In April, Google quietly removed the ability for advertisers to add new Places of Interest location targets for airports and universities, and in May completely eliminated these targets from AdWords. We’ve confirmed this timeline with representatives from Google, which did not issue a public announcement of the change, despite the location target type help page continuing to include information or airport and university targeting.
It’s unclear why Google eliminated these targeting options, but it’s possible that there simply weren’t enough advertisers using them. While there are certainly use cases for targeting campaigns to universities and airports, the use of these targets was very low among Merkle advertisers in general.
That said, it’s still possible to target users in close proximity to airports and universities using other Google targeting options.
Hat tip to Merkle Associate Director Egle Mazonaite for discovering the sunset.
Workaround for Targeting Airports and Universities
Update: Advertisers can still search for universities and airports one by one in the UI, or add them via bulk upload. The process just isn't as simple as it once was with Places of Interest.
Additionally, Google still allows for radius targeting. This allows brands to target areas within a radius as small as one kilometer around landmarks, addresses and coordinates.
By plugging in the address of an airport or building in the center of a university, advertisers can then select an appropriate radius around these addresses to attempt to capture individuals searching from airports and universities. Here I’ve plugged in the address of Charlottesville, Virginia’s airport with a radius of five kilometers selected.
And here’s an example using the address of the Rotunda, a historic building at the University of Virginia, in order to target individuals close to the school.
It’s interesting that Google would bother eliminating a targeting option, particularly without any public announcement to advertisers. However, it’s not a big deal for most advertisers as these geographic targets were rarely used for the most part, a fact that likely played into Google’s decision to do away with them quietly.
Still, for those brands that want to target ads to college-goers and airport travelers, there are still workarounds to get at such audiences. These should more or less achieve the same goals as university and airport specific targets.