National Advertisers Should Take Pointers From Local Advertisers

frostprioleaurevised“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Frost Prioleau, CEO and co-founder of

National advertisers are often thought of as the most sophisticated users of programmatic technology, and for good reason. As some of the biggest spenders, they have invested not only in programmatic media, but also in attribution, quality and viewability tools, data-management platforms and a host of related technologies.

But Madison Avenue can learn plenty about programmatic from their peers on Main Street. Local advertisers are a pragmatic lot, with many practicing a more hands-on approach to programmatic. It is a philosophy that substitutes sophisticated tools with common-sense scrutiny, and it values customized audiencesas well astransparency of inventory and data.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

National advertisers often take a handful of fixed audience segments and target those same segments across the entire country.

Local advertisers, on the other hand, know that the ideal audience for many products and services can shift from state to state, designated marketing area to designated marketing area and even ZIP code to ZIP code. They customize audiences with local competitors, domains, products and keywords so that their targeting conforms to the idiosyncrasies of their market. By customizing audiences to local markets, retailers, car dealers, bankers, restaurants and other businesses get more effectiveness out of their digital advertising spending.

National advertisers can also benefit from taking a localized approach by turning singular large national campaigns into multiple customized local campaigns that better target regional or local needs and in turn drive improved ROI.

Trust, But Verify

While national advertisers are constructing an increasingly complex stack of advertising technology solutions to automatically verify inventory and audience quality, local advertisers typically take a more hands-on approach. Perhaps because of their hands-on experience with search, they take the time to review targeted keywords and sites personally. They demand transparency from their vendors not just on the “top 10 sites” where their campaign runs, but on all the sites where their ad was viewed, along with the exact number of impressions, clicks and associated costs.

Local advertisers review sites, targeted keywords and other audience elements to see whether they pass the sniff test. If it smells like something is rotten, they speak up. As skilled search marketers, they expect to see the individual data elements that are being used to deliver their audience and they optimize as the campaign progresses.

Instead of just trusting the output of their verification, viewabilityor attribution solutions, they challenge vendors to either justify or remove sites and keywords that are suspect.To those national advertisers who might put a bit too much blind faith in their automated solutions, the “trust, but verify” approach can pay dividends.

Life Beyond Last Touch

Many local market advertisers don’t use their own ad servers to measure the results of their campaigns. While this limits their ability to independently track their campaigns, it also steers them clear from the trap of optimizing based on last-touch attribution. Instead, they use a variety of measures,such as site visits, phone calls, sales, leads or click-through rate. They find the metrics that are most suited to their businesses, whether they are in service, retail, auto or another vertical.

On the contrary, many national advertisers have been led down the last-touch path, chasing after a cost-per-action metric that is often optimized by running high volumes of cheap impressions on inventory that is largely out of view. The campaign reports look great for the vendors that play this game, but this approach often leads national advertisers to allocate budgets to vendors that are not truly driving results.

Many national advertisers would do well to tailor KPIs to the needs of their own businesses and avoid the “out-of-the-box” settings from their ad server. If they did, I think that we’d see far fewer selecting a last-touch attribution method.

While national advertisers continue to pioneer the adoption of ad technology, local advertisers remind us that a hands-on, common-sense approach remains important when implementing new technologies.

Follow Frost Prioleau (@phrossed), (@Simpli_fi) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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