Media Planning Just Went Local

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There are several golden rules of advertising but one of the most fundamental is to make sure your message is seen by the right people, in the right place. This is the foundation on which the media planning industry established itself. At various points in history, media shakeups have meant a significant rethink of planning strategies – from the demise of local evening newspapers to the expansion of cable TV, the rise of the internet to the fall of direct mail.

Most of these changes in media choice have come about because of shifting consumer behaviour and leaps forward in technology. That is usually a gradual affair, but in March this year, people’s behaviour changed overnight – one week daily commutes were the norm, leisure activities were in full swing and shopping continued at a pace, and the next most people were working from home, entertainment was entirely based within the household and shopping went predominantly online.

So now, as widespread store opening returns, brands are trying to determine which lockdown shopping habits will remain and which, if any, will return to normal. Because it is only by discerning this, that advertisers can work out their new planning strategies.

Post lockdown, retail marketing will be very different. Many shoppers’ attitudes and values have changed irrevocably. Successful brands will need to be flexible as they navigate potentially radical changes in behaviour. For example, more ‘shopper’ decisions will start to be made at home.

This will require good data and customer insight but unlike other macro changes, after the instant shock of coronavirus, historic behavioural data will not predict the future – indeed, it will be almost irrelevant for brands selling through retail networks.

Coronavirus has shown just how segmented the population is, with people behaving very different between countries and regions. Therefore, understanding local shoppers will be paramount in managing effective retail marketing. To maximise the impact of national marketing campaigns, brands will need to tailor local messages.

It was against this backdrop that Pintarget joined forces with The Specialist Works – to ensure shopper media was at the forefront of hyperlocal marketing. As people think in a more localised manner, local planning expertise and store-based personalisation will become more important for brands.

The UK is made up of many separate tribes. We are not a mobile population, most of us are in local communities. Two-thirds of people live within 20 miles of where they lived at the age of 14 years old. In addition, understanding the relationship between community and location will be essential – the economic impact of lockdown has not been equal. Community has become more important than ever and it is the brands that talk to people effectively on a local level, that will be successful. Our own pre-lockdown research showed people trusted local press twice as much as national press.

The way people are emerging from lockdown is already demonstrating why pre-lockdown data may not be a good indicator of current behaviour. According to CACI data there have been huge increases in people going to shopping malls (up 25% since reopening) and shopping parks (up 26%) whereas people aren’t returning to city centres or high streets in the same volumes. Shopping choices are being based on safety, both in terms of the end destination and the mode of transport.

So, if brands can’t rely on historical data to give an accurate picture of the future, they need to be gathering current geo-data, ready to act locally and quickly. This could be uncomfortable for a generation of marketers brought up in the programmatic era.

As we pick our way through these changed times, successful retail marketing will be much more granular, it will be the brands that meet everyday needs that will succeed, and this will mean being local. The marketing rule book is changing, and the brands that survive will be those that are willing to test ideas, sometimes fail, but keep moving forward.


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