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Local Ad Networks Crib Sheet

George H. Simpson
Local Ad Networks Crib Sheet George H. Simpson
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One of the early promises of the internet was that national marketers would be able to target on a local level with greater precision (not to mention with interactivity featuring sight, sound and motion) than existing offline media such as community newspapers, radio stations, direct mail, telemarketing and, in larger markets, local TV.


Local targeting is not easy. The only way to determine if someone is sitting in Miami instead of Los Angeles or Boston is to track their regional ISP address. That can be kind of tricky since some ISPs (like AOL) have a national footprint, while others (like my own Cablevision) cover multiple states (I am told there are various access points within a large ISP footprint to further narrow your location, but I don't think they are being used for targeting at this juncture). In addition, the large portals like Yahoo! and Google have registration data that includes your ZIP code, so they have some idea of where you live and probably access the internet. But if that creeps you out, rest assured that the Big Boys can't target with that kind of precision-- yet. In fact, they are having some problems, like this example of an ad for a California proposition served to a lower Manhattan, NYC newspaper.



The most reliable way for national marketers to deliver messages into local markets is through local market websites (or the localized content sections of the portals, such as weather). If you think about the local sites in your area, many of them are poorly trafficked either mom and pop retailers or community/municipality sites that give you information about parks, schools and the library. The sites that really get traction are companion sites to local media properties: radio, newspaper, TV stations. One can reasonably deduce that visitors to these sites live and work in the area or have an abiding interest from a distance (maybe they are ex-pats keep up with the local news or plan to move to the area).


This, then, is the reason why ad networks that specialize in helping national advertisers target locally have grown up by aggregating numerous local media sites. If you have the ability to sell some inventory for a couple of local TV stations and radio stations and the newspaper, you can deliver an audience that is pretty reliably local.


"If you look at many of the portals' local news offerings, you may get one or two stories. With local media sites, because the news is more relevant, not only is there a lot of rich content, it comes from trusted anchors and news sources within the market," says Allison Bodenmann, EVP National Sales for WorldNow's Local Media Network.


Let's look at some of the major players in this space.


If you want more thoughts on general interest networks and local capabilities, check out the last page.


Author notes: George Simpson works with new media companies to help them tell their stories and promote their brands. Read full bio.

Name of targeting product:
MediaSpan Network


What types of local properties do you work with, and in what size markets?
MediaSpan works with local radio stations, newspapers, television stations and alternative newsweeklies in nearly 300 U.S. markets. MediaSpan has partners in market one, market 201 and everything in between. MediaSpan has more than 100 properties in the top 25 U.S. markets, and more than 200 in the top 50 U.S. markets.


What types of targeting can you do beyond geo?
MediaSpan not only delivers a local audience, it delivers the exact audience an advertiser demands through additional layers of targeting, including targeting by:



  • Character ClusterTM : Because MediaSpan works with multiple types of media in a market, campaigns can be targeted to specific local affinity groups that frequent similar types of local media sites. For example, video game advertisers can reach 18- to 35-year-old gamers through our "Alternative Nation" cluster of the top modern rock radio and alternative newsweekly websites in a market. MediaSpan has about a dozen pre-formatted clusters, and advertisers can also create their own on the fly.

  • Daypart: Ads can be delivered during peak surfing times appropriate per specific types of advertisers-- fast food during lunch, full service restaurants at 5 p.m., et cetera.

  • Context/Content: Ads can be delivered to specific sections of the local media site, such as weather, autos, et cetera.

What types of special advertising products or campaigns can you produce for advertisers?
MediaSpan can do everything from integrated content sponsorships to full-fledged syndicated advertorial programs. Currently MediaSpan is promoting its exclusive series of Fan Frenzy sports contests, which allow advertisers to brand College Hoops Tourney, Pro Football, Auto Racing and College Bowl online sports pick challenges that are distributed in more than 100 markets and include nearly 200,000 players.


What types of ad units do you sell?
MediaSpan sells all standard IAB ad units, as well as most rich media formats, audio streams, pre-roll video and email sponsorships.


