Spend on programmatically traded media has increased globally year on year since 2011, and most would predict this trend will continue over the next few years, especially as we see more formats traded this way.

One key operational advantage of programmatic advertising is the ability to launch global campaigns at the press of a button. It’s never been easier to run an audience targeted video campaign targeting Singapore, from an office in Holborn. The downside is that person sitting in Holborn, with no experience or planning capability of the market or audience they’re targeting in Singapore, is running media in a market they know very little about, and expecting it to be impactful and provide value.

Ultimately, central teams, without the right resources or feet on the ground in local markets, are losing the local nuances required for effective digital marketing campaigns.

If we take a step back and look at the key work streams required when planning a digital campaign, they can be broadly summarised into audience, placement, creative, and activation. While the activation piece does have some differences by region, it requires less attention from a digital strategist because the differences aren’t impactful enough to warrant market-level tailoring. However, audience, placement and creative can have stark differences by market, and, when planned effectively, can make a huge difference in the engagement and overall impact of a campaign.

There are numerous tools available by the market that can help you understand audience and placement trends, whether it’s general search trends, upstream, downstream, or affinity sites linked to a particular website or content category. These tools add a degree of insight but the method of collecting data points can be outdated and heavily skewed to a certain type of audience. The most effective way of understanding people in a market is to ask the people you’re looking to target.

We recently ran a survey to better understand the retail market across various countries in Europe. We found that for our target audience in Denmark, Wednesday nights are commonly nights for socialising, with bars and restaurants running events; in Sweden people don’t receive mail on the weekend; and in Poland the Government recently introduced a law prohibiting trade every second Sunday, which suggests a potential  increase in online shopping on these days. This type of rich local market insight is best sourced from those on the ground, to avoid sweeping generalisations or outdated views. 

For creative, if local market nuances and sentiment aren’t understood, it can at best lead to poor performance and some inefficiently spent media budget, and at worst have a negative impact on brand perception. There are some overarching creative principles that remain fairly static by region – for example in China the colour red is seen as good luck,; Tuesday the 13th is Argentina’s version of our Friday 13th, and giving the ‘a-ok’ hand sign is considered extremely rude in Brazil. However, it is important advertisers spend time gathering qualitative data on local market nuances, cultural references and sensitivities based on their target audience and subject matter to avoid any costly reputational issues. Tailoring creative for local markets should be about more than simply translating a text.

It can be challenging to get local trends in real time, especially in a cost-effective way, but it’s critical to ensure media budgets are spent effectively, and the impact of campaigns are maximised. During the planning cycle spend a bit more time understanding how to approach audiences, placement and creative, by region, to give your budget the best chance for success