and price discounting and promotions become more aggressive. Carriers like Sprint and Verizon have been working with companies like SAP and IBM to package and sell data to marketers. AT&T's Ad Works has also worked on data offerings, in this instance for segmenting and targeting TV audiences.

Verizon's $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL in May, followed by its purchase of mobile ad network Millennial Media for $238 million in September, is a move that many viewed as an effort to create a bigger business out of data.

On the marketing front, this summer alone, AT&T and T-Mobile made moves to offer seamless service between the U.S. and Mexico, and Verizon, looking to attract more customers, said it was eschewing the two-year contract; it also launched its Go90 streaming service. T-Mobile recently launched a similar service.

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