What benefits can you deliver the properties you work with?
MediaSpan delivers its 1,200 local media partners access to new, national revenue that they have never been able to tap before. Right now, more than 70 percent of online ad revenue is generated by only 10 properties. Local online media sites need to get above the radar with national advertisers or be overshadowed by the "big guys." MediaSpan's goal is to elevate its local media partners to a national marketing audience. Additionally, the financial benefits of being a MediaSpan local partner are more than one-dimensional-- it is a two-way relationship. MediaSpan is the only network to actually pay our affiliate partners commissions for referring deals to MediaSpan.


What types of advertisers do you work with?
Our drive is to help national advertisers reach a local target audience with specific geo-based messages or offers. Just a few of the segments that MediaSpan has been able to help in this respect have been local recruitment, travel (airline/car rental), financial services (local banking), media services (cable/broadband), consumer packaged goods, (regional product roll-outs) and quick-service restaurants. Basically, national brands that tailor messages and deliver their products to local markets.


How do advertisers know where their ads are showing up?
Every one of its local sites is a leading local media property that has a premium reputation (and in some cases an FCC license) to nurture and protect online. MediaSpan is totally transparent--  there are no "mystery sites," and no questionable content. Furthermore every RFP and delivery report that MediaSpan generates designates the sites where an advertiser's campaign will run and when. Advertisers have total flexibility before and during a campaign to include or exclude any of our 1,200 local affiliate partner websites. The advertiser has a clear picture of exactly where their ads are showing up.


How can you slice up your network?
MediaSpan can deliver advertiser messages to a single locality, DMA, state or region. Additionally, through our exclusive Character Clusters, MediaSpan can specify different types of media that appeal to different demos in each market. Urban radio stations in the southeast, news television stations in the northwest, et cetera. One ad buy, one thousand options.


How does MediaSpan differ from competitors?
(Answers provided by Mark S. Zagorski, MediaSpan's chief marketing officer)



  1. MediaSpan is the only local multimedia network. MediaSpan works with local radio, newspaper, television and alternative newsweekly sites. By doing so, MediaSpan provides advertisers with more flexibility in their targeting and delivery than "single media" local networks.

  2. Multimedia also applies to the ad types MediaSpan supports. MediaSpan can deliver advertisers display ads, pre-roll video, audio streams and email sponsorships.

  3. MediaSpan provides multiple types of relationship models for our affiliate partners that can meet the needs of any size market. From guaranteed revenue models to variable rep relationships, our flexibility has allowed MediaSpan to grow more rapidly than any local network.

  4. MediaSpan is non-exclusive with our local partners.

  5. MediaSpan is the only local network to provide commissions to our affiliate partners for referring business to us, thereby allowing affiliates to "double dip" to generate even more revenue.

Name of local targeting product:
Real Cities is made up of more than 130 local newspaper sites, providing national advertisers with a means to target and reach local markets and the quality online demographics provided by local newspaper.com sites. Real Cities eliminates the advertiser's need to contact individual newspaper sites directly. Real Cities provides advertisers with a single point of contact to buy, implement and manage an advertiser campaign locally, regionally or nationally.


What types of local properties do you work with, and in what size markets?
Real Cities works with local newspaper sites. They represent sites in top markets like New York, Chicago, Miami, the Bay Area and Dallas, just to name a few. The complete list is here.


What level of targeting can you do beyond geo?
Real Cities can get as specific as ZIP code.


What types of special advertising "products" or unique campaigns can you get for advertisers? 
Real Cities provides targeted mail products, including newsletter and advertiser exclusive email solutions, podcasts, video, blogs and sponsorship packages (unique opportunities for advertisers in addition to rotational media).


What types of ad units do you sell?
Real Cities supports all rich media formats, including expandables, and interactive ad units such as PointRoll's PaperBoy ad unit and DoubleClick's SmartMedia ad unit that takes an advertisers Sunday circular and puts it online. Real Cities supports IAB standard units.


What benefits can you deliver the properties that you work with?
The key benefit Real Cities provides local newspaper.com sites is access to national ad dollars they would not otherwise see, and increased utilization of their ad inventory. Real Cities is an additional revenue stream for its properties in addition to helping them expand their national sales reach. Real Cities also provides its affiliates/members a forum to share ideas with other local sites and the opportunity to participate in unique integrated advertising programs.


What types of advertisers do you work with? 
Real Cities works with a broad range of advertisers across many categories: auto (Volvo, Ford, Lexus, Nissan), financial (AMEX, Wachovia, Visa), mobile/telcom (Verizon, AT&T, Cingular), travel (American Airlines, Jet Blue, Marriott) and retail (Walgreens, Target), just to name a few.


How do advertisers know where their ads are showing up?
Real Cities tracks all campaigns and provide reporting on delivery and screen shots showing placements.


How can you slice up your network?
By site, by market, by region, by DMA or by ZIP code.


How does Real Cities differ from its competitors?
"Our ability to provide beyond the banner opportunities and unique sponsorship packages to advertisers," says David Fitzpatrick, vice president of national sales for Real Cities.

Name of local targeting product:
Local targeting isn't just a product for us; it's what we do. http://www.ibsys.com/index.html


What types of local properties do you work with, and in what size markets? 
Internet Broadcasting (IB) works with top TV stations in more than 80 markets, including the top 25 Designated Market Areas. Because IB publishes most of these sites, they are able to provide uniform advertising programs, including custom placements, content and sponsorships across its nationwide network.


What level of targeting can you do beyond geo? 
IB can provide contextual targeting and behavioral targeting nationally or even within specific markets.


What types of special advertising "products" or unique campaigns can you get for advertisers?   
Custom content modules allow advertisers to integrate more seamlessly into key channels. They are advertorial pieces within the page that go beyond IAB standard adjacencies. IB also creates brand immersion opportunities, like the Weather Wrapper skin. Video vignettes have become more popular, and IB uses its in-house production studio to work with advertisers on custom online and on-air pieces. Convergent programs that include branded on-air promotion and online integration have become increasingly popular as advertisers look to leverage the halo effect of local, trusted brands.


What types of ad units do you sell?   
Video in the form of custom vignettes (on-air and online) and 15-second pre-roll. Homepage push down units that run on key dates. IAB standard units (728x90, 300x250, 160x600). IB accepts flash and rich media.


What benefits can you deliver the properties that you work with?   
IB is able to leverage our nationwide network to provide each individual site with access to national advertising revenue they may not normally have. IB also make it easy for our partners with our ad serving capabilities, in-house production studios, full creative team and advertising support team.


What types of advertisers do you work with?
Major national brands across many key categories including automotive, insurance, banking, travel and consumer packaged goods.


How do advertisers know where their ads are showing up?
The entire IB network is served through DoubleClick's DART ad serving system. Advertisers can easily find out current campaign statistics and optimize accordingly.


How can you slice up your network?
IB can sell the entire network, region, or individual markets-- down to one vertical lifestyle channel (e.g., health) on one local site in a single market. This level of targeting benefits both local and national advertisers looking for efficiency and laser targeting in their campaigns.


How do you differ from your competitors?
"IB provides a bumper to bumper solution. Rather than reaching out to markets individually, IB is a one-stop shop for national advertisers looking to reach consumers on a local level-- via the web. What really sets us apart is we actually build, design, host, research and market the properties in our network. Because of this, we have an unparalleled knowledge of our audience and their online habits," says Paul Bremer, IB's EVP of national advertising sales. "We use this to create the most optimal programs for our advertisers. Additionally, because we publish the sites, we're able to offer a lot more than the standard IAB ad unit. We can create custom content, pages, video vignettes and other brand immersion opportunities that reach our audience in the most impactful ways."

Name of local targeting product:
Local Media Network (LMN) (www.localmedianetwork.com)


What types of local properties do you work with, and in what size markets?
LMN works with local TV stations primarily, but has expanded into newspapers, cable systems and other local media companies that use internet technology, such as content management systems, video solutions and/or auto classifieds products. LMN also has relationships with local media companies that simply want to be part of the LMN network. LMN has more than 180 sites in its network and covers more than 85 percent of the United States. Its media partners cover markets one to 200.


