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IP Targeting Brings Digital and Mail Together

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How would you change your next direct mail campaign if you had access to the IP address that matches your prospect list?

It’s a question many direct mailers now face. With increasing sophistication and relatively new technologies, you can harness the best of targeted digital and direct marketing.

What are my choices?

Before we share a few strategies, let’s understand some of the options available to marketers using IP targeting.

The first—and most widely adopted—method is using cookies to capture visitor traffic and synchronize that data with your prospect file and retarget. Effective, but this requires a prospect to have visited a digital property to qualify.

Second, and the most seasoned option, is geo-fencing – meaning you concentrate your digital ad spending toward IP addresses within a confined geographic area. This is reminiscent of the direct mail shotgun-spray approach prior to leveraging database technology to specifically target prospects.

A third option that is quickly gaining traction combines the best of the first two methods and goes a few steps further. This method, really an ad-serving platform, uses a massive database of physical addresses with a digital IP address overlay. That means no reliance on tracking cookies nor on the shotgun targeting approach of geo-fencing.

I have oversimplified the features and benefits of each option above in order to make a point. The digital marketing space has entered into a new era that gives small and medium sized budgets greater messaging leverage.

What’s Next?

To better answer that question, let’s consider a strategy for each of the three options listed above. How are marketers currently employing them in their direct marketing toolkit?

First, for the cookie-based, integrated IP application, think of the site you visited yesterday and the ads you see today. This is a nearly seamless method of harnessing IP addresses to retarget a visitor/prospect. This widely adopted method was somewhat creepy to many Internet users at first and now is as commonplace as a telemarketing call despite being on a Do Not Call list (a wink to ad blocking technology).

Second, both digital and direct mail have used geo-fencing for years. Targeting a zip code or street (even one side of the street) is not new to direct mailers. The ability to target physical location areas—such as all IP addresses in a given town—allows for localized ad serving. Both provide ample opportunity to test messaging and offers with little deviation in audience make-up.

Third, and most promising, is the ability to filter and match your prospect list with an IP address. This option or platform, typically matches 40-60% of a target mail list with an actual IP address. Harnessing this technology to serve digital banner or video ads expands the punch of your direct mail packages.

Imagine a pre-mail digital display campaign launching a week prior to, and after, your in-home mail date. It is possible with this method—increasing performance and bringing the screen and mailbox ever closer.

The Good News

The marketers in the digital and direct mail channels have reason to celebrate. Advances in ad serving technology deliver a new era of relevance that should make printers and mailers happy.

For those who have operated in the digital-only space, these innovations (specifically the third) will leave you embracing one of the original pillars of direct marketing –- mail.


Christopher Gleason is a business development and digital strategist at KM Digital in Leesburg, Virginia. He can be reached at or 703.581.5579.