Local Ad Networks: Smoke and Mirrors?

There’s lots of talk about local and fragmentation and the complexity of local and how local is “really about the tail.” I’m the source of some of this talk but much of it has become Internet conventional wisdom too. Networks and aggregated ad inventory are the solutions to these fragmentation problems. Accordingly, right now, I’m trying to get some perspective on the various local ad networks out there and which ones perform and which ones do not.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of local ad networks:

  • MediaSpan
  • McClatchy Interactive (Real Cities)
  • Internet Broadcasting
  • WorldNow (LMN)
  • Yahoo!

Centro is a buying service and not really a network, though some people would lump Centro into this category. There are also vertical networks that have local aspects or targeting capabilities. And the major networks (e.g., Advertising.com, ValueClick, etc.) and ad exchanges have geotargeting.

I’ve talked to a number of people and, guess what, nobody has any real data and nobody knows what’s really going on. There’s lots of speculation, trash talk and uncertainty. There are lots of claims about reach, traffic and technology. But it appears, from what I’m being told, that most of these claims are simply false.

If you have any concrete information about performance, features or local networks in general (beyond the leave behinds and marcomm) feel free to email me or post that information in comments below.

I’m also trying to flush out the networks or nascent networks that consider themselves local.

4 Responses to “Local Ad Networks: Smoke and Mirrors?”

  1. James Nicholson Says:

    One feature that seems to be lacking from most local ad networks is the ability to tap into the highly geotargeted capabilities of the many local mapping sites out there. While most local ad networks have the ability to geotarget users down to a city or zip code, I’m not aware of any that get more specific than that. Mapping sites give local advertisers the ability to target ads right down the the street level – it would be great to see some networks focus on that.

    The only ad network that I’m aware of that focuses on maps is Lat49.com, but it seems like they are a ways from getting traction with advertisers or publishers.

  2. Arul Sundaram Says:

    Greg – Interesting post. I’d like to refine your question a bit more.

    In my experience, local ad networks can serve a number of different advertisers: 1) national advertisers with a national message trying to reach consumers across the country acting locally [e.g., AmEx / Visa]; 2) regional advertisers trying to reach a specific group of people [e.g., regional banks, pharmacies]; 3) advertisers trying to reach people within a specific locale only [targeting a metro area or even smaller – as James suggests]. Within this, networks can be used for branding purposes (premium networks) or dr / performance purposes (lead gen).

    Having followed your blog / heard you speak a number of times, I’m sure this is all basic info to you…but it does speak to the reason why evaluating the umbrella of “local networks” seems so confusing. I’d love to understand more of what you’re trying to get at here.

  3. Anne Bezancon Says:

    Greg, you post raises two points: 1) is any ad network out there able to aggregate local ad real-estate and deliver what media buyers want [on this I share Arul’s breakdown of national/regional and local “local” advertisers, which have very different needs], and 2) is the technology/capability to manage and deliver hyper-targeted campaigns at scale available today for each of these different types of advertisers?

    On point 1), the networks you list are attempting to aggregate media based on their web properties focus, meaning they are “contextually” local, not functionnally local, because until now they could not do it any other way, which leads into point 2) about technology. I would love to tell you more on that via email – yes, there is technology in production today that does that, and no, I can’t talk about it publicly just yet.

  4. Montreal SEO Says:

    It’s not strictly speaking local, but Facebook’s advertising allows for geo-targeting. That said, you’d want to use Flyers Pro (CPC) and not Flyers Basic (CPM) as the CTR is mediocre.

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