Buy Local. Reach National. Technology and the Rise of the Unwired Network

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Buy Local. Reach National. Technology and the Rise of the Unwired Network

Buying media from an unwired network was similar to a game of pin the tail on the donkey.  It was labor-intensive (local invoices for days), hitting your target was never guaranteed and all parties were left with a dizzying feeling.  Thanks to upgrades in technology -- think machine learning -- those days are gone.

A handful of companies are helping advertisers reach a national audience through local media buys.  This allows advertisers that couldn’t buy nationally to do just that.  It’s also less expensive, expands reach and is measurable, so an advertiser knows it’s hitting the target.  Unlike an Upfront purchase, where a minimum commitment is needed, buying unwired offers flexibility, sans minimum commitment.

“I had a local buying background and I never had a problem with unwired,” says Peggy Green, an industry expert.  “People want more transparency; they don’t want ratings clustered in a few markets.  I wanted a balanced schedule.  The big difference is transparency being able to show where the spots are airing.  There is more scrutiny and buyers are more knowledgeable, which I've experienced with XACTV.”

XACTV, an unwired network, uses AI to compile local media that can be purchased to create a national reach.  Unlike unwired media buys of the past, ratings deliveries are tracked and verified by Nielsen, comScore, MRI and MSA, making a brand’s purchase on an unwired network legitimately validated like a traditional ad buy.  AI constantly refines a purchasing schedule to reach impression goals.

“XACTV focuses on delivering your ads to the right audience at the right time in the right content with equitable coverage,” says Bob O’Neill, Executive Vice President, XACTV.

Executives at Cadent, another solution to buying local media on a national level, notes the importance of local buying knowledge.  “When you’re putting together a local, unwired product, buyers need a background in local buying and planning,” says Ivan Silverman, Cadent’s Senior Vice President, Network Sales.  “Most importantly, buyers need to have relationships on the local level to understand varying market conditions specific to the local station in order to create a competitive buy for national advertisers.”

Cadent works with Nielsen, comScore, GfK MRI, MSA and Gracenote to provide verification and varying statistics on where to advertise and who viewed creative.

What makes unwired networks attractive is the way advertisers can purchase syndication and target by daypart.

“Syndication shows are expensive and as local shows reduce their syndication content they are increasing news content,” explains Green.  “News is very important to local stations.  Syndication places you in whatever station it’s on, where unwired alternatives deliver the best shows in that market, so you can avoid weaker shows.  Unwired opportunities give better targetability.”

“We promote a national footprint of aggregated local as a cost-effective alternative to traditional media buys,” adds Silverman.  “The national footprint of aggregated gathered local is more important than ever because of the challenges of inventory supply.  Our way to offset supply and pricing challenges is to go through a local access point in order to create a national footprint using the local news inventory.

“We automate parts of the process, including pushing an order out to over five or six hundred broadcast stations across the country and handling back-end efficiencies," he continues.  "The client only has to provide creative, and our buyers, systems and analytics handle the rest.  Using our buying and planning platform, teams can create plans and execute media buys optimizing the inventory and stations needed to create a national footprint.  Local newscasts provide strong ratings and our platform targets those markets and stations that best meet the client’s target demo.”

On an unwired network, advertisers control the daypart.  For example: a restaurant wants to advertise a dinner special during popular syndicated programs like Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory and Friends.  Rather than have the ad run during all syndicated airings, the restaurant would select only those programs that air from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. keeping the dinner-themed ad out of an 11 p.m. time slot.

“The industry needs to provide better transparency into delivery details,” said Silverman.  “Cadent already does this with our analytics dashboard, providing clarity down to the market-level and station-level of what was actually bought and delivered for the client.  We believe transparency is key to a straightforward buying process and ultimately, better campaign performance.”

Another challenge for national advertisers is a lack of supply.  If you want to run an ad during the evening news, you have 30 minutes available for purchase.  Not only does this inventory sell out immediately, it skews an older audience, hence the plethora of pharma ads.

“Since there is a lack of supply, the CPM increases have out-paced the audience delivery, requiring advertisers to spend more to reach fewer consumers," says O'Neill.  "Using XACTV advertisers can mitigate these increases in CPMs and reach more engaged consumers in the local news segments.”

One option is to bring national ad dollars to a local level.  Buying local news offers a reach 25% higher than national broadcast news and reaches a younger audience, according to Nielsen.

“We find that a balance of local and national is key,” adds Cadent’s Silverman.  “While ultimately ads are bought on a local level, it’s important that everything rolls up to a national ad footprint.  You need to have an appreciation for local as well as the overall national marketplace.”

“Audience composition is essential,” notes Green.  “ABC has different skew than NBC or CBS.  A rating is not a rating.  If you want an upscale, ethnic audience, ratings composition is different in every market.  Local inventory is more highly targeted.  If you buy a national ad you have to buy the whole footprint.  You can focus unwired networks on key centers for an audience.”

The potential to scale is significant.  “Next, the industry will work to make the buying planning process even faster, so marketers can get faster results from their buys and understand what worked best,” concludes Silverman.

Photo credit:  NASA/Unsplash

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