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This is the latest in BIA/Kelsey’s Vantage Points series. On a semi-weekly basis, it will tap the perspectives of various lookout points from around the local media and tech sectors. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect that of BIA/Kelsey. Please contact mbolandATbiakelsey if you have insights to share. 

National Brands Need a Unified Voice from Local Media

By Maribeth Papuga


Throughout my agency career, I have fielded inquiries from local media vendors asking why advertising dollars may or may not be allocated toward local markets. While there are numerous explanations that justify brand preference and selection process, they generally fall within three main criteria.

1) The brand does not have distribution in the market or see an economic reason to invest

Brand distribution and market attractiveness is part of the process for each brand and their parent company. However, changes in local consumer behavior and content choice can offer opportunities for marketers to include certain markets if the economic and competitive features warrant.

2) Inconsistent and outdated local media measurement techniques make it difficult to determine competitive parity versus national media

Local media includes thousands of vendors and business plans that demonstrate individual value propositions. Lack of consistent measurement techniques is one of the main reasons local market media may be shortchanged during the media planning process. Many of the tools and measurement associated with local media are insufficient and outdated. Traditional channels remain reliant on measurement grounded in small audience panels and consumer behavior relationships that prohibit reliable granular study. Conversely, new media channel measurement demonstrates the ability to capture location and usage but lacks a consistent set of industry accepted techniques and standards.

Despite data and technology upgrades, there has been spotty commitment toward standardizing local market measurement. These problems cannot be solved by one measurement service or channel but requires a unified, multidiscipline strategy that is both substantive and proactive.

3) National brands need to be sold on the relevance of local market context versus single channel virtues

Promoting an individual channel has been key to the media ecosystem and is necessary to distinguish the relationship to a specific media audience. Within the local market trading area, this tactic may be enough to support local brands who understand the market dynamics. However this is not sufficient for national brands as audience cost efficiency is often the only criteria used to compare local media channel valuation to national media. Data driven audience planning offers an opportunity to support local market relevance with consumer data, but will require new investments and unified guidelines to support local media. Building consensus across media channels, technology providers and measurement services will be critical to radical improvement.

BIA Kelsey estimates that national brands are responsible for approximately $61 Billion in advertising spend that flows to local market media. This is impressive but requires measurement rigor and defensive delivery guarantees which are hindered by the available measurement techniques associated with each market and channel. And due to these inconsistencies, the execution and audience delivery may be unfairly compared to national benchmarks.

In order to break this cycle, and garner stronger interest from national brands, there is an option for local market media vendors to unify their collective voices and encourage individual and cross channel measurement standards that are anchored by relevant local market traits. Some of this is already being done within specific channels but lacks the comparative capabilities that position the channel’s relevance to the appropriate local market audiences.

And this is the key point to consider.

Local media understands the importance of relevant context to local market audiences. Using this fact to guide a unity coalition will enable each channel to preserve their own value but engage in building a foundation that provides open standards and consistent evaluation in relation to the local market and its unique characteristics.

This effort will require organization and the formation of a steering body to establish the overarching goals and deliverables necessary to develop standards. The first step is to build a framework that will collectively define local market audiences within each market in universal terms that is consistent across market and channel. The second step will require schema that associates these defined audiences with media usage within each of these markets. Finally, the development of open standards that coalesce the local market media measurement will provide the blueprint for relevant metrics.

Local media needs to feel empowered to help national brands connect with local audiences in a more effective manner. By addressing the shortcomings together, the industry has the opportunity to lead.


PapugaMaribeth Papuga is a 25+ year advertising veteran with specialization in local market media planning and buying. The majority was spent leading the local practice at MediaVest and predecessor DMB&B.


Related: Maribeth will speak about this topic at BIA/Kelsey BRANDS, March 22nd in New York.

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