REGIONAL MEDIA: ACTING LOCAL - Certain clients are upping the ante when it comes to their investment in regional media. Meg Carter reveals what regional offers compared with national campaigns

Regional mixed-media strategies are increasingly being used by advertisers to top up and, in some cases, even replace national campaigns. Key challenges, however, are to ensure creative executions are adequately integrated into overall campaign themes, and to maximise the targeting opportunities now available to those eager to micro-manage messages locally.

COI Communications is one of the country's top three regional media spenders, regularly investing in regional TV, press, radio, outdoor and direct activities.

MediaCom Accent has handled regional press and door-to-door activity for COI since 2000 and implements around 200 regional campaigns in a typical year. Almost every campaign is bought and planned differently with strategies rarely repeated, although the annual drink driving initiative is one notable exception.

"Regional activity is critical for COI to reach the right target audiences with different messages, MediaCom Accent's associate director, Craig Lennon, explains. "To promote initiatives such as family tax credits, for example, regional offers tightly targeted opportunities to speak directly to housewives with kids. Regional also comes into its own for more sensitive messages.

Lennon adds: "Campaigns for issues such as MMR must be delicately handled. Regional works well here: regional press, especially, is highly trusted."

Regional press offers growing opportunities for COI with the expansion and quality of newspapers' specialist and lifestyle sections. Environmental fit is more important than localising messages to the nth degree. Lennon says: "We have been using more tactical ads, such as in newspaper motoring sections where we warn people about car theft."

MediaCom Accent has also developed a number of COI campaigns integrating door-to-door leafleting with regional press work. "Door-to-door is one of the most sophisticated opportunities you get to target recipients down to street level, Lennon explains. "We have used ads in papers and even stick-it notes to direct people to accompanying leaflets. The key is to grab attention at all times with relevant, tightly targeted messages in quality media."

MediaCom is closely involved in each COI campaign's strategic planning.

Extensive research goes into all regional media planning and response mechanisms are built into ads wherever possible. Identifying the right regional medium for a particular message is one concern. Relevant execution is another. So ads are targeted in tone and style for different media.

Integrating national and regional creative executions and media is important for B&Q. Over the past 18 months the retailer has evolved a national creative theme featuring real employees from B&Q branches across the UK. This neatly dovetails with regional requirements, Paul McGarr, an account director for B&Q's regional media agency, Zenith, says. Parallel to its national advertising, B&Q runs local campaigns to support its ongoing roll-out of new, warehouse-style stores. "Typically there are two openings backed by regional campaigns each month. The main objective is to drive awareness and boost footfall on opening day," McGarr explains.

In contrast to COI's approach, each B&Q regional campaign follows a similar blueprint structure. Typically, each campaign runs for three weeks comprising local press, radio and catalogue distribution as well as posters which can run for up to three months. Care is taken to ensure local activity is tightly targeted so as not to cannibalise nearby B&Q stores' catchment areas. Local press is a particularly effective way of dealing with this, McGarr explains. B&Q typically uses wraparounds in local freesheets and colour double-page spreads in paid-for titles.

Where there are no other warehouse branches nearby, B&Q will run regional TV advertising.

"The development of the national campaign featuring local employees has enabled us to ensure all activity, national and local, is closely integrated in style and theme, McGarr adds. "It is something a growing number of advertisers are paying closer attention to as media fragmentation and changing expectations mean consumers respond better to local messages."

REGIONAL PRESS DISPLAY ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE (by advertiser)

Advertiser                            Jan-December 2001         % change
                                                % share   (year on year)
DFS Northern Upholstery                             1.4             42.2
COI                                                 1.0             62.7
British Telecom                                     0.6             73.6
Lidl Discount Food Store                            0.5            -15.7
Land of Leather                                     0.5             26.6
Kwik Fit                                            0.5             20.7
Ford Motor Co                                       0.5            145.1
Specsavers Optical Group                            0.5             31.9
Arnold Clark Motors                                 0.5             13.0
Bensons Bedcentres                                  0.5              2.7
TJ Hughes                                           0.4             10.3
Reg Vardy                                           0.4            -29.0
Source: Nielsen Media Research/ NS intelligence unit.

REGIONAL: DELIVERING RESULTS

Nine out of ten regional press campaigns get results, according to the initial findings of an advertising effectiveness study released by the Newspaper Society. The results of the campaign are currently being promoted by a through-the-line campaign by BDH/TBWA (above).

The key findings of the research demonstrate that:

- Local press delivered an average 77 per cent increase in advertising awareness for the 26 brands on the study.

- Adding regional press to a multimedia schedule will increase ad awareness by nine percentage points.

- 44 per cent of brands achieving significant rises in awareness of the local press advertising achieved a significant increase in familiarity.

- A quarter of those brands experienced significant rises in consideration.

THE PG TIPS TEST

One brand which took the regional press challenge was Unilever. The FMCG giant embarked on a four-week test period with the teabag brand PG Tips. By suspending all other advertising activity, the brand got a true idea of how effective regional press is as a single medium. The table below shows consumers' shift in attitude toward the brand.

Likelihood of buying PG after seeing ad
                                  Pre        Post
Much more likely                   0%          1%
A little more likely               5%         19%
Makes no difference               92%         57%
May put me off                     2%          0%
Source: The Newspaper Society, NEMS.

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