GroupM’s Rachel Glasser on Using Data and Digital Targeting for Good

When it comes to advertising, it’s important to act responsibly. Whether it’s making only accurate product claims, collecting and using data responsibly, or respecting consumer choices, the industry has an imperative to make a positive impact on society at the same time it drives business.

Too often advertising gets a bad rap, but the amount of good it stimulates for companies that employ workers whom are also consumers — and to economies — cannot be over-stated.  Advertising is also often used to directly support charitable organizations and government entities for the specific purpose of helping the public.  

The Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA) is a shining example. Since 1996, the use of radio, Internet and wireless SMS technology on behalf of the emergency alert system has proven successful in informing the public of severe weather conditions and other emergencies like child abductions or threats of terrorism. Smartphone users are now accustomed to seeing these notifications, typically accompanied by a vibration or sound, depending on phone settings. The importance of these alerts is self-evident, but evolving technologies and consumer behaviors have required innovations to ensure the emergency alert system is as state of the art as commercial communications practices.

In 2013, the FIA was created through an initiative by GroupM and Conversant, with cooperation from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).  Many other companies, networks and exchanges soon embraced the opportunity to support the program. The idea was to use ad targeting and data for good. The FIA brings geo-targeted advertising technology to real-time emergency communications. In emergencies, it facilitates real-time AMBER alerts and severe weather alerts in place of online and mobile advertising.

Together, the group developed a way to expand the reach and maximize the effectiveness of emergency alerts on various types of mobile devices — phones or tablets — as well as desktop computers. The FIA system uses a method different from the traditional emergency outreach systems in order to alert users of danger. This coalition from the online environment works together to send out weather warnings and missing children notifications through a central hub, which draws in the alert data through several publicly available feeds from law enforcement agencies. The FIA has worked to continuously to ensure maximum reach, extending its online distribution of life-critical alerts to help authorities reach people in the impacted area through improved availability and use of Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) for imminent threat alerts all over the world.

So far, the FIA has served over 800 million AMBER alert impressions since 2011 and more than 10 million tornado warnings since 2012. Incredibly, these alerts have also helped rescue 794 abducted children.

On May 16 the FIA gained significant industry acknowledgment by winning an esteemed Webby Award for the second year in a row. “I have never felt more positive about the direction of FIA, and for this nonprofit organization’s ability to deliver cutting edge, ad technology driven services to save lives globally,” said Jason Bier, President of FIA, when he received the award.

GroupM is extremely proud to have spearheaded this program. This organization is a shining example of how the ad industry is able to apply technology, beyond offering messages about goods and services, to support the public good with live-saving messaging. Not only does this demonstrate the power of innovation and the many applications a specific technology can have, but also the commitment of those in the industry to do good. The FIA continues to be a communal effort and is constantly encouraging new partners to join to continue to use their powerful voice and advertising technology to save lives.

As appeared on MediaVillage.com

Written by Rachel Glasser, Director of Privacy at GroupM