Commentary: Why Localizing National Campaigns is Critical as Economies Reopen


This article originally appeared in Target Marketing

By: Ryan Horn, Senior Vice President of Marketing at

As the country continues to reopen in staggered stages, the rules and regulations vary greatly by state – in some places even by region and county. Many companies have had to shift business models for the services they provide and the manner in which they offer them to meet the local requirements. It’s essential that national advertisers are able to act fast to effectively market to extremely localized geographies with timely and relevant messaging. This new situation we’re living in has not only restored the need to localize large national campaigns, but has also brought granular, geographic targeting and attribution to the forefront of marketing strategy.

Since each market now plays by its own set of rules, broad campaigns won’t be as effective. Advertisers must be able to start, stop, and tailor campaigns as individual markets turn on and off at a moment’s notice. Localizing promotions during this fluctuating time requires so much more than just tossing subtle nuances into the creative – take a national restaurant chain campaign, for example. In which states can customers dine-in? Do restrictions allow for curbside pickup? What about drive-through ordering and delivery? All of this messaging will be drastically different based on local mandates; one national campaign may need to be broken down into hundreds, if not thousands, of localized executions to yield results.

Manage Budget Based on Reopening Phases

If there is one thing that is certain this year, it’s uncertainty. As some cities and states have begun to reopen, there are numerous states that are now rolling back reopening measures in the hopes of slowing down the spread of COVID-19. For advertisers to keep up with the rapid reopening challenges staggered throughout the nation, they need the ability to customize their campaigns in respect to regional and local reopening strategies, and they need to be able to quickly pivot campaign targeting strategies to meet evolving market conditions.

Flexibility is crucial when it comes to budget management in order to drive business when, where, and how it’s available. Advertisers need to be able to turn off their advertising campaigns in markets where their business might be currently closed, or push budget to markets where their business is currently open. Take a national retailer, for example. There might be areas of the country that are allowing in-store shoppers, while other parts of the country only allow in-store pick-up. Some parts of the country might even have their stores shut down completely and are just driving e-commerce business. This national retailer needs to be able to adjust ad budget based on the ebbs and flows of the reopening phases, quickly shifting spend to markets that are open and being able to turn their campaigns on and off when needed. In doing so, they are able to eliminate wasted spend and impressions that occur when running a national campaign across all geos, some of which may not be open for business. National advertisers need the granularity and ability to split a national campaign from one into thousands of campaigns in order to make sure each campaign is optimized based on each specific market.

At the end of the day, it is essential that advertisers have the agility to only spend in markets where campaigns are driving performance – taking into account many localized flight dates; starts, stops, and pauses based on location; spend and pace based on location; and localized measurement KPIs. With localized agility, advertisers are able to eliminate wasted impressions and drive a higher ROI.

Optimize Messaging and Creative

Over the past several weeks, the country has seen varying rates of COVID-19 cases specific to different localities. There have been various local-specific social-distancing restrictions put in place, differing regulations when it comes to wearing masks, and more. Some markets are back open and focused on driving foot traffic to storefronts, while others continue to drive online transactions only. These location-specific regulations have resulted in market-specific consumer buying patterns that are important for national advertisers to consider when executing campaigns.

National advertisers need to know their local markets in order to succeed in driving ROI during this time, and be able to rapidly shift campaign messaging to meet the needs of changing social situations and government regulations. For advertisers, this means ensuring customized creatives for different locations. For instance, a national restaurant chain might need to optimize their messaging and creative based on their product offerings that they are trying to push in each market, such as family meals, to-go alcohol kits in markets where they are allowed, rotating menus, special offers, and more. Additionally, they might adjust creatives based on operating measures that are specific to each location, such as varying hours of operation, curbside pick-up offerings, contact-free delivery, etc. Lastly, these advertisers might shift messaging based on local-specific social-distancing measures, such as outdoor-only dining, mask requirements, or virtual wait lists.

Assess Performance by Market

Performance is likely to be different across the country and vary at the local level. National-level, roll-up reporting lacks the insights advertisers need to get the full picture of how a campaign is performing; therefore, advertisers need access to granular, transparent reporting so they can shift budgets to the highest performing markets mid-flight and identify, turn off, or pause underperforming markets. Simply put, advertisers need market-specific ROI and performance insights so that they can see what’s working and what’s not during the lifecycle of the campaign and adjust accordingly, resulting in better performance, less waste, and a higher ROI.