When Should You Geo-Target vs. Geo-Fence, and What Is the Difference?

When Should You Geo-Target

There are several “geo” terms in digital advertising, and it can be complicated to determine which option is best for your campaign. With so many opportunities and choices it is important to understand the differences.

First let’s define our “Geo” terms: 

Geo-Targeting:  All digital ads are geographically targeted, meaning we serve ads to specific geographic areas like a city, zip codes, or large radius around a location (several miles), etc. 

Geo-Fencing:  Serving ads to anyone possible, in a small, specific geographic area (i.e., a competitor’s location). We usually do this with our Mobile Conquesting product. 

Geo-Retargeting:  Serving ads to people who were in a geo-fenced area and following them after they leave the geo-fence. This is done with our Mobile Conquesting product. (This is sometimes called Geo-Farmingby other providers)

Geo-Retargeting Lookalike: Serving ads to people who were in a geo-fenced area, following them after they leave the geo-fence AND targeting their neighborhood. This is done with our Mobile Conquesting product.

Geo-Framing:  Serving ads now to people who attended a past event. Geo-Framing involves mapping people to their homes using mobile Unique Device IDs. 

So now that we know more about the terms, how do we determine which strategy is the best fit? 

Which Works Best When?

Geo-Targeting allows you to layer specific consumer targeting like demographics, behaviors, and interests in addition to where the person is located. We are use groups of IP addresses to determine location, and then add in additional targeting options. Go with Geo-Targeting if a client needs to reach specifics targets in a broader area, for example: “soccer moms who frequent Starbucks in zip code 90210.” This can be done with any of our digital products such as Behavioral Targeting, Native Ads, Facebook and Instagram, Mobile Conquesting, etc.

Geo-Fencing is usually used when the geographic area is tighter, and you are okay with capturing everyone within the “fence” regardless of their demographics or behaviors (such as what coffee they like). Use this if a client has a request such as: “I need a tight geo-fence around the Arts and Crafts festival located on 123 Main Street for 3 days in July.” 

Now for the other options and layers.Once you start with the Geo-Fence on our Mobile Conquesting platform, you can add options. For instance, “Continue to follow everyone who was at the arts and crafts festival until my impressions run out.” That adds the Geo-Retargeting piece. We are following people (on their mobile devices) because they were inside that virtual fence. 

If the client also wants to reach the neighbors of people who were inside the geo-fence, you may add Geo-Retargeting Lookalike.A great example might be car dealerships. They might geo-fence their dealership as well as competitive dealerships, so they have the potential to reach EVERYONE inside those fences. Now, hopefully someone drives home with a new car. We are still able to follow them AND their neighbors (who likely now have “new car envy”) with an ad for the dealership. Not every client will need to add this piece, but when it makes sense it can be very effective. 

Geo Framing works completely different. In this case, we go back in time to an event that was missed. Let’s go back to the Arts and Crafts festival. Perhaps you have a client that is offering a late summer Arts Camp and they didn’t geo-fence the event. We can go back in time, capture the mobile device ids of people who were at the event, and then we serve ads to their phones and at their households on any device through their wi-fi connection. If the event is at least two weeks past but not more than six months, recommend this great option.


One final note… although I talk about geo-fencing mainly with Mobile Conquesting, it can be done with our display exchanges as well. The difference is the fence is not as tight or accurate—think one mile vs. 500 feet.

Geographic targeting is a wonderful way to reach people with one-to-one marketing messages, but you need to know which option will best achieve your objectives.

If you need more help deciding which option is best for your campaign, reach out to your Vici Trainer for customized help!


Dana Bojcic(how do you pronounce that? Boy-chich) is a Senior Partner with Vici Media, Inc., a full-service digital advertising technology company. Dana is an experienced trainer and coach of salespeople and managers. Her background includes working for advertising agencies and as a certified Talent Analyst.

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