The Zip episode 17
To continue an idea we started last week, I talked to the matchmakers, and we’re now offering a list of sponsorship opportunities, for free. Usually we charge for this, but this list is available on our site. The list is titled Give Love, and for the first round – we imagine there will be more coming – for this round, our Matchmakers – Munsie, Claudia, Candice and Jasmine, nominated organizations to the list that they’ve worked with and whose mission is to advocate for or give back to women, the environment, minorities, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, public school kids, to name a few.
You can find the organizations on our blog, and email us if you’re interested in sponsoring any of them.
We’ll be adding to this Give Love in the next couple of months, as we search specifically for organizations that connect with people in rural areas. I’m sure many listeners have also heard about the gulf between urban and rural America, as exemplified by the recent election, so we’re doing our part to help bridge that gulf.
You can visit zipsprout.com/give-love for more on this. So now, finally, to today’s interview.
Maribeth Papuga is a 25-year media, marketing and advertising veteran, who serves as executive in residence to BIA/Kelsey. She advises the company and participates in its practice areas including industry coverage, research, consulting, and forecasting projects related to local media strategy and investment. Her areas of specific concentration are local activation of national brands and overall media strategy as it relates to local measurement and investments.
Maribeth is both a visionary and a realist, which is why it was so fun to learn from her. She comes from an advertising background, but now works with local organizations, specifically local media organizations to help them find ways to attract national advertisers.
When I was at the conference where I met Maribeth – the sustain local conference at monclair state university – I think some of the local journalists in attendance were worried about working with national brands, for fear that they’d have to give up a bit of their mojo – that they’d have to almost gericiffy – if that’s even a word – themselves in order to attract such a company.
But Maribeth’s message is different – in fact, it’s the opposite. She argues that national brands need local marketing and they need help with local marketing, because they do need to better understand how their customers in Oregon are different from, say, their customers in Florida. They need local organizations and local journalists to flaunt their mojo, because that’s something these national brands can’t do.
It’s really exciting actually – it’s like that part in a rom com when one character tells the other “No, I just like you for you! Just be yourself!” And everyone in the audience swoons because that’s actually what WE ALL WANT TO HEAR. Whether we’re falling in love, or just trying to live our passion and make few (or more) bucks, the best feedback from a potential partner is “hey – you be you, and I want to hook up with you anyways.”
So with that optimistic prologue, let’s jump into the interview.
Megan: Well, Maribeth I’m really excited to speak with you today because I think you’ve given a lot of thought and you’ve done a lot of research in areas that I’m learning about and talking about on this podcast especially the intersection between national and local and how that’s evolving in the digital space. So, you come from BIA/Kelsey which describes itself as an advisory firm, can you tell me a bit about BIA/Kelsey and how they’re different from other agencies or research firms in general?
Maribeth: You know, I think what attracted me to BIA is I spent a majority of my career on the agency side and BIA I have spoken at their conferences in the past, they do do event conferences but their main focus is on local and local media and how local advertising is evolving and their speciality has been around really projecting what that marketplace looks like from a monetization standpoint they have also been involved in you know the analyst side and looking at company things, primarily they started with traditional media a lot of TV and radio stations so they still do a lot of work within that area then they’ve evolved into some of the other categories that have developed outside the traditional media channels. So they really versus anyone else in this field, I think they primarily look at local and they look at everything from the local viewpoint up as opposed to a lot of consultants that sort of take an aggregated viewpoint.
Megan: Right, and so who are some of the primary customers, like types of customers that would come to BIA/Kelsey and ask for their advice on the local ecosystem. Is it generally, you know, national bran–
Maribeth: So it is, it’s been a lot of, yeah, it’s been primarily the media owners of who they’ve worked with so if you want to look at yellow pages, or you want to look at some of the ad tech, and marketing tech companies that might have asked for help. It’s people who have been in the traditional media, so traditional broadcasters, traditional print people who are looking for ideas in how they can better compete in the marketplace. And what BIA, why they added me in is to get more of a perspective on the advertising side, and to really look at national and say, what’s missing in that national advertising component and how can local compete more, and that’s a challenge, it isn’t that you can just go out and attract everybody from a national perspective but what it does allow is that conversation what is local missing, how can they better get their voice through national advertisers and the other side is how can national advertisers better understand local.
Megan: Yeah and that’s something too and you’re, do you every work with national brands who are like, “Okay, we want people, say, in Charleston, South Carolina to learn about our brand” or do you kinda go to them and say, “Hey, you should to advertising in cities x,y, and z or you should go work with these local media publication in cities x,y, and z because they can get you in front of some target customers”?
