What National Advertisers Can Learn From Local Advertisers in Times of Uncertainty

By David Krupp, CEO, Billups

For too long, advertisers have viewed local advertising and national advertising as a universe apart.

A distinction originally meant to convey the presence and distribution or consumption of a brand somehow got mixed up with the types of advertising they purchased—i.e., local brands use only local media, while national brands focus only on national campaigns.

But in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, out-of-home advertising remains one of the few broadcast-reach level local media. It stands as the only visceral medium available in the real world—it’s easily accessible, unskippable, and creatively impactful.

National advertisers are typically known for their deep pockets and use of national broadcast, and digital, as their main media expenses. For years, they’ve committed substantial budgets to the upfronts and newfronts, often riding high on the promise of consistent growth and brand recognition derived from mass viewership. But as the advertising landscape has been transformed, and broadcast viewership in particular has been reduced, national advertisers now face a much different challenge.

Meanwhile, digital fraud and invalid traffic continue to plague advertisers—to the tune of $78 billion in lost business in the coming year, as MediaPost projected. The level of waste is staggering and yet grows year after year. Brand managers should be rewarded for taking risks and adjusting their media mix rather than upping budgets on formats to account for increasing levels of fraud.

This is where local advertisers can offer an indispensable lesson, as even in times of uncertainty, they exhibit staying power and consistency. Local advertisers understand the value of engaging with their audiences at a grassroots level, fostering a strong connection with their communities. And they consistently have to out-maneuver their competitors as they often lack the ability to outspend them.

I think back to something longtime marketer Marc Pritchard of P&G was quoted as saying earlier this year: “There’s no reason to settle for media reach of 50-70%,” especially considering that close to 100% of consumers shop in its product categories. Pritchard says P&G’s goal is media that reaches 90-100% of consumers.

To me, his point validates the necessity of additional media formats to achieve such a goal. Further, it necessitates that media channels not be bifurcated between national and local but really between media that delivers the incremental reach required and those that do not.

So it is perplexing that P&G, among other brands, devotes a tiny portion of its marketing spend to OOH. A medium that can help achieve their goals for reach, provide proximity to purchase and connect locally. This points to a need for elevating the sector’s profile, both in the minds of advertisers and in the broader industry conversation

P&G could take note from the likes of Apple, McDonald’s, Fanduel, State Farm and MolsonCoors, all national brands with strong local media investment. All these brands have recognized the potential of OOH, leveraging local media at scale and demonstrating that it’s not just a regional strategy but a national driver for their businesses. With OOH, they can make a powerful statement while tapping a diverse audience at scale. Among the local and regional brands they can take a page from, meanwhile, include Cracker Barrel, Zaxby’s, Pilot and Albertson’s, all of which consistently maintain local media pressure even amid market fluctuations and further media fragmentation.

But the responsibility doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of advertisers. The ad industry, agencies and ad tech players must also acknowledge the underrepresentation of OOH in their strategies.

What is important to remember is that the solution lies in our collective action. Advertisers and agencies must educate themselves on the OOH channel to find out just how valuable it is to achieving brand, audience and KPI requirements, while ad tech must innovate to make the medium more accessible and measurable (like we do at our company).

Local businesses have a wealth of knowledge to lend national advertisers in times of uncertainty. As a powerful, resilient medium, OOH can be the bridge that national advertisers need to navigate economic variability.

It is past time for national advertisers to reevaluate OOH, not as a secondary option but as a core component of their marketing strategies. As we look ahead to another year sure to be defined by economic or new uncertainties, learning from local businesses and harnessing the power of OOH can be a key to resilience and success for leading national brands.