CityGrid Tries To Spur Developers To Feature Local Businesses In Apps

The promise of mobile advertising is resting more and more on local targeting efforts, but the practice is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. IAC’s local advertising network CityGrid Media’s latest mobile ad effort involves enticing app developers to do more of the work by including more local businesses within their apps. The incentive is pretty simple: if developers feature local businesses, they’ll get direct ad dollars.

Of course, the temptation would appear to entice developers with less care to sacrifice their integrity for a few bucks. But CityGrid thinks it has the answer. The IAC (NSDQ: IACI) unit has just been awarded a patent that matches ad supported content with business listings and local information across hundreds of mobile and web publishing partners.

So let’s say the CityGrid technology works as advertised. That doesn’t exactly mean that consumers won’t be turned off by a sudden stream of advertisers interrupting their app usage. More often than not, though, people are looking for local business information in the content they consume, suggesting that there might be an appetite waiting to be sated if CityGrid can directly match editorial content to marketing.

In any case, this kind of contextual-based advertising has the greatest appeal among internet users when compared to behavioral targeting. The notion is that such ads tend to be more relevant because if a user is reading about “cars” or “health” they may be more open to ads reflecting those searches.

Here too, there are careful lines to cross, as unlike semantic advertising, which attempts to register “meaning” behind the use of certain keywords, CityGrid, like a lot of established contextual targeters, will have to be on top of matches between “car” and “car accident.” That issue comes up over and over and can quickly lead to a blacklash among users.

Avoiding those kinds of pitfalls is what spurred CityGrid to purchase the remaining stake in social media analyzer BuzzLabs last month. Buzzlab provides additional layers of social media analysis to its marketing and publishing partners and among its functions is to provide better context around advertising and conversations on the web.

Update: As a CityGrid rep points out to me, the point feels a little off in the CityGrid context, because the business listing & content (review, menu, photo) IS the advertising. It’s not as if someone is going to get a traditional display “ad” for an auto supply store — they are going to get the very business listing and content that the users are looking for.

Also, one of things that’s most compelling for developers about the new ad units, which encompasses both a business listing and is considered “the content,” places interstitials within the page so users don’t have to leave the main site to get business information. They are therefore not “bombarded” with banner ads telling them to “click here for more info” on a plumbing contractor or pizza place nearby. The idea is more seamless than the usual ad placements and therefore, theoretically anyway, less likely to irritate users.