Media Perspective: Technology means one size won't fit all the local markets

One of my first jobs in advertising was working as a junior account person on the regional/dealer bit of a car account.

I was the one who had to send all the artwork out to 300-plus local newspapers and make sure all the dealers understood what ad they were getting.

Actually, just typing that makes me aware of the hubris of the account person, because, of course, I didn't send them out myself, there was a dedicated, rigorous, hard-working production person who actually did that. And a massive armada of repro people etcetera who made it all possible. Anyway.

Mine was always a job on the edge of being cut, I sat in numerous meetings with the scrapping of the regional programme on the agenda, partly because it was a massive logistical headache and cost the client a fortune and partly because the logic of media seemed to be heading the other way. Effective media buying seemed to be all about power, scale and centralisation. There was an assumption that more intimate, direct consumer relationships would be handled by DM or increasingly digital/interactive means.

Local media found itself squeezed and ignored in the middle. I'm reminded of all this whenever I stumble across more prognostications about the future of media, because, these days, they invariably involve mention of hyperlocal media. (I think the "hyper" bit is a just a more expensive word for "very".)

Now, of course, the internet has considerably lowered the costs of gathering and disseminating content so media can be incredibly narrowly focused - written by, and for, a particular discrete regional community, often as small as streets, blocks of flats, or communities connected to schools. Way smaller than car-dealer catchment areas.

This kind of hyperlocal content won't exist everywhere, but where it does, it could well become one of the most intimate and powerful media relationships your customers have. And that's going to be a huge organisational challenge for us all. Because at exactly the same time we're grappling for more global efficiencies and dealing with cross-border, multi-national audiences, we're going to have to embrace micro-geographies - embracing communications at the postcode and street level, empowering branch managers and working with more and more geographically diverse partners, often community groups, not especially geared up for a commercial relationship.

Retailers are already moving to embrace a new consumer desire for localness, other brands will probably follow and now appropriately scaled media vehicles are starting to arrive to match them. The challenge for our big, centralised, planning, buying, thinking, creating and supplying organisations is whether we can operate at that scale too.


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