Padraic Woods
Written by Padraic Woods
Published 2015-06-08

Location based Ads at VG

At VG we have been experimenting with offering location based advertisements in our VG app.

The goal is to deliver relevant advertisements to the the users at the right time and in the right place. Smartphones have provided the opportunity to serve more relevant information based on a users current physical location or locations they have previously visited.

Entry image


There are different ways of identifying the location of a user, the green triangle in the diagram above displays the accuracy of the location technology used and the blue triangle displays the reach of that technology. So a location determined from IP addresses has a high reach but isn’t very accurate, whereas an iBeacon solution using bluetooth technology has high accuracy but relatively few users have bluetooth turned on and are in the vicinity of an iBeacon.


Modern browsers have a geolocation api for determining the current location of a user. Users, however have to accept location sharing every time the browser wishes to look up the users location. An app on the other hand only needs to ask for the permission once. Current browsers do not support bluetooth/iBeacons. So to take advantage of Bluetooth and GPS location sharing we have to first get our users to use our app and secondly turn on location sharing.

Why should the user use our app?

The app has to deliver a better user experience than the mobile website, whether it be offline content, localised content, the convenience of being always logged in or just an overall better user experience.

Why should the user turn on location sharing? 

The user needs a reason for allowing an app to turn on location tracking. Whether it be more relevant and less annoying advertisements that can save them time and money, localised and relevant content or the weather forecast at their location. The user needs to believe that sharing personal information about their location will give them functionality that is worth the tradeoff.


To improve the chances of our users sharing their location with the app on iOS devices, we display a pre-system dialog asking the user to turn on both push notifications and location sharing in the app. This pre-systems dialog allows us to explain to the user why we would like them to share their location and turn on push notifications. It also gives us a chance to ask them several times before presenting them with the system dialog. As outlined in the tech crunch article ‘The right way to ask users for iOS permissions’.

Privacy concerns

The consent of the user is required to track a users location in the background. Our job is to convince the user to share their location with us, to do this we must be open about how we use this information and give the user an easy way to both refuse and to turn off location sharing. Privacy concerns are a real concern for users, in a recent survey 84% of Americans said they want to have control over what marketers can learn about me online.

Location sharing in the VG app is an opt-in feature and the location information is encrypted, it’s not associated to a specific user and the data is not sold to any third parties. The user can at any time disable location sharing.

Pilot Project

Using technology from our partners Glimr we are currently running a location based ad pilot project in conjunction with Unacast, Coca Cola and CAPA a Norwegian cinema chain.

The goal for the cinema is to

  1. Sell more snacks at the cinema
  2. Increase the number of returning customers to the cinema.

We have installed iBeacons within one of the CAPA cinemas and created a GEO fenced area around the cinema. Users who have the VG app installed who enter the GEO fenced area or are within 50 meters from the iBeacon located within the cinema will be added to an cinema audience segment based on this specific location. The users receive an offer of a free coke within the VG app while they are at the cinema and are presented with new offers at later dates, for example at home when surfing the VG App they are presented with an ad for two cinema tickets for the price of one.

This is VGs first experiment with location based advertisements, its too early to share the results of the pilot project with you.


Companies like Facebook and Google are leading the way in offering location based content, services and targeted advertisements. Facebook have even started to give out free Facebook beacons to businesses. Users are slowly but somewhat reluctantly beginning to accept the tradeoff between sharing private information with receiving free products and more relevant content. Tim Cook was recently very critical of other companies approaches to data privacy and security with Apple taking the approach that users should be in control of their own data.

Media companies need to be extra transparent about the data they collect and how it is used if they are to maintain their role as a trusted source of information.


Written by Padraic Woods
Published 2015-06-08