The Facebook Advertiser Exodus Will Redefine How Brands Buy Local at Scale
The ongoing advertiser boycott of Facebook isn’t the first of its kind, but it is happening on a dramatically different economic and societal backdrop than any of its predecessors. Concern over hate speech and divisive messages on the social media platform, while not new, has prompted many major advertisers to rethink their media buying strategies, especially on Facebook. Other major players report these reviews were already underway well before the boycott even began.
The shift away from Facebook isn’t a blip. It’s a highly visual example of a larger industry trend in which brands are looking to reprioritize their increasingly tight ad dollars in a way that not only resonates more deeply with their target audiences, but also affects true, meaningful change within their communities.
Even before 2020’s pandemic and protests against racial inequality, brand activism was on the rise, as were consumer demands for brand participation in the social and political arenas. In fact, a study in late 2019 confirmed that more consumers than ever expect brands to take a stance on issues that matter to their customers. However, fewer consumers than ever want to see such stances and support voiced through social media, where consumers are already inundated by political posts and related conversations.
Local Impact Reimagined
The rise in consumer expectations around meaningful brand action has translated into a re-evaluation of how brands think about their marketing efforts on a local level. In the past, many national advertisers eschewed traditional local sponsorship and advertising opportunities due to a perceived lack of scalability, turning instead to mega-platforms like Facebook that boasted geographic awareness of its sizable user base. But as advertisers are now realizing, locally targeted advertising on divisive online platforms doesn’t lend the personal touch or brand halo that many are looking to achieve at the community level. Moreover, as brands and agencies begin to explore local advertising alternatives, they’re finding that a lot has changed over the past decade when it comes to community connections.
These days, new networks and technology solutions are enabling brands to meaningfully engage with local communities, both online and offline. These local opportunities — which include various means of supporting local charities, school districts, minority-owned businesses, and more — have long been valued by advertisers for being memorable and customizable. But now, many are also both highly scalable and measurable — an increasingly important prerequisite for major advertisers like P&G, which in recent years has been demanding higher quality and greater accountability within its ad spend, all while cutting digital spend in channels that don’t meet its standards.
Customizable and Community Oriented
Speaking of increasing accountability at the local level, consider the humble car wrap. In today’s marketplace, multiple car wrap companies are enabling national brands to reach their target consumers via ads on cars in their communities, and they’re doing so via massive networks of owner-operated automobiles. At the same time, these companies provide much-needed passive income to hundreds of thousands of drivers in cities across the country — people whose family and friends most certainly notice the companies that are helping to support their loved ones financially. What’s more is that these companies are able to transcend the basic ad format itself and tie these out-of-home impressions to online conversions and in-app engagement, thereby transforming what was once a simple branding play into an integrated part of cross-channel performance marketing.
The same is happening at the youth sports level, where companies have reimagined hyperlocal marketing by helping brands engage families in their own backyards via youth sports sponsorships. As you might imagine, this opportunity is gaining more consideration than ever. After all, major league sports are struggling to resume in the wake of the pandemic, while local youth sports have largely been able to proceed, with enhanced safety protocols in place. As in the car wrap space, networks and platforms have risen around this local touchpoint that allow brands to target their sponsorship dollars by region, sport, age, gender, household income, and other parameters.
Youth sports activations include classic uniform and field signage, but such elements can now be extended via email and other digital channels and events. Likewise, brands can understand their impact over time according to meaningful metrics around brand awareness and favorability, not to mention net promoter scores and conversions.
Ultimately, local advertising and sponsorships at scale help brands address the limitations and objections that have prompted so many advertisers’ recent flights from divisive platforms like Facebook. In supporting members of local communities — whether it’s via a car wrap, a presence at a local food pantry or on the field at a local baseball diamond — companies are finding a nonpartisan means of spurring word of mouth and elevating their brands locally, without sacrificing scale or accountability.