Maribeth: So I guess what we have to do is go back to my traditional background in agency side where I was responsible for all local media investment into individual markets and that was primarily for the last 20 years on execution side but I also developed media plans before that. So, what media planning does is look at the marketers objectives, primarily when you’re on the agency side they are national clients or regionalized, maybe they merged and consolidated and become more national in their distribution. So during I’d say over the last 15 years, a lot of national advertisers migrated to what we call national planning, because they felt that their distribution their service plan everything was more well distributed across the US, and that then imposed some cost barriers, where they said is it more effective for me to spend in national media versus local. But we also had clients that said that we have locally targeted distribution capabilities and so what we want is we really want to attract those media audiences so what’s the best media mix. So we’re always, when you get to that point you’re always caught between I have x number of dollars to spend and what’s the most effective way for me to spend that in this market to accomplish my directives and is that I want reach, I just want people to know about me, or is it to buy my product more often or is it something different where you’re actually trying to combat a competitor or a image problem. And so that’s when local tends to be thought maybe at the last minute, you might come in and you might place media times, so anything times gets overlooked at the local level because most of the budgets that are assigned at the local markets can be more flexible, you’re getting on and off the air, you’re getting in and out a digital component, and digital locally can be overlooked because it’s just too cumbersome and too difficult to really navigate at a national agency they look at bigger global opportunities, through Facebook or through Google through some of the bundle practices, say the TV stations have merged their web products, so you might you know buy some video through them.
Megan: Yeah, and actually, that’s some of the questions I was going to ask as well. You know, so for people listening, you and I met at the Sustained Local Conference, and at this conference which was targeted at local journalists but for marketers, I feel like there was a plethora of information and one thing they were talking about is how a lot of national brands, when they think about local marketing so much of them are just saying oh we’re doing Google ads we’re doing Facebook ads, that’s local marketing. But you know in some ways the message then for the journalists was that unfortunately Facebook and Google were their competitors in some ways. But for brands what would you say is there, is there a reason that they should look beyond the kind of plug and chug of Facebook and Google you could get someone anywhere. Is there things local institutions could offer that Facebook and Google don’t in your opinion?
Maribeth: Yeah, I think the biggest challenge right now for all media channels, it doesn’t matter who it is, is really the measurement, measurement compatibility, you’re dependent on third party, it’s different depending on what your media channel, so if you’re traditional TV, radio, newspaper they tended to fall under that broad based mass sweep measurement which isn’t quantifiable at a local level the way digital is. So what’s happened is, any of the data or metrics that people have been using have gotten used to and said oh I can track my ad. I think where the challenge become for national ads is alright what am I missing, I’m not even really aware of these local markets, I’m not aware what the competition is that’s going on in market meeting, you’re fast you’re the provider for your car dealership or your retail store or even a service provider you don’t know what else is actually happened maybe predominately in the market place that might it might mean that people look at your Facebook ad they’re not really the true customers that you have an opportunity to pick up. So I think what the message is is first getting brands to understand why that local market is important to them, you know what is it about Charlotte, what is it about Raleigh, what is it about Chicago, what is it that they are missing by just having more of an umbrella campaign and then once they see that then its saying okay well maybe you’re missing people if you’re only on Facebook and Google in this market. We can actually demonstrate some of the other metrics around some of these other media channels. It’s still difficult for a national brand to say well I’m only going to look at this market and this media channel but I think overtime the more that they can start to understand that they might be missing something, it forces that question. Okay how hard is my media working, I think what I’m advocating for is really an opportunity for the local media platforms to actually come together and start demonstrating that maybe some of these national channels aren’t necessarily doing as good a job at reaching some of your potential customers, maybe your older folk, maybe missing like 80% of them
Megan: Right, I think that’s such an interesting thing because I think when you talk to anyone who runs a business, that they’re missing potential customers there’s like a hidden implication in there that you’re like hey your competitor, missing them isn’t only bad because you’re missing them but its like if you have a competitor with a similar product they have the opportunity to reach these people too. So its like, an interesting way to get ahead in a market would be to find people that none of your competition is finding
Maribeth: Or its more relevant, so that’s really the point that you want to make, its how is this relevant, are you really talking to me, that’s where a lot of the digital executions and the digital campaigns that are going on from a national platform. The big concern with a lot of digital planners is these brands are not considering the context of their ad, you know, they’re not taking it to that next level and saying alright, am I really paying attention to this market, they tend to look at it more generically from an audience a more national audience perspective. So it auto intenders or beauty experts or whatever audience metric is that you’re trying to get, they tend to look at the algorithm from a national perspective as opposed to say are people really responding the way I want them to locally. And I think that’s the next chapter, its really getting into that local mindset and saying, if we have to go to machine learning we’re really looking at things from the local point of view up or is it really that trickle down from the national.
