Google Banner Ads as On-Campus Signage?

Two or three weeks ago now, I spotted a post via UKOLN/IWMW’s Institutional Web Team Blog Aggregator from the University of Bedfordshire – It’s time to target our content! – which described how they had started using Google Ad manager to serve public information style banners to on-campus users.

With the launch of the new homepage design on we also rolled in a new banner management system (Google AdManager) at the same time. This runs the four banner buttons underneath the Course Finder search. The idea initially was to look at running UK & International variants of banner content using the geographic filtering options available within the system. For example, if you are coming in from China you would see a different banner to someone visiting from London. Clever stuff, especially as the creatives can be totally different and draw on local preferences on colour, tone of voice, etc.

But, the option we didn’t initially think about was far closer to home! We know from our analytics that the externally facing website receives traffic from our internal audience, current students, staff, etc. So why not target banners for them! AdManager allows us to target on IP address or domain name, so our first trial is to put up a banner, targeted at our internal domain, that points students to their Gmail account.

I’d previously blogged a set of thoughts on a related matter (Contextual Content Delivery on Higher Ed Websites Using Ad Servers), but never really twigged the idea of using banner ads as signage, particularly in the context of using IP range as a proxy for location detection. (I think that campuses are often zoned so you can tell which physical part of the campus a network connection is coming in from, and so you can use this information to serve signage content on that basis.)

The use of affinity strings in personalisation cookies can also be used to further refine the sort of signage that is displayed to the user.

So I wonder – are any other HEIs using banner ads to serve signage to on-campus/local users? It’s something that I could imagine been woven into a “solution” that takes content from a poster server, such as the Posters at Lincoln service, for example, which hosts online versions of posters that get posted up around that university?

Posters at lincoln -

PS Just by the by, I notice from a tweet from @mikenolan that Edge Hill are making use of A/B testing on a website redesign…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

2 thoughts on “Google Banner Ads as On-Campus Signage?”

  1. I built a IP->Location API that allows us to built location aware web pages at Lincoln. I worked with our network team to map all of our internal IP ranges to physical locations (buildings, floors, or wifi zones). For locations outside our ranges we use the free Maxmind IP database to approximately work out where someone is.

    Once we have an approximate latitude/longitude location we also work out where a user’s closest library is (if they are more than 10 miles from a library it defaults to our main GCW library).

    There is both a JavaScript version and a server side JSON version:

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: