Local search and geo targeting can compete with today's incumbent media channels but will not always be able to trump trusted incumbents that have gone online. It all depends on your brand, its size, and its national reach.
Are you having difficulty getting that meeting with the right person at the client side or closing the deal? Are you a local television station wondering why that national brand doesn't advertise on your online site, even though they buy spot TV from you? Or are you an online site confused by why that local or regional brand is advertising on that local television station's online site and not your site, given your ability to locally target?
Here are some of the dynamics as to why you may be having difficulty. It's all about the structure of their company, and who you have the relationship with.
Face it, if you don't know them, the client doesn't want to take your call. They don't want your media kit, and they don't want the ticket to the basketball game, or dinner at The French Laundry. Wait a minute, on second thought, I'd want that. And that's the point. In order to get that meeting with someone you do not have a relationship with, you have to find out what they want, not try and pawn off what you have. Their office phone is now permanently set to "send calls." Those who need to contact them have their cell or BlackBerry number, making their office phone a relic. Why? Because it just rings off the hook.
When clients now have the ability to buy advertising around urinal cakes in men's bathrooms, how do they decide where to spend their money? Whose calls do they take?
Doing business has reached critical mass, and often the client takes none. And while the media universe is expanding, their budget, unfortunately, is not.
So who wins? Both, but it all depends on whether you are a national brand seeking to be more relevant locally to your consumer -- in which local-search and geo targeting are making serious inroads -- or you are a local business or regional business wishing to be more efficient with your spend, in which trusted local media brands have a better chance.
It's simple. The regional or local brand wishing to use its dollars more efficiently is much more likely to have someone at the client end in marketing who handles both the offline and online spend. Whereas, the "relationships" the trusted local brand has had in the offline world translate when that client is going online. Your client will take the meeting. They are also much more likely to have an agency, if they have one at all, that is also local. Media people at that agency will be more likely to have relationships with those trusted local brands. It's a symbiotic loop of friends of friends and relationships, and given an almost infinite choice of media options, you go to the one your comfortable with, where you know people.
The advantage they have is that in the local television or radio sales business the infrastructure is already set up to handle going online with a local presence that can be bought. The relationships with those local media outlets often give them access to mailing lists and extension programs to encircle their potential consumer, online and off. They become much more of a one-stop-shop to help the local business reach its local customer.
The DMA structure does not exist in the online world. Often the national brand wants to concentrate on certain geographic areas because segmentation analysis tells them that their consumer is more densely concentrated in those areas. This is more of a shotgun approach to local, and it's the other side of the coin — a structure that online can service well.
With national brands, the marketing departments almost always have split responsibilities between online and offline. Those individuals may report to the same person, but the "relationships" that the traditional local media outlet has is usually with the offline side of the client's business. They also usually have a separate agency for their online media buying and planning. The same structure that works so well for the local trusted brand with local and regional clients works decidedly against them with national brands.
Local search provides the ability to get right at the specific pay-for-play transaction level that national brands require. The local or regional brand is much less likely to have as mature a web presence and data analytics to make that buy as efficient. As for geo-sensing, it's finally starting to learn how to walk. It's not running yet, but at least it's standing upright. There are still some inherent problems with the targeting, however, and unlike local incumbents, there is still that "unknown" of what percent is actually being served locally. This is why the data and analytics of geo-sensing online are held to the higher standard. It also usually comes with costs associated with that targeting, which, if you are a national brand, you may actually get better efficiency shotgunning to cover locally.
In order to circumvent the issues with geo-sensing, however, many clients are turning to the city guide sites, yellow page sites and other directory based systems. Originally just proxies for their offline counterparts, many of the local city sites do not have an offline analogue.
But there are situations in which neither one wins the ad dollars. eBay, Craigslist, et cetera. The papers must hate it. Craigslist took an entire business model offline, dismantled it, and replaced it with something that is essentially free.
People in the media business better hope there is not a major brand that decides to just start giving away advertising to companies they like. I can see it now, election 2008, millions of dollars worth of inventory being given away for the tax write-off to candidates who these new internet moguls want to support.
It's a brave new world. Are you ready for it?
Sean X Cummings is director of marketing for Ask.com. Read full bio.