Real Cities, the national ad network owned by McClatchy, has been sold to fast rising Centro. Or at least, the Real Cities brand has been sold, along with access to Real Cities’ list of 250 national advertisers. The network’s local media affiliates, however, which are mostly newspapers, aren’t included.
It isn’t really a big deal in and of itself. Centro isn’t going to use Real Cities’ branding, and the lists aren’t especially important either — Centro already talks with most of the advertisers and agencies. So far this year, it has worked with 320 advertisers and 150 agencies. There is an overlap of 150 of the advertisers.
Still, the deal is a coming of age for Centro. When it started a few years ago, it had initially positioned itself against Real Cities as a “smarter, more flexible” way to buy local media than a newspaper-only network.
The deal also gives it more blue-chip positioning, which is important as it strives to put a customized local buying software program on the desktop of every agency rep (its major push).
Centro CEO Shawn Riegsecker believes the deal is significant since the company is still pitching its buying services to newspaper-oriented advertisers. In this regard, it has been competing for mindshare with Real Cities. But he emphasizes that Centro remains committed to a philosophy that gives agencies “the best local plan across 100 percent of local properties and 100 percent of local inventory, with premium positions, sponsorships and home pages takeovers.”
Centro’s non-network approach is very different from Yahoo and Quadrant One, which provide a small percentage of high-impact inventory, he argues. And it is very different from so-called remnant networks like Advertising.com and Blue Lithium, which provide a very wide reach but with limited targetability.
“What happens when Home Depot comes to us and wants to buy 20 percent, 50 percent, 100 percent of inventory across 60 markets?” he asks. “Agencies want a holistic solution.”
Looking beyond the Real Cities buy, Riegsecker is betting big on gaining more regional clients such as banks, hospitals, supermarkets and multi-state tire companies. National advertisers are spending 10 percent online. But the next wave of dollars will come from Tier 2 regional clients, who are currently spending less than 2 percent, he says. Centro is going after them by expanding its regional footprint. It currently has 11 offices.