So, what happened at the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MCA) during Vivid Sydney this year?

For lovers of big ideas, like the crowd at this year’s Vivid Sydney festival, it’s hard to beat a setting like the Museum of Contemporary Arts. In a festival that is dedicated to bringing together creative and business leaders to discover new ideas and inspire innovation, the MCA’s diverse audience provides the perfect point of connection. Within the museum’s walls, everyone from tech developers and serial entrepreneurs to filmmakers and architects can meet, rub elbows and exchange ideas.

For the MCA, however, the trick was getting that wildly diverse audience’s attention during an event-packed 18-day festival in a thriving city that is already bustling with things to do.

With a great collection of speakers lined up — and plenty of tickets to sell — the MCA needed a way to catch the attention of a younger, educated and tech-savvy audience. This was a perfect opportunity for the MCA and Vivid Sydney to test the impact of a new technology which is only now becoming widely available: Location Intelligence

Location Intelligence systems work by capturing highly detailed, real-time geographic data from a mobile device and integrating it with another service. It’s a burgeoning technology with massive potential in a staggering variety of fields ranging from healthcare and public safety to augmented reality games and improved social networking. And, of course, targeted marketing.

If someone is browsing the web on their smartphone, a location intelligence provider can use their exact location to serve them with highly targeted content. This allows a retail store in a busy location to send a targeted ad, or a promotion, to a potential customer who is mere yards away from a store. For brick-and-mortar locations, Location Intelligence offers a new means of competing against things like online store, taking advantage of the immediacy of real-time shopping to drive foot traffic to their location.

In a sense, that’s exactly what the MCA did. The museum needed to reach tourists in town for Vivid Sydney, as well as the business and civic leaders in the heart of the city. By focusing their campaign on real-time mobile traffic in Sydney Airport, Circular Quay, and the general area around the MCA itself, Vivid Sydney and the MCA were able to make a strong connection with their target audience.

In addition to raising awareness of the Vivid Sydney festival at the museum, the ads also offered a 20% discount for tickets to Vivid Sydney events in the museum. The real question, however, was “Did it work?”

One of the advantages of using location intelligence as a marketing and analysis tool is that it can be used to collect much of the same data as online traffic. To test their results, the MCA conducted a footfall survey during the campaign. During the 18 day period of the festival, the MCA gathered data from 150,714 unique users. The results were encouraging.

According to the MCA’s results with Near, roughly 16% of those who engaged with their ads walked in to Vivid events. The heaviest footfall period came in the second and third weeks of the festival. Most surprisingly, the highest footfall days weren’t on the weekends or late evenings, but rather on weekday events between 4 pm to 8 pm.

With a slate of innovation-themed events and presentations, the MCA had a clear demographic in mind for their marketing: Students looking for the next big industries in Australia, investors interested in funding creative ideas, and professionals with the ability to bring big concepts to market. Not surprisingly, the audiences who attended their events skewed strongly in the 26-to-35 range (39%) for expected for professionals and the 16-to-25 range (34%) for students. Interestingly, professionals and affluent visitors tended to visit the MCA on Tuesdays, while traveling visitors opted for events on Thursdays and Fridays.

As an early case study of marketing-based on Location Intelligence in action, the MCA campaign during Vivid Sydney offers plenty of valuable insight into the potential of the technology. It strongly suggests that there is untapped potential for audience targeting, even within the broad age and economic range the museum was most interested in attracting. What’s more, the high engagement rate offers a degree of promise for Australia’s retailers.

When combined with location intelligence, mobile data has the potential to completely change how marketers connecting with an audience during events. It allows for real-time, individually targeted advertising to reach specific crowds of people within mere meters of a specific location. For the first time, brands can reach out directly to people in an audience, attending a gala, or simply walking by a storefront.

This kind of data-driven marketing isn’t just an interesting new option, it’s the key to unlock an entirely unexplored method for bridging the gap between brands and consumers. In a market where the lines between online and real-world commerce are increasingly blurred, tools like Location Intelligence could do more than simply funnel more visitors to a great museum. It could change the game entirely.

The potential for brick-and-mortar retailers, event venues, food service companies simply can’t be overstated. It allows retailers to put their advertising budgets in the right buckets, targeting their precise audience in ways that were previously unimaginable. As a retailer, it also allows you to instantly see what works, and what doesn’t.