Megan: Right, and so in a way 1 advertisement can reach everyone one as opposed to it getting granular. How would you recommend brand, cos I feel like one the bigger fear factors might be just like oh my gosh like how do I what do I make like a thousand different versions of an ad, with you know a thousand different copy versions for a thousand different locations. How can you think about that without feeling overwhelmed by the control resources cost
Maribeth: Right and I think that that has always been the hard place to look when you want traditional media, that was always the argument against you know doing the 50 different TV executions because you know they would do 1 commercial, it was very expensive and they would use that commercial or they would tag it. I think thats the simple notion, you could take digital ad and you could very quickly change that out, you know its a lot easier to do those things, but the same things hold true for traditional now with digital cameras and all the other production costs have been cut back that there’s opportunities to execute something a lot quicker than it used to. But I think to your point it doesn’t mean that you need to do 5000 different executions, I think its more thinking regional again, thinking you know the country may be different on both coasts versus the midwest. Well people will pay attention, and say yeah that’s something we’ve thought about, we need hardcore evidence to sort of suggest that they’re missing opportunity or it may actually turning a lot of people off, if they are a little toned up in their messaging and that’s where we look at national TV and national cable executions the same ads tend to be running in every market against a very small segment of the audience but then a retailer might say yeah i’m spending all these ads and I’m spending all this money but I’ve had to close 3 units in this market because no one is going to my store, and so I think you think about that from a problem of a challenge saying is it really the store, is it the fact that you didn’t pay attention to what these people need in this market, maybe the location isn’t right, maybe that means a different communication model to suggest why people should go to that store, and so I think that that’s really the premise I’m suggesting is you’re going to be a solution locally, you’re gonna be somebody who can come to them with some ideas, that they might be able to use to benefit themselves, maybe on a small scale.
Megan: Yeah, and I think that such a cool way to think about it as well because it, you know, it takes, I feel like there’s this almost stigma you know, national versus local, and that national ads like you’ve said on TV have to be bit more generic whereas now we’re in a time when because you can use digital to go locally that national brands don’t have to be as generic as they necessarily used to be because they can really specialize which is really interesting. But also I feel like there’s the side of working with the local at the local level, like with the local journalists and so back to the conference that we attended. You spoke to a crowd of journalists on how to attract national advertiser dollar and it was interesting for me because your presentation was right up my alley, but I feel like so many of the local journalists at the conference seemed not ready, you know, just on the many of the presentations that were happening there was definitely, seemed like there was group that was not ready to court national advertisers for a variety of reasons, is this a trend that you’re seeing a lot among local business people or journalists or just local community members in general that they’s still hesitancy to work with brands on the national level scale?
Maribeth: Well, I don’t know that its necessarily if you’re ready, I think what we have to rely on is you’re not going to be all things to all people so if you’re focused on your local community, the biggest challenge is you might have a retailer who is more national and it would make sense for that local store to contribute some advertising in your, on your website, or in your paper or whatever your channeling is and I think that they can’t do it now because most of their ad dollars are controlled nationally. So, I think what it is, is some of the competitive overview back to national brands to say hey have you noticed our marketplace, have you noticed that we’ve got all these new small businesses coming into town, here’s the economic truth about our marketplace, and that’s what I was suggesting to our journalists and that you can actually be a competitive value to these national brands, maybe not from an advertising perspective but maybe from an intelligence monitoring basis. If you’re looking at data journalism and you’ve got more of the facts within your market that a national advertiser won’t even have access to, how can you actually use some of that to put together a document that you could, you know solicit back to these national brands. Its a slow process but it actually starts getting that conversation started and that, that’s aspect of where, I think, agencies that actually work with national brands are at a, they’re short sighted because they don’t know how to get access to some of that information, and they don’t necessarily feel its relevant, because they’ve got something of a more aggregated scale that they’re able to pull together.
Megan: Yeah, so, and one of the things that you and I spoke about is someplace where all of this information is aggregated not so much to the point where its brushed over but to the point that like locals from a lot of different places have information that’s easily accessible. Do you think that that’s the next step, I guess, in working, you know, having people on the local side and on the national side work together, its kind of helping this information have some sort of, I guess, way that its more easily found than it is now?
