GIS and Advertising

Mark Altaweel


Advertising is something we see as a fact of life. However, increasingly, advertisers are becoming more sophisticated with the use of GIS as a way to better target their audiences.

Geomarketing and GIS

One benefit is simply using location analysis and 3D images to plan areas where traffic and people may traverse frequently enough to warrant placing advertising.[1]

Methods have also included using GIS to map and locate concentrations of population that are more likely to buy given products. For example, one market-based study found areas in different zip codes, based on demographics and income level, are likely to buy Grand Marquis cars.[2]

Advertising Using Geographic Information Technology (GIT)

In fact, the area where we see the biggest growth most recently is probably targeted marketing that uses web-based GIS platforms that collect user information and send and create specific targeted adds based on where costumers login or input their information from.

This type of GIS is being called Geographic Information Technology (GIT), where web technology, consumer knowledge, and geography are integrated to best customize given advertisements.[3] 

With the widespread use of smartphones, GPS data provided by costumers are then being utilized for advertisements regarding the locations costumers are in, including promotions or events that the user might be interested in.[4]

Vendors like GISinc use GIST.
Vendors like GISinc use GIST.

Legislating the Use of Geospatial Technology in Advertising

Particularly as both location and personal information is now easily shared, using GIS in marketing has also resulted in data protection debates and legislation efforts for costumers to be more aware that they are sharing potentially sensitive material to marketers.[5]

Given how rapidly such technologies change, often legislation is simply not available or prepared to deal with the complexities regarding how costumers share their data and what they should know. It seems that for the future there will need to be a balance between consumer knowledge of what information they can and should share, and using mobile data and GIS to create more costumer-specific advertisements.


[1] For a recent study that utilizes this approach, see:  Xie, Ru. 2015. “Three-Dimensional Planning Study of the Urban Outdoor Advertisement on the Basis of WebGIS.” In Management, Information and Educational Engineering, edited by Hsiang-Chuan Liu, Wen-Pei Sung, and Wenli Yao, 197–200. CRC Press.

[2] For more information on this study using zip codes to find potential buyers of a given car type, see:  Parasuraman, A., Dhruv Grewal, and R. Krishnan. 2007. Marketing Research. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, pg. 131.

[3] For more on using GIT, see:  Panwar, Upendra Singh, Raj Kumar, and Nilanjan Ray, eds. 2016. Handbook of Research on Promotional Strategies and Consumer Influence in the Service Sector. Advances in Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, and E-Services (AMCRMES) Book Series. Hershey, PA: Business Science Reference, pg. 389.

[4] For more information on web technologies, GPS data, and GIS for advertisements, see:  Lwin, Ko Ko, and Yuji Murayama. 2011. “Web-Based GIS System for Real-Time Field Data Collection Using Personal Mobile Phone.” Journal of Geographic Information System 03 (04): 382–89. doi:10.4236/jgis.2011.34037.

[5] For information about legal aspect of data protection, see:  Taylor, L. 2016. “No Place to Hide? The Ethics and Analytics of Tracking Mobility Using Mobile Phone Data.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34 (2): 319–36.

See Also

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About the author
Mark Altaweel
Mark Altaweel is a Reader in Near Eastern Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, having held previous appointments and joint appointments at the University of Chicago, University of Alaska, and Argonne National Laboratory. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Masters and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

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