What level of targeting can you do beyond geo?
In addition to Designated Market Areas/site/ZIP code targeting, LMN offers content/site section targeting, behavioral targeting and dayparting, as well as run of network.


What types of special advertising "products" or unique campaigns can you get for advertisers?
Its local media partners are the largest producers of local news text and video content. These stories are managed by news directors in the market, so the content is extremely relevant to the community. LMN offers banner advertising adjacent to this content as well as significant pre-roll opportunities.


Since LMN hosts most of its local sites, LMN is also in a position to offer advertisers unique content sponsorship and integration opportunities. LMN has a national content team that centrally produces and publishes national stories, as well as sponsor content and sweepstakes, across more than 120 local news websites.


In addition, this year LMN will be producing national lifestyle video channels that will be available for sponsors.


What types of ad units do you sell?
LMN offers IAB standard units, video, rich media, content sponsorships and custom content integration. In addition, LMN provides advertising in 400,000 daily emails that consumers opt-in to receive. This includes news, weather and traffic updates. Mobile advertising is in development and will be launched soon.


What benefits can you deliver the properties that you work with?
LMN brings them national advertisers which would not have the staffing to contact each station individually. Its sales organization provides the quick turnaround that agencies demand, and stewardship/performance and maintenance that would be difficult for a local team to manage. LMN also centrally serves and administers all advertising and incurs all additional costs to maintain client relationships. LMN manage the entire process from presales to campaign launch and optimization.


What types of advertisers do you work with?
Pharmaceutical, travel and tourism, auto, financial, retail, insurance, consumer packaged goods, restaurants, telecommunications, consumer electronics, home furnishings, entertainment, as well as online classifieds.


How do advertisers know where their ads are showing up?
LMN is transparent, providing an updated list for the advertisers who run across the network and for those who are looking for specific regions or markets they pick from a list.


How can you slice up your network?
Any way the advertiser wants. You can buy LMN nationally, regionally, market-by-market or by site.


How do you differ from your competitors?
"Our relationships with our local media partners go beyond a simple rep agreement. In fact LMN hosts over 75 percent of the sites in our network and serves all the advertising centrally through LMN. Local media companies also use our content management system, video technology and auto classifieds solutions to power their sites, further enforcing our relationship. Therefore LMN is on the publisher side, and owns the majority of the ad inventory LMN offer to the marketplace. Local buying services, such as Centro, or rep firms have to secure inventory from us. In addition, LMN enables marketers to run national campaigns across the entire network (RON) while also allowing them to target specific creative to individual markets should they have geo-specific goals. LMN can therefore be considered for both national and local ad buys," says Allison Bodenmann, EVP national sales for LMN. "Unlike specific broadcast networks such as NBC who are restricted to offering advertisers their local stations, LMN's network comprises affiliates of all networks be they ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox."

Note: Centro is another company that is recognized for its local targeting. However, it is not really a local ad network but rather is an intermediary between agencies, clients and local websites. Centro obtains the local inventory necessary to fulfill advertiser campaign requirements, as well as provides client with advice and council on how to run effective campaigns.


Name of local targeting product:
The Centro MMS


What types of local properties do you work with, and in what size markets?
Nearly 2,000 of them in nearly every local media property in the country.


What level of targeting can you do beyond geo?
Centro builds plans that take all other standard kinds of IAB-approved targeting into account.


What types of special advertising "products" or unique campaigns can you get for advertisers?  
Centro says it is the only company in the business that can create and execute homepage takeovers in every market on the local outlet.


What types of ad units do you sell?  
Centro sells every IAB-approved unit that its media partners can take for a given campaign.


What benefits can you deliver the properties that you work with?
The NAA says that Centro has done more to revive digital newspapers than any other company, and Burrell estimates that Centro delivers as much as 40 percent of all the national dollars that reach digital newspapers.


What types of advertisers do you work with? 
Centro works with every national and regional advertiser that works with an agency-- more than 170 last year alone.


