Ian Manning looks at local and national media and how one chooses where to advertise.
It’s easy to talk about consumers in sweeping demographic terms, such as LSM 5 to 7 or ages 25 to 49, but this hides a great deal of detail about them. Environment influences attitudes and opinions which, in turn, affect behaviour. So, if the point of advertising communication is to influence consumers’ behaviour in relation to a particular brand, then surely these nuances in environment are not only useful, but essential, to understand.
We need to acquire a deep understanding of consumers, ideally as individuals. We must at least identify them in small segments, based on attitude, location or opinions, as well as demographics, to ensure highly targeted, relevant communications are delivered throughout the purchase journey. In other words, we need to go for more targeted and more localised communications.
But it’s not only consumers who need to be looked at under a microscope; brands too vary depending on where and when they are encountered or consumed. This is true across many categories and brands. By way of illustration, according to TGI, 7.4% of its total sample would consider FNB as their future bank, versus only 4.15% of Cresta shoppers and, across Johannesburg, as many as 12.9% of Sandton City shoppers.
Sure, a national, or even regional, strategy can position a brand and its offering but this needs to be supported by a specific, locally relevant approach to address these disparities. It’s not a question of national versus local, it’s a question of the role of national and local together in a fully integrated communication plan. The choice of local radio, press, out of home media or mall media depends on the local objectives and how they dovetail with the national plan.
In the digital world, there is a major dichotomy. On one hand, digital properties are typically global. On the other, technology allows for hyper-localisation in a way that was not previously possible, driving greater relevance and, therefore, generally higher engagement.
Take Google, which is one of the largest, most global media. Here, it seems, local searches are starting to grow, and by local I mean hyper-local, such as ‘Sandton Plumber’. There is so much information available that many consumers are realising they need to be more discerning by localising their searches. Research by Harris Poll in the US backs this up. Their study in October 2014 highlighted the importance that smartphone users place on local information. As many as 87% of these users cite “being able to search for a retail location” and “accessing local information and activities via apps” as important mobile activities. eMarketer reports that marketers are getting wise to this localisation trend, with 24% worldwide either using, or planning to use, geo-targeting to run location-based campaigns in 2015 and a further 25% exploring the technology. That’s a lot of marketers looking at hyper-local strategies as part of the mix.
Facebook too seems to be growing in local reach and engagement. These days, most lifestyle estates, neighbourhoods, clubs and shopping centres have local pages that have active, engaged communities. This was highly evident during the February fires in Cape Town, when Facebook was used by neighbourhoods to report hyper-local news, faster, more accurately and in a manner more relevant to local communities than national media ever could, or should.
Damian Hardy, a content marketing specialist, sums it up when he says, “Hyper-local content strategies, while costing more to implement in terms of community and content infrastructure, result in significantly increased organic visibility (meaning you can spend less on media). But the real return comes from being relevant to your consumer’s daily existence and a part of their local community. This gives great awareness and puts your brand at the front of their consideration set.”
And that is the point of local media, digital or otherwise. It is about higher relevance and higher engagement. For brands to leverage off this it’s no good running national campaigns in local media – the message needs to be locally relevant. Comparisons between national and local media using reach or cost per thousand are missing the point.
Each has their role to play and, often, should be used together as part of an integrated campaign. Creative and media planned together, digital and offline planned together. Perhaps, a consumer journey in a perfect world might look as follows. National media, including paid social, might be good at delivering high awareness at relatively low cost. National puts a brand on the consideration set with brand advertising. Local media with more informative content might deliver a more in-depth local message to drive people into the local shopping centre, where mall ads, integrated with social platforms and activations, can help consumers narrow down their consideration set by engaging with the products, finally being encouraged by in-store or digital media to purchase.
Simplistic perhaps but the point is that the national versus local debate is the wrong debate. It’s more about the role of channels and the accompanying message to influence consumers through their purchase journey.
Looking at AdEx doesn’t give much insight into what is happening regarding investment across the purchase journey or into local or national media channels. That is because reporting is done on the media buy, not on the intent behind the buy. So, for example, digital, out of home media and cinema are all considered national. It’s too difficult to separate what is targeted locally from what is not. Where it is tracked, to some degree, in print and radio, it actually shows an increase in national spend, but due to the limitations of the data, it’s inconclusive. It is, however, probably safe to say that there is no shift to local just yet. This is for a host of reasons.
We’re still too focused on reach numbers and not focused enough on the effectiveness of the communication.
Cost is an issue too. Localised messaging is more expensive at the outset; whether that means more Facebook pages, more time spent analysing search terms, more production variations of mall or OOH sites, or different print/radio messages.
The road to more integrated and relevant campaigns requires a change in behaviour from both planners and media vendors.
It’s up to media planners to design communication plans that take into account the role each message and medium plays in driving consumers through the purchase and usage journey; to use a mix of national and local media channels to affect consumer behaviour. They also have a duty to help clients understand that media planning is more than just reach at low cost, it is communication effectiveness that matters. To do this they need to be working in unison with creative and digital to ensure alignment in objectives and put in place proper measurement (of the right metrics) for optimisation.
Media vendors have a challenge too. On the whole, they could be a lot better at working with planners to design packages that are aimed at addressing specific objectives, even if they have to work with other media vendors to do it. Rather than just flogging their own off-the-shelf inventory, they could help to build expertise in a particular part of the consumer journey where their medium excels and invest more in researching the effects of campaigns against pre-determined objectives. Media vendors need to take a greater responsibility for the results – it is no longer good enough to simply ‘sell and run’.
So, is local really lekker? Technology is certainly driving localisation of behaviour and advertising opportunities. There is no reason more traditional media, such as local radio, mall media or community papers, shouldn’t benefit too, if we look beyond reach comparisons and highlight the role their media can play in a holistic consumer-centric media strategy. n
Ian Manning – who until recently was the CEO of Mediacom – is an independent consultant in advertising, media, digital, content marketing.
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