Paps Shaikh
Paps Shaikh 12 August 2020

Community Advertising is Back in Fashion – Here's Why

When it comes to media buying, knowing where to find and target your audience can be tough. All too often advertisers assume the best approach is to buy ad space from well-known publishers to be able to deliver targeted and tailored messages to engaged audiences at scale.

As the current crisis has seen brands blocking placements alongside any content to do with coronavirus, despite the sentiment of the article, brands have been shying away from marketing activity altogether. However, with platforms available which offer the opportunity to tailor and communicate with consumers at a local level depending on postcode, community advertising is coming back into fashion. 

This year has already seen a perfect storm of global events impacting everything we do – as businesses, advertisers and crucially as consumers. With such sudden and dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour and mood – as a result of both government intervention and business necessity – people are increasingly at home and community minded. 

It has therefore never been more important for brands to think globally and act locally. Lockdown has forced us inwards and has connected us with those physically closest to us. As a result, we are seeing brands pivot to community advertising as consumers shop local. In fact, a recent survey with our members showed 63% of consumers will frequent local businesses more often. 

Low mileage car insurance provider, By Miles, is a great example of a brand which tailored its messaging at a local level and is reaping in the rewards. But it’s not just brands who have been tapping into the power of local – organisations such as the UK Government and the NHS have harnessed community advertising to have local conversations with consumers on a national level by personalising locally-relevant messaging.   

Keep calm and keep on advertising 

Recent events have caused brands to be more cautious when it comes to marketing as they were plunged into uncertainty when the UK went into lockdown. The IPA Bellwether report echoes this as it found there had been a 6.1% drop in marketing activity during the first quarter of 2020. And for those brands which carried on advertising as part of their marketing strategy, uncompromising keyword blocklists meant some were blocking premium placements which appeared next to content because it contained words associated with Covid-19 – despite the sentiment of the article.

But there is a balance to be struck between turning activity off entirely and continuing to communicate with consumers when they need reassurance the most. When normality resumes – whatever that may look like – it will be those brands which have used this time to do good, express a purpose and be a trusted part of the community that will remain front of mind with the consumer.  

Take the example above, brands which changed their advertising messaging during the lockdown and seen a subsequent increase in traffic to their websites as a result. In particular, because By Miles offers insurance policies to lower mileage drivers. With many people working from home and therefore driving less, demand for fairer and more flexible car insurance increased significantly. By making changes to the tone and messaging of its ads, it was able to communicate with consumers who were using their cars in different ways than they were before lockdown began. And by harnessing the power of local, By Miles could reach specific neighbourhoods at scale where it knew lower mileage drivers could benefit from a pay-by-mile insurance policy. 

Engage in local conversations 

Throughout lockdown, communities have come together with offers of support and help. Social media networks have been a big enabler of this, connecting neighbourhoods online to make an impact offline, as vulnerable groups were isolated. 

Across our platform, we saw neighbourhoods increasingly change their behaviours with more conversations about takeaways (up 460%) and deliveries (which jumped from no.1342 to no.37 in search rankings) and less about dining out and local swimming pools. This provided brands with the opportunity to engage in relevant local conversations at a national level to communicate opening times, stock updates, or the new health and safety measurements which had been put in place. 

Rewind to March this year. The grocers and supermarkets that cut through were giving the facts, letting shoppers know that if they were a key worker or vulnerable there were specific opening times reserved for them, and the wider population that they were open and accessible. It’s an example of practical help and advice and giving something back which has changed the way consumers perceive some brands. In fact, in a recent survey across our members, more than one in three stated they will start using a new brand due to the innovative or compassionate way that a brand has responded during the pandemic. 

As a result, 30% of businesses on our platform said they will change the products and services they offer by building relationships with new vendors and suppliers, provide more services online, and make operational changes to meet consumers' needs. This is causing a complete shift in the dialogue brands are now sharing with consumers. 

Community matters, now more than ever. Brands and businesses that invest in speaking to their audiences at a community level will demonstrate their purpose far more powerfully than simply stating they have ‘a purpose’. As consumers stay loyal and local, community advertising will be the secret weapon in any marketer’s armoury.

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