Think Nationals Will Drive Local-Mobile Ad Spending? Think Again

Map and pinAs I’ve previously written, there are forecasts arguing the majority of mobile advertising will be dominated by localized campaigns. Make no mistake the “local opportunity” is great and even an imperative for marketers. However, the ad dollars just aren’t there today — and may not materialize for some time.

(This quickly leads us into a discussion of definitions: what is a local ad? I’ll skip that for today.)

The topic of geotargeting or localized marketing on mobile devices is much more complex and nuanced than the general industry discussion which operates at this level: mobile = local (so the dollars must flow, right?).

SMBs have no capacity to generate or manage mobile ad campaigns on their own (with a few exceptions such as Facebook’s promoted posts or maybe Foursquare). Thus the majority of mobile ad spending — the big dollars — have to come from national advertisers. However these folks are basically clueless about mobile marketing and how to think about location.

The way location is basically being sold to national marketers and agencies (aside from geofencing) is as a proxy for audience. That’s the language they understand. They don’t really know what to do with location targeting capabilities — let alone lat long precision. I’ve come to this conclusion after lots of discussions with ad networks and others.

Today a report from the CMO Council, sponsored by local marketing automation platform Balihoo, all but confirms my thesis. The report is substantially based on a survey of national/brand marketers and their agencies. It explores their overall localization tactics and the barriers they face. I’ve written up the report at Marketing Land.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (over 80%) don’t even make the connection between mobile and local. I was shocked by that finding. Here’s the question and answer:

nationals:  mobile local

Source: CMO Council/Balihoo (n=296 national marketers/agencies)

While this survey may not be definitive, it argues that national brands are far behind in their adoption of mobile as a “localization strategy.” This is not even a question of execution. This is a fundamental matter of understanding — a conceptual/intellectual foundational kind of thing. Even national advertisers and their agencies need a lot of education.

Today they simply don’t “get it.” Sure, there are always case studies and exceptions, but my sense is that the survey answer above is a truer reflection of the state of the market.

Given this, it’s very unlikely that we’ll be seeing millions of locally targeted national advertising dollars flowing to mobile display advertising any time soon. (Paid search is different.) It’s going to take at least 3 and maybe 5 years for “local money” to start showing up in mobile in any significant way.

Disagree? Why?

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2 Responses to “Think Nationals Will Drive Local-Mobile Ad Spending? Think Again”

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    […] Nationals Will Drive Local-Mobile Ad Spending? Think Again (Screenwerk) Greg Sterling: A new study from the CMO Council argues that national brands are far behind in […]

  2. Verve Introduces ‘Place-Based Audience Targeting’ says at

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  3. Sean says at

    It’s not necessarily that the brands are behind.  It’s that their agencies are behind and clueless to the value of mobile / local marketing.  If you’ve ever pitched a local mobile advertising solution to an agency filled with 23 year olds during a “Lunch-and-Learn”, the blank look on their faces says it all.  

    The only thing these “kids” understand are banner ads.  It’s unfortunate that they are are the people who are tasked with buying $MMs in advertising for national brands.

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    Perhaps that’s right but someone doing the strategy/tactics for these guys is clueless.

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    […] were representative of the entire industry. However they’re not. A recent CMO Council survey showed how many agencies and national advertisers still don’t “get” […]

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