Maribeth: Yes, I think where my vision was, was like a local portal and local dashboard if you want to call in simplistic terms and I think one of the biggest areas of confusion right now especially on the national level is sort of that forensic measurement to say am I really reaching these people through these digital metrics on a local scale, or they might have something that rolls up they don’t know really what’s going on at the lower levels. So, I think if we had a perfect scenario and let’s put me back in sort of a national planner perspective where I needed to look across the country and I needed to look at individual markets if I was abel to call up that market, let’s use Raleigh, I was able to zero in on Raleigh and Durham and all these surrounding communities that go into that and I was able to look at the media that actually is available in those markets, so not just looking at the national markets but I’m also looking at that local community level media and agencies have experimented with this but its heavily resourced project, meaning you can never keep on top of it because the way you’re working is either through a representative who might represent some of the local media on the national level or you’re calling these individual local media channels and they don’t have the sophistication to be able to give you the information you need so I think the best way is to apply a template, you say alright well here’s the basics that we need to understand and you sort of feed this portal and this becomes really for everyone editors are going to have a leg up on you I think what it means is now you suddenly see wow we’re really rich in media in this market place and I think that really helps everyone because it helps you start to understand your own competitors as well and see what the potential is
Megan: Yeah and it is I can see why, I agree that it’s a huge undertaking obviously because the local landscape that’s changing so you might have a snapchat of like Atlanta from 6 months ago but its you know it might be different now there’s new entities there’s entities that are changed or the representative person has changed that kind of thing. Its gotta be like a constant updating database, which is an interesting problem.
Maribeth: Well, I think it can be self serving open source option, you know, cos I think when I was on the agency side one of the biggest hurdles is you’re dealing with these for profit groups that buy subscription to them that update things but its usually missing a lot of the components you need the agencies aren’t using them on a regular basis so they’re not necessarily going to afford that subscription which means that nobody’s looking at it which means you’ve already missed a bunch of opportunities but I think that the other part of that is really also the competitive intelligence it really hones in on a marketplace and gives people some community understanding. Much like if you were looking for real estate or if you were going to relocate, think of it in terms of a marketer’s standpoint, marketers on the national level want to take back some of this ownership, they are looking at coop dollars or things that they want spend, and they don’t want to call it their agency they just want some intel that would be a really good easy way for a marketer to look at an individual market.
Megan: No it really is, it’s an exciting prospect to think about developing that and having it be a more open platform, you know, not so much, cos yeah when you get to like agency level your price subscriptions that could be like hundreds of thousands of dollars per year usually those kind of platforms charge. That could be something that could be somewhat restructured a bit—
Maribeth: Yeah you could do it on a project, to give people an overview and then if they want detailed information maybe put a small fee involved or a small subscription pay just to get some data. So I think that there’s models, you’d have to build it first obviously I think that’s the hardest part. But I think some of those if it’s a contributing format, where maybe it’s an expense of doing business in the market for the media channels and it’s a way for them all to be seen, much like if you were to put your ad on the YellowPage or on the go, this would be your portal and it would interesting to see this be consistent across the US and that’s where I think universities and academia could actually help in that prospect as well
Megan: Definitely, so you know, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to answer this question or not, you might have signed NDAs but um if you can do you have any anecdotes on brands that you’ve worked with or organizations that you’ve worked with on how a campaign or someone who’s approached local marketing in a different way and the impact that has had?
Maribeth: Yeah, the best on that you know really it was probably about 5 years ago and it was with Walmart. And Walmart, as everyone knows, is just a huge retailer and they’ve got a number of initiatives and they’re struggle is always you know trying to manage their money in the most effective way, and most of their money is spent nationally, its spent through national cable, and national media, they do a lot online now as well but a few years back one of the things we thought was that if we change our message and we start to do a grocery store comparison, you know will that drive more sales for us and what their campaign was the biggest caveat was to what you talked about earlier was the cost to develop a media campaign that was different every week and they were able to find a small agency that developed different ads every week, they were literally in the market talking to local consumers they’d shoot the commercial within a day, edit it and it was on the air by Wednesday and it go on Wednesday through Saturday and they’d go on to the next market and they did that kind of as a slow start where they took a few markets and tried it and I think from what I understood they were actually experiencing a good single digit percent bump in their sales within the local market. What we couldn’t prove out was even though the sales were demonstrating that this message and this focus in a local market was a benefit to them we couldn’t prove out the cost efficiency versus a national TV campaign and so what was missing was that qualitative factor. They knew that the brand was dying to prove it out to their analytics people that this was a better investment but when you are looking at things that aren’t comparable, meaning looking at local TV advertising versus network TV advertising the cost per thousand reach a smaller segment of audience even though your pocket cost is really low you’re for thousand is higher, and its really getting people to think in common sense terms that hey the out of pocket was probably 1/5 or ¼ of what you would spend nationally and you were getting a bigger lift in the sales, so they knew they had something but they never really continued it on a regular basis after about a year because they felt they had other initiatives and they were gonna do it nationally. But I think that what it tells you is there was a significant benefit when you targeted your message and made it relevant to the local communities.
