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The Pros and Cons of Drive-by Couponing




geolocation adsYou’re driving through town and stop for a red light. Ping! That’s the sound of a mobile phone notification. Excited, you pick up your phone (which is always within reaching distance) and check, hoping it’s a cool Tweet or a text message from a friend. Nope. It’s an advertisement for the gas station on the next corner. Come in now and save 10 cents per gallon.

You check your gas gauge. You are a little low, so why not? The light turns green, you drive on and make an unscheduled stop at the gas station.

You’ve been snared by the drive-by coupon.

AdAge says that “filling stations” (must be an East coast thing, no one calls them that out here in the West) in three states are currently testing this new concept from iSign Media.

To make it work, iSign puts an antenna at the location that can detect WiFi and Bluetooth signals within 300 feet. As of now, they’ve picked up more than 1.5 million cell signals but there’s no word on the effectiveness of the campaigns.

In theory, it’s a good idea. Verve recently published a report on location powered mobile advertising and the bottom line is that it’s working.

Quick service restaurant and casual dining campaigns that used location data performed 2x better than those that didn’t.

Verve also says that their advanced location analytics “uncovered a 3x lift in foot traffic for a national casual dining brand.”

None of this is surprising because it’s as logical as it gets. The best time to hand someone a coupon for lunch is when it’s lunch time and they’re three feet away from the door. It’s the same as posting a guy on the corner to hand out paper coupons and a lot less annoying to the masses.

The people at iSign say the same thing about their gas station promotion. What’s the difference between driving by a sign that says “save 10 cents on gas” or sending that message to a person’s phone? True-ish.

The Nationals Safe Council says that 1 in 4 car accidents are due to mobile phone distractions. In 2011, the state of Tennessee alone reported 93 fatal crashes involving a cell phone. Now, we want to ping every phone that drives past one of 10,000 gas stations in three states? And don’t get me started about mobile phone technology in the dashboard. Even if you’re not fumbling for your phone, you still have to read the screen, process what you read and decide to make a quick right into the gas station parking lot from the left hand lane.

What do you think about drive-by couponing? A great idea or a safety hazard or both?