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JetBlue promo takes off on travel app GateGuru

In an experimental look into the possibilities of travel ads on location-based mobile apps, the most prolific GateGuru user each month for the next three months will get a free round-trip ticket from JetBlue.

This JetBlue ad will appear on the GateGuru iPhone app to advertise the free tickets the airline is giving away to the location-based mobile service's most prolific users. GateGuru

Brand advertisers are flooding into location-based mobile applications--from Foursquare and its ilk to custom-developed apps like Starbucks' store finder--and while there are sure to be some laughably bad attempts in the mix, one industry that can jump into the "check-in" craze pretty safely is the travel business.

Take this one: A niche check-in application for airports, GateGuru, just updated its iPhone app to include a new advertising platform that connects advertisers and marketers with frequent travelers. The first campaign on the platform is an advertising deal with low-cost carrier JetBlue, which is offering a free round-trip pass for the most frequent GateGuru user each month for the next three months and $100 gift certificates for runners-up in five JetBlue markets (the New York metro area, Chicago, Florida, Boston, and California).

"I think it was really the perfect partnership," GateGuru founder Dan Gellert told CNET. "JetBlue's obviously known to be innovative in their marketing styles, and this was really a great opportunity to get them in with the demographic. And if they're not flying JetBlue already, this increases their brand exposure to those travelers."

GateGuru isn't a mass-market application. You check in as you would on Foursquare, but check-ins are restricted to airport terminals and the establishments within them, aiming to create "the leading light to locate the best food, shopping, and service options within any airport." Users amass points not just for checking in to airports and terminals, but also for leaving reviews, ratings, and tips. So, by targeting the people at the top of GateGuru's "leaderboard," JetBlue is attempting to reach frequent travelers in its biggest markets who aren't necessarily patronizing its planes yet.

"Hopefully during summer travel and layover blues this'll give travelers something to do," Gellert said of the campaign, adding that he hopes future advertisers on the app's platform will include more airlines, hotels, and rental car companies as well as airport terminal retailers.

At present, GateGuru is small: between 125,000 and 135,000 users, all of whom are iPhone owners (plans for Android and BlackBerry versions of the app are being formulated), and its airport coverage is limited to the U.S., Canada, and now London's Heathrow Airport (expansion to the rest of Europe will happen over the summer, Gellert said). Future updates to the app will also incorporate a way to push a GateGuru check-in directly to Foursquare, a potential draw for users who might find it silly to check in twice.

"We're going to be redoing our user interface and adding additional travel functionality, and one of those will be integrating with the Foursquare API," Gellert said.