Brands are missing out on opportunities and wasting ad spend by not recognising regional differences across the UK and failing to meet the needs, preferences and media consumption habits of people outside London.
The EU Referendum vote last June proved that Britain is not a united kingdom. Look at any map showing the split between the location of leave and remain voters and it’s a patchy picture, which among other things highlights that the views of those living in the capital are very different from those in other parts of the UK. From a marketing perspective this creates a problem.
MediaCom’s ‘Britain Decoded’ research, from the agency’s Real World Insight department, reveals national, local and regional identities that exist across the UK and why certain media could be more effective in rural areas versus cities.
The study shows people living in London and urban areas are more likely to see their local identity as important. Those in the North of England also express a strong regional connection and people in Scotland are most likely to feel their national identity is key to defining their personal identity.
The definition of ‘local’ also differs. Being close to essentials, such as a local shop, is important to many but those living in cities are more likely to prioritise the physical closeness of local amenities when describing what they mean by local community. For those in suburban and rural areas the physical closeness of friends and family is top of mind when defining local.
“We do sometimes live in this London bubble where we forget that there are lots of other things going on outside of the M25,” says Pauline Robson, director of Real World Insight at MediaCom. “We have moved away from thinking about things from a regional perspective. It’s really important that we reconnect with the rest of the country and understand how people’s lives play out across the UK.”
One way of achieving this is using the data that brands have access to, says Robson. Data has paved the way for advertising to be more targeted. Sky’s Premier League campaign around the start of the season is a prime example. It looked at the support for different football teams across the country and created a tailored campaign based on that data, using programmatic to target in a relevant and personalised way.
It’s really important that we reconnect with the rest of the country and understand how people’s lives play out across the UK.
Pauline Robson, insight director at MediaCom
The digital development of out-of-home advertising is seeing the focus move away from London, while data and programmatic techniques are also paving the way to increased relevance for marketers buying outdoor media.
Over the past 12 months, Clear Channel has “focused on developing digital networks outside of London” to “deliver big audience reach numbers” in 24 hours, according to UK marketing director Martin Corke.
The outdoor media company ran a campaign for lottery owner Camelot on New Year’s Day, running on all its digital screens, which delivered 10 million impacts in a single day. It’s something that “could not have been done six months ago”.
Corke says Clear Channel is “genuinely in the business of thinking about the nation” rather than just the capital and has the intention of making the search for outdoor spots across the UK more simple.
He gives the example of its Sainsbury’s and Asda estates. Corke says “people wouldn’t know the locations of those stores”, but by conducting a search that takes “a few seconds” they can see those audiences by region and town. This compares to previous practice where “someone would have to phone” to ask about those sites.
He explains: “We are focused on automation – bringing a healthy degree of automation to the planning and buying process.”
However, Corke also stresses the need for creativity. “We do encourage advertisers to run different creative in Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow,” he says. “In the absence of that, just having a message that says something about Specsavers in Leeds, something that has a local reference, is appealing, interesting and noticeable to the public.”
He adds: “Any creative that captures your attention for a moment longer is going to be more effective. It’s not trickery – it is common sense.”
Catering to communities
Thinking outside of the London bubble is not just about the ability to target individuals. It’s about brands seeing the opportunity to cater to regional differences within the UK but on a national scale through shared interests.
The research suggests marketers need to understand how the sense of community manifests itself across the UK to help them talk to communities of like-minded people, rather than a more traditional target audience of individuals. Using target audiences assumes that those who fall within the chosen parameters are the same regardless of location.
Insurance firm Churchill tapped into a local issue on a national scale by helping to fund more lollipop men and women and increase road safety for children. The campaign, which launched last spring, celebrated the work ‘lollipoppers’ do and by doing so helped to reinvigorate the feeling of trust in local neighbourhoods.
We recognised that tapping into local, community concerns would be a very powerful way of supporting [the cause] and as a national brand we needed to do so at scale.
Lucy Brooksbank, Churchill
“It’s no longer a legal requirement to employ lollipoppers and council budget cuts have meant their numbers have declined rapidly, reducing the safety of thousands of school journeys each day,” says Lucy Brooksbank, head of marketing at Churchill.
Churchill set up a £300,000 fund to initially recruit 50 lollipop men and women, using a combination of media partners to raise awareness of the initiative and ask people to nominate a school for their own ‘Churchill lollipopper’.
It resulted in 53,424 nominations across 6,448 schools, which works out at around 25% of all UK schools. Positive social sentiment around Churchill at launch increased from 7% to 70% and there was a 65% increase in click-through-rate for Churchill-generic terms in search. Plus the term ‘Churchill understands what matters to me’, a key brand metric that impacts brand consideration, increased from a six-month average of 41% to 46%.
Brooksbank says: “We recognised that tapping into local, community concerns would be a very powerful way of supporting [the cause] and as a national brand we needed to do so at scale. The programme was constructed to enable any local community to benefit from the initiative, and by providing 50 lollipoppers, with a quota per region, we hoped to ensure a good spread across the nation.”
Adjust media spend by region
Content is important but so too is context when looking at regional differences, because where ads are placed could make a big difference to consumer engagement. The research highlights this by analysing the difference in commutes to work.
“The shape of people’s day is different depending on where they live,” says Robson at MediaCom. “Commuting patterns across the UK create very different rhythms throughout the day in terms of what people are looking for in media and how much time they get to spend with different media.”
The study shows that London has the highest percentage of public transport users at 40%, while the average outside London is 12%. Plus one-in-five Londoners spend over an hour commuting, whereas only one-in-10 spend that long outside of London.
The reliance on public transport for the London commute makes mobile and OOH key media channels in the morning. More than half (58%) of Londoners are using the internet on a mobile between these hours, whereas this drops to 36% in the North East and 35% in Wales.
East Anglia, Midlands and the South West are the most frequent drivers and, linked to this, have the highest concentration of radio listeners, with nearly a third of those in the South West tuning in to radio between 7am and 9:30am.
Churchill used Bauer Media to reach communities through a network of local radio stations rather than just focusing on