One of the fun things about being an early-bird digital media entrepreneur and seed-stage venture fund founder is that I have gotten to enjoy a lot of [r]evolutionary moments. Often it’s like the famous scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the Neanderthal throws the bone in the air and in the blink of an eye it becomes a spaceship. But sometimes, it’s like a crew member on that ship forgot basic terrestrial skills.
We had one of those moments while pitching at one of the largest digital agencies in the country.
I was explaining to a room full of people how we align our data with each marketer’s strategy by using campaign management filters, such as frequency capping, suppression lists, A/B testing, control groups, audience tagging, geo-targeting, look-backs, and …
An agency person interrupted the pitch at that point. “Wait, what do you mean by geo-targeting? Tell me about that.”
I said, “Well, sure, we can do Northern California versus Southern. Or downtown San Francisco versus the Mission District. Or urban versus rural.”
The person picked up a mobile phone, staring at it with a puzzled look. “How do you do that? Tracking a mobile beacon or doing an IP address lookup?”
“No,” I said, with a bit of a smirk. “We use the ZIP code.”
Everybody cracked up — no one more so than the person who had asked the question. Geo-targeting as I described is virtually impossible to do in the purely online world, and before we bridged the channels what we do wasn’t possible either. Yet direct mailers have been doing it since the 1950s when they first slid rods through punch cards, a data processing tool from — get this — the 1830s.
And so it goes, as a Neanderthal threw a bone and in a blink of an eye it became a spaceship, with the insertion of a rod in a punch card, so too it became Programmatic Direct Mail®.