March 1, 2016

Using Ad Impressions for Good

Since 1996, the use of radio, internet and wireless SMS technology for the emergency alert system has proven to be successful in informing the public of severe weather conditions and/or a child abduction. Smartphone users have grown accustomed to seeing these messages show up as text notifications, typically accompanied by a vibration or sound depending on their phone settings. 

The importance of these alerts to inform the public of emergencies in order to get to safety or to help find abducted children was clear. In 2013 the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA) was born through initiative by GroupM and Conversant and cooperated with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to advance the program. GroupM’s leadership proved to be essential to the FIA’s success. GroupM and Conversant worked hard to bring others into the fold and more companies followed GroupM’s lead and joined the cause. The idea was to use ad targeting data for good. Together the group developed a way to expand the reach and maximize the effectiveness of these emergency alerts whether users are on their mobile device, a tablet, or desktop computer. The program brings geo-targeted advertising technology to real time emergency communications.

The FIA system uses a method different from the traditional emergency alert system in order to alert users of danger. A collaboration of ad technology companies, networks and exchanges facilitates real-time alerts in place of online and mobile advertising. This collective group of players from the online environment work together to send out weather warnings and missing children notifications through a hub, which draws in the alert data through several publicly-available feeds from law-enforcement agencies.

Using the latest information from official authorities, the FIA creates alerts for serious events such as child abductions, tornado warnings and other hazards. Alerts are immediately displayed to users in the impacted areas, on whatever device they’re using, overlaying an ad. FIA uses Internet advertising to display official child abduction alerts and tornado warnings across devices throughout the United States to those in the alerting area. Additionally, FIA is working to extend its online distribution of life-critical alerts to help authorities reach people in the alerting 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 MM tornado warnings since 2012. Even more amazingly, these alerts helped rescue 794 abducted children.

GroupM’s leadership along with support from others in the online advertising industry in the creation and use of the FIA demonstrates social responsibility and a truly innovative application of advertising technology in order to make a true contribution to saving lives with real-time alerts in the digital space. 

This organization is a shining example of how the ad industry is able to apply the technology beyond offering messages about goods and services, and provides the opportunity to get involved in social responsibility. Not only does this demonstrate the power of innovation and the many applications a specific technology can have, but it also demonstrates the commitment by those in the industry to do good. The FIA continues to be a communal effort. 

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