How do advertisers know where their ads are showing up? 
Centro is completely transparent. Advertisers will know in advance, not just after the fact.


How can you slice up your network?
By site-market-state-region (then again, Centro isn't really a network.)


How do you differ from your competitors? 
"Scale and efficiency. Centro is many times the size of some local media networks because Centro works with every media company, not just one or two," says Shawn Riegsecker, Centro's founder and CEO. "Especially at the local level, content matters. As much as Yahoo succeeded against print newspapers' local sites, those newspapers still draw a far better demographic locally. This is due to their content, which nobody else can touch."

If you don't control local media inventory, you can't deliver the goods, say the networks. How does a portal that sells local targeting to advertisers respond? Well, Yahoo was the only one that did.


What types of local properties do you work with, and in what size markets?  What level of targeting can you do beyond geo?
In terms of geographic targeting, Yahoo offers both contextual placements in properties such as Y! Local, Maps, Yellow Pages, Classifieds, et cetera, as well geographic overlays across Yahoo's overall network. With these overlays, advertisers can reach audiences in specific states, DMAs or small regions as defined by ZIP code. Yahoo offers a very broad array of audience definition choices that may be used with these local audiences, such as demographics (age and gender), behavioral (shoppers or engagers), connection type (dial-up or broadband) and many more.


What types of special advertising "products" or unique campaigns can you get for advertisers? 
Some examples include couponing and promotions, property sponsorships or integrations, customized targeting or analytics/research.


A specific example would be a product Yahoo developed in conjunction with AC Nielsen called Consumer Direct, which directly targets consumers by what they are likely to purchase in addition to traditional demographics. Most CPG brands have "most valuable customer" (MVC) targets that tie the value of a consumer or household to purchasing. For example, the MVCs for a mayonnaise brand could be households that purchase at least 50 ounces per year. In traditional media, these targets are converted into demographics such as women, ages 25 to 54. Consumer Direct, however, uses the Nielsen Homescan purchase data to create the exact most valued target that the client is trying to reach. By targeting the ads, same level of online advertising yields a greater sales impact. Consumer Direct's ability to measure the offline sales impact has provided CPG marketers with what they've been hoping for-- a strong rationale for the increased use of online advertising.


What types of ad units do you sell?
Yahoo offers all types of ad units-- rich media, video, text-based ads. Yahoo also recently acquired AdInterax, which enables it to provide marketers with a self-service platform for rich media creative assembly and campaign management. Yahoo follows the IAB standards for our ad units.


What types of advertisers do you work with?
Yahoo works with a large majority of the AdAge Top 100 advertisers and offers marketers a broad array of innovative solutions, including customized research. These marketers span many vertical categories-- finance, travel, autos, consumer packaged goods, pharma, tech and telco, retail and entertainment.


How do advertisers know where their ads are showing up?
If advertisers buy contextually, they are buying specific areas of the site so they know where their ads will be. If advertisers are using behavioral targeting, geo-targeting or demographic targeting, they are buying audiences that can be reached across the Yahoo network.


How can you slice up your network?
Yahoo's platforms allow for explicit targeting -- demographic, geographic, contextual and behavioral -- enables marketers to reach their key audiences efficiently. In terms of geographic targeting, Yahoo offers both contextual placements in properties such as Y! Local, Maps, Yellow Pages, Classifieds, et cetera, as well geographic overlays across Yahoo's overall network. With these overlays, advertisers can reach audiences in specific states, Designated Market Areas or small regions as defined by ZIP code.


How do you differ from your competitors?
"With the world's largest online audience, Yahoo is uniquely capable of providing marketers the most relevant audiences of scale because of the size, depth and breadth of our audience," says Richard Frankel, Yahoo's senior director, product marketing. "We aggregate a huge audience with our products and services, which in turn makes our inventory incredibly valuable to our advertisers (who we, in turn, constantly drive to provide with the most effective marketing tools and solutions). That is a key differentiator for Yahoo-- our growing and lasting relationships with our users create a very unique opportunity to provide them with useful and relevant marketing messages in a way that is very difficult to replicate for a company without those user relationships."

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