Waze Advertising: The Eulogy

Updated: June 30, 2023

It will be missed…

If your business was in the right category (gas station, restaurant, coffee shop, bank, auto dealer, grocery store, or any niche business with an offline location) Waze was filled with amazing advertising opportunities, heck just look at some of earlier coverage of their features and updates.

But on June 28, 2023, there was a HUGE record scratch heard across the digital advertising landscape, which turned out to be Alphabet-owned Google pulling the plug on Waze Ads.

“In order to create a better, more seamless long-term experience for Waze advertisers, we’ve begun transitioning Waze’s existing advertising system to Google Ads technology.”

Google, 2023 via Reuters

The platform won’t accept any new ad campaigns starting now with a total shut-off date of September 1st 2023, 10 years after acquiring WAZE for around $1.3 billion”In order to create a better, more seamless long-term experience for Waze advertisers, we’ve begun transitioning Waze’s existing advertising system to Google Ads technology. As part of this update, we’ve reduced those roles focused on Waze Ads monetization,” Google said.

This is yet another signal of the shifting tide within the Google Ads ecosystem. You could say it’s a simple consolidation and an attempt to streamline the user experience, but the initial solution offered to Waze Ad customers is Google’s relatively new Performance Max (PMax). I could go into more detail about PMax and why we aren’t totally sold on it being the “miracle pill” but we are here to remember our dearest friend, Waze Ads. 

Good Night, Sweet Prince

We’ve been using Waze Ads since it was first introduced in 2018. Over the years, there were the obvious ad platform growing pains, but we quickly realized the power this unique platform offered both large and small local businesses. Its key features enabled businesses to target potential customers based both their current and future locations, the ability to create custom ads and also receive real-time reporting was a game-changer for reaching on-the-go customers.

Over the last five and half years, we have had the pleasure of helping local businesses grow and reach new customers via Waze Ads. On average, we saw a 20% increase and consistently had a higher than the benchmark in navigations to clients’ brick-and-mortar locations. We were even able to access foot traffic reporting from Placed (FourSquare), which allowed us to drive the Cost-Per-Store Visit down to $2.00. 

It is safe to say that these tactics and channels will be missed, but let’s remember with loss comes growth and opportunity. As I mentioned above, Google is promoting the use of PMax as a stopgap until they roll out a more encompassing ad solution for Google geographic products. But we believe there are better alternatives offering a similar if not better experience than the soon-to-be-defunct Waze. 

Rise from the Waze Ashes, Granular Programmatic 

Programmatic advertising is a lot to unpack in its own regard, but in the realm of Waze Ads what I can tell you is that Programmatic offers just as extensive targeting options and inventory that can target the on-the-go, in-car audience. A quick example of this would be specific geo-located digital billboards running during your peak shopping hours that capture the eyes of anyone in a vehicle with their focus on the road versus a phone (I’d say this is even safer, so let’s just deduce that Programmatic saves lives). But I digress.

As we near the exit for the homestretch of Waze Advertising, now is the time we should celebrate the success it has brought to countless local businesses and attractions. Because without Waze Ads, we would have to rely on America’s last true family man, Clark W. Griswold Jr, to guide us… “to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?”

Sic Transit Gloria.

Waze Advertising: An Update for 2020

This post is an update to our 2018 post.

Every month, drivers spend an average of 438 minutes on Waze.  In Milwaukee, companies like Men’s Warehouse, Starbucks, Children’s Hospital, Casey’s General Store, and more are already advertising on the app. Waze allows them to drive local, offline conversions through mobile, on-the-go, online advertising. For smaller advertisers, Waze can seem daunting. But with cost of entry as low as $2/day and the potential for thousands of drivers to see your business, Waze can be an incredible value to local businesses.

About Waze

Waze, a Google subsidiary, is the world’s largest crowd-sourced navigation app. It uses real-time community input to direct users to the most efficient routes. Information users submit can include construction locations, lane closures, accidents, gas prices, road hazards, and more. Users are actively engaging with the app throughout their drive, whether at stop signs or as passengers, which gives businesses opportunities along their way to advertise right at the exact moment when it will be most effective.

Waze Local Advertising

There are two plans for local advertisers to use Waze Ads.

Local Starter allows businesses with 1 to 10 locations to create two different types of ads: Pin Ads and Search Ads.

Local Plus is for businesses with more than 10 locations and offers premium support and tracking features. In addition to Pin Ads and Search Ads, Local Plus advertisers can also use Zero Speed Ads. Waze Local advertisers get a dashboard to review their metrics, such as the number of users seeing the ads, the number of clicks generated, and the number of navigations to your business. Local Starter advertisers can use Geographic targeting to limit their ad serving, and Local Plus advertisers can use Geographic as well as Time of Day targeting.

Pin Ads are markers on the Waze map that alert drivers that your business is nearby. It gives users info like your business address, hours, phone number, and any ongoing deals. These ads increase location awareness of businesses in their area and show as the driver moves along their route. This gives your business multiple opportunities to direct a customer to your location and increases the number of people who know about your business. You can also post deals in the information of these pins, offering drivers more incentive to navigate to you.

WAZE pin ad

Search Ads help your business stand out on a crowded route. They prioritize your business to users looking for your services, showing your business name, logo, and address. If a user is just looking for food or gas or a general search query, having your name on top can be the main differentiator in whether they use your services or not. This is a value-add service – if your business has pin ads, Waze will promote your business in search for free!

WAZE search ad

Zero-Speed Takeover Ads help you reach more users and increase navigations to your business locations. Takeover ads can reach users that are 3x further from your business than a standard Pin. These ads pop up when a user comes to a complete stop and include information about your business and relevant offers. These ads hit users right when they’re most likely to look at the app – checking the drive time left while stuck in traffic or at a stop sign – offering a deal to entice them to drive to your store.

WAZE zero speed ad

Waze For Brands

Waze for Brands offers everything you get with Waze Local, plus advanced targeting capabilities, custom insights, dedicated campaign support, and innovative partnership opportunities. Additionally, Waze for Brands users get to use Nearby Arrow Ads. Arrows act as signposts, displayed within moments of users opening the Waze app, that notifies them your business is nearby. When users tap the arrow, it moves their map to the closest Pin. This acts like a digital billboard and helps drive more views of your business and more navigations.

WAZE nearby arrow ad

With Waze for Brands, you also can access detailed targeting options like a user’s language, their operating system, if they’re a tourist or a local, the type of location they’re driving to, whether they’re driving to home or work, what the weather is like, if the traffic is bad or not, how long the user’s route is, and what time of day they’re driving. These allow your business to target the users most likely to need your services – whether you’re a car wash that only wants to advertise when it’s sunny out, or a grocery store who wants to get customers who are looking to pick up food on their way home.

Finally, Waze for Brands also offers advanced reporting capabilities. This includes the number of navigations and website visits, how many users your ads reached, bench-marking numbers per category, average distance driven from ads, and how often drivers return to your location after seeing an ad. This data can help you determine if your campaigns are getting the right customers in and edit your campaigns to hit the most profitable traffic.

WAZE ad plan types

Online Ads, Offline Results

Waze has quickly become one of the most useful tools for commuters. With more features being added all the time (they recently introduced Waze Carpool for more eco-conscious users), Waze is a growing and expanding economy perfect for branching out with your PPC budget. On average, Waze advertisers saw a 20% increase in navigations to their brick and mortar locations. They’ve seen success with brands in automotive, entertainment, hospitality, retail, finance, casual dining restaurants, and more. With a minimum budget of only $2 per day, Waze gives marketers an excellent base to start their campaigns.