The Digital Transformation in Local-Market Advertising

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By Steve Han, VP of Operations and Strategy at Frequence

Local-market media is going strong, despite impressions to the contrary. In an era when so many of us turn to curated digital playlists, national news feeds and whatever’s trending on social media, it’s easy to forget that local radio stations, TV affiliates, billboard companies and even newspapers are still laboring away, working to provide a product that attracts a valuable audience to attract advertising dollars.

When we think of local-market media companies, however, we tend to envision the products and operations from ten or twenty years ago: A local radio station sells airtime to advertisers who want to reach their listeners, for example.

Technology has changed the equation for all parts of the mass media machine. At the local level, it’s allowed smaller companies with a local focus to keep up and compete in a world of omnichannel media campaigns wherein a single, tailored message is delivered to the same individual at different times across different devices as part of a cohesive, orchestrated whole.

While it may seem at first glance that the advantages of advanced marketing technology reside out of reach for smaller, less sophisticated advertisers, the fact is that the greatest benefits of modern marketing technology are most readily beneficial to the most modest businesses.

A decade ago, Google Adwords was the only open-internet digital ad exchange readily available. Advertisers had no choice but to live with its limitations.

Since then the rise of more sophisticated platforms like the Trade Desk and proliferating DSPs happened alongside the near-universal adoption of smartphones, which added a layer of geographic and behavioral data to the overall equation.

Social media companies also added geographic targeting around the same time, which coupled with falling costs and vanishing purchase minimums made all of the sophistication of automated, open-internet media buying available to the local car dealership or doctor’s office.

With low costs, no minimums and geographic targeting, local businesses could get into the digital game. This gave local radio outlets, TV stations and other local-market media companies an opening: Automated media-buying systems allowed for easy media purchases, while open exchanges created equity between large budgets and small budgets.

Technology gives local media an opportunity to compete in this new landscape by enabling omnichannel advertising at the local level. The local radio station and TV operator aren’t just selling their own inventory anymore: technology allows them to strengthen their own product with digital touchpoints that add tremendous value to the overall advertising equation.

In order to be successful with omnichannel advertising, local media companies do need to invest in technology but a salesperson can sell a much more significant swath of radio airtime if they’re able to add value with digital components that will reach their audience on social media and CTV channels as well. An omnichannel ad campaign becomes more effective than the sum of its parts.

Local businesses would do well to pay attention. In the case of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), for example, a recent report from Borrell found that 66% of local marketers had used an agency or third party for SEM, while 38% had someone on staff manage it and 19% used a tool/software to help. The costs amounted to $3,625 for tools and software, $27,738 for staff, and $11,159 for agency fees. These costs, which multiply across channels, represent a significant expenditure for local businesses.

In order to succeed, local media companies and their advertisers must have all the tools they need to optimize the effectiveness of their campaigns and products.

Omnichannel execution provides sufficient value that it’s essential for advertisers trying to succeed in an increasingly digital world. The technology that enables omnichannel campaigns at the local level is getting better all the time and the local-market businesses that flourish in this evolving reality are the ones that embrace change and leverage all the available tools in their favor.