Commentary

The Age of Local: The New Marketing

“All politics is local” was a phrase made famous by the late Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, and today, all marketing is local.

In the ‘good old days’ (circa 1930-2011), campaigns were directed to a mass audience using mass media like print, national TV and radio. Messages were highly depersonalized, such as “dear occupant” mailings. Media and production costs were high, causing barriers to entry and limited competition. There was scant customer data for digital advertising, making it challenging to target or optimize campaigns. Lastly, planning cycles tended to be annual.

Those days are gone. Now, we’re in the Age of Local. Marketing wars are digital, skirmishes are ongoing, and you win or lose based on local relevance. This is not only the new reality for major brands and their agencies, but also for companies whose bread and butter has always been local, such as hospitals, real estate agents, auto dealerships, and the advertising and media companies who service them.

Follow the Money

BIA/Kelsey forecasts $22.1 billion will be generated by sellers of location-targeted mobile ads this year. Multi-location brands are spending 25% of their budgets on location-based marketing and more than 50% are using location data to target customers, representing billions of dollars, according to a survey of 500 marketers by the Local Search Association.

However, local marketing is not just about mobile. In fact, BIA/Kelsey also predicts that in the U.S. local advertising revenue as a whole will increase 5.2% in 2018 to $151.2 billion, the largest annual increase in five years. While mobile is a growth engine, today it is number three in total spending, just behind local TV and about half that of direct mail. Even these ‘traditional’ media are going digital, such as direct mail targeted at households based on IP matching to online browsing, and more than $2 billion forecasted spend for local online video. 

New Balance of Power

As the big guns come in, the fight for local relevancy gets harder even for the corner store.Luckily, the Age of Local brings with it the means to compete. The democratization of advertising and marketing technology and platforms, including programmatic for display and connected television, social, and better conversion tracking, is leveling the field. Mom and pops still buy ads in the local paper, but are also investing in digital to go head-to-head with their new competition; in fact, according to Borrell Associates, digital ad spend overall surpassed that spent on community-based print and broadcast for the first time in 2017.


Getting to Digital Proficiency

Of course, this shift to digital is not without its challenges. Let’s take mobile as an example. Recent research from Forrester and AppsFlyer brings this into stark relief. The top concern of the 250 mobile ad buyers for brands and agencies was “lack of knowledge about programmatic and mobile ad buying,” at 39%. And these are the ad buyers! For the brand marketer or local business owner, it is even more daunting to figure out what are the best investments for local impact. 

There is of course a bevy of consultancies, technology companies and other partners who are poised to help guide both the sellers (such as local media and agencies) and the buyers (whether national brands or mom and pops) through such challenge — some more difficult than other — as they gird for battle in the Age of Local. It can be a tremendous cultural and process change, but a necessary one, to step into the future and to reap considerable return on investment.

There is no doubt, the Age of Local is here, and marketers can be equipped to make it a golden age.

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