Megan: Yeah and I feel like that that’s so interesting, because you’ve been doing that, in that way, for advertising is just the beginning you know I think a lot about user experience and if you’re already having people go out and talk to local community members, like how is your local Walmart different from your local grocery store? You might some negative, you might like well the grocery store has this and this and if you’re in a market where certain grocery stores are providing certain service that your store isn’t, could you possibly add those, you know could you use that not just for advertising purposes but for like almost research purposes on how you can perform better in that particular market cos that was probably different for different markets
Maribeth: Well, it was really a price comparison, they were taking literally the receipt and they were buying the same thing from the other market, but your point, you hit on something really clear which is you don’t know what you don’t know as much as you can do surveys and you can do some sort of broad based digital profiling, what they’re missing is the larger concept of a lot of people show up and a retail store and what is it that we’re missing in that marketplace and maybe it’s because you closed one of those stores that was closer to a community that is more apt to shop in your store but you haven’t given them an alternative to get to you other location that’s across town and so I think its thinking about the dynamics of the marketplace a walkable city center and they don’t really have a car what if you instituted a shuttle twice a week to take people out to the, its simple things almost working with the community as well and I think that’s what I touched on in the summit as well. Is really thinking about the economic development that’s going on in these regions and instead of being adversary to that local community where you might have entered and closed down some of the smaller services around you how can you actually maintain your presence in that market and build on it as opposed to you know well the sales don’t measure up now so we’ll close this unit. I think that is the biggest struggle for retailers right now. Did they overplay that the store growth or is it really just a function that you’re really just not relevant in these communities anymore.
Megan: Yeah, that’s so interesting to think about cos like you were saying there are so many different ways to go after that problem, So, Maribeth final question, what personally drives you to local as opposed to you know you’re in the media space you in the advertising space but you’ve always been more on the local side, what interests you, I guess, about the local marketplace?
Maribeth: I think for me throughout my career its really a little bit of the geography lesson that that has intrigued me, and maybe I’d come back as a city planner you know it the future but what really set me on this path long ago is that when I started my career I actually did work on individual grocery channel it wasn’t Walmart but I was on the west coast. I started my career in Los Angeles and it was during a lot of the 80s when there was still a lot of community development a lot of things going on on the western half of the United States and back then what was so interesting was to work with sort of the real estate developer within that grocery chain who said you know we look at how communities evolve, we want to see what they’re doing today, we want to look 5 years out and we want to understand not just how we can serve people today but how can we serve people tomorrow. When it really got me the differences, back then there was probably a bigger regional difference, because you had a lot more regional retailers, regional businesses, advertisers rolled out regionally and they didn’t necessarily have one distribution channel. So, I think it was that getting into the nitty gritty of working at a full service ad agency and saying how are the people different that were going into this market, how does Portland, Oregon different from Charlotte, North Carolina, maybe there were similarities but you know perhaps I’m entering this market as a new marketing channel, and marketing provider will people be welcome to me or will people think that I’m not welcome, and so I think it was really that initiation into local and how people might be the same but you really have to look at them from the ground up as opposed to trying gather people who are similar to you.
Megan: Yeah, no I like that, and that’s so true and that’s such an interesting, just from like humanistic point of view, I just think it’s interesting, because you’re right it’s like if there’s very much like a sociological aspect of just how are different people in different places different, which is just fun to think about, I think. Maribeth thank you so much for being on the podcast, I really appreciate just learning and absorbing your perspective and I’m really excited to see, you know in the future how we can grow you know what you’ve been talking about the way that local and national works together but kind of helps each other as well.
Maribeth: Sure, and thank you and I do think that people should be optimistic, I think there will be more transparency as things go forward and the more that local media can sort of take that lead, I think that there is an opportunity even if you get a couple percentage points of the national advertisers’ budget that’s pretty significant.
Megan: Yeah that’s huge, yeah well awesome, thank you.