Commentary

The Internet And Local Advertising

I think we may have found that the biggest fault of the Internet is its inability to truly deliver local advertising to the same level of effectiveness as other forms of media.

Before you get yourselves all in a worked up, think about it.

In the offline world we can buy Spot TV, Local Print Editions of newspaper and magazines. Event Marketing and Point of Purchase are easily targeted to regions, as is Radio and Outdoor advertising. Internet Advertising has the ability to do localized targeting, but the methodologies and the restrictions are such that it can be less cost effective to do so than most other forms of advertising.

This doesn't mean that local advertising can't be done, but it does have a slightly higher margin for error and it's possible that the Internet, although definitely offering an enormous amount of localized content, is truly the first global medium. Anyone from anywhere can access the information easily and quickly. This is an asset, but how do we factor this in to avoid being a liability as well? Vast amounts of dollars are spent on local advertising each year and if we cannot find efficient ways to truly deliver on local advertising, then we are missing out on some of those dollars.

Local content can be purchased, but local content can be delivered anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Domain targeting can be layered onto a campaign but this can be faulty depending on where servers are based and what ISP you utilize for dial-up access (and with much of the Internet still on dial-up, this cannot be overlooked).

So what do we do about it? We cannot overlook localized advertising, but we need some better tools and methods for delivering them effectively.

The most glaring omission from the local advertising catalogue is Search. Search gets the buzz and it currently gets the dollars, but the biggest opportunity (and I might argue the Only opportunity) for growth in Search is via Local Search. Many, many advertisers use Search on a local basis, but the volume is small and can be harder for larger advertisers to manage as they get dwarfed by other opportunities. If these were easier to manage and had some volume, then these could become increasingly important elements of the budget.

Local Demographic Targeting also needs to be improved and make it slightly easier for advertisers to feel confident in the ability for larger sites to reach local customers. Sites like Yahoo and MSN certainly have localized content and in some cases local sites, but these are behavioral-based opportunities rather than demographically-based. If the demo option was stronger, there might be more opportunities for local advertisers.

Please don't get me wrong as I feel I need to continue to caveat myself here knowing full well that the message boards will be full of people defending regional targeting online. It can be done, indeed. The issue is that it is the most under-developed, unreliable form of online advertising and is the only consideration point that Online tends to lose to Offline advertising vehicles. It comes up repeatedly in conversation with clients and the answers always seem to be the same; that it's not quite there yet. How much local advertising do you do? Truthfully?

What do you think?

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