Big national advertisers can sound tone-deaf in local markets, which is why some stick to national campaigns rather than try to target messages and offers locally.
Group M Search is trying to change all that , and is launching a new division, GMS Local, to funnel additional brand dollars into local markets for targeted advertising, offers, social media and locally-relevant content.
The services are being created for use by Group M's client base, including national brands like Pizza Hut, Radio Shack and AT&T. The division is using next-generation social-listening technologies combined with advanced targeting to make sure local messages resonate in local markets.
"The first thing we're trying to do is shift the perception in local markets that national advertisers are just in it for the conversion or the sale," said Group M Search CEO Chris Copeland.
Part is using paid media to start conversations in social media to give local franchises better connections to the communities they serve.
"I can go into any market and there's a Pizza Hut, but what does my local Pizza Hut do for me? What do they do in the community?" Mr. Copeland said. "We are interested in helping national brands have a truly local perspective."
Mr. Copeland said the unit will allow more investment in local markets, not just in paid media but various social presences, communications and offers. The unit will use location-aware tools like search, Facebook and Foursquare, as well as forge partnerships with companies like Groupon and Living Social.
As the phone book is quickly replaced by PCs, mobile phones and tablets, consumers are turning to social media, reviews sites and search when researching local products and services. "Almost half of consumers when they start looking for a local recommendation do not have a specific brand in mind," Mr. Copeland said.
The local market, once dominated by Yellow Pages, local TV and newspapers, is quickly moving digital, but splintered among many new players. Local digital ad spending was $16 billion in the U.S. in 2009 and is expected to grow to $35 billion in 2014.