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One of the big themes in local this year is the increased amount of localization in national ad campaigns. We saw it with U-Haul and Progressive Insurance a couple of weeks ago on our podium at ILM East in Boston. Those have been mostly search plays. But we also see it with display ads on national networks developed by local companies, such as Gannett and Morris. And we see it on localized efforts placed via companies such as Centro.

A mainstay in that part of the industry is Media Networks Inc., the Stamford, Connecticut-based Time Warner-owned company that specializes in localizing national advertisers in print magazines and more promisingly — given the decline in the print magazine business — a wide variety of national and local websites.

MNI dates back to 1969, but really began transforming to the digital age in 2006. Today, digital accounts for roughly $35 million, or half of its $65 million to $70 million annual revenues. Key categories include auto, health care, finance and regional banking. Education is also a big play. In addition, the company places smaller regional advertisers that want to broadcast a national-like presence via placement in national publications.

MNI Digital head Michael Nasif tells us the company works in close partnership with agencies. “You need a very specific approach to local markets,” he says, noting that a carmaker might be pushing a family van in one part of the country and a sports car in another.

While MNI is agnostic toward media channels, Nasif says the challenge is to provide more accountability at the local level. National clients are used to greater accountability from print magazines. “The nature of a paid subscriber in terms of brand value and a trustworthy approach is not automatically replicated online,” he says.

Nasif also notes, interestingly, that while tablets have been suggested as the savior of magazines, it is going to take a lot of work, given that tablet penetration is still relatively low, and that media subscriptions on tablets are a piece of a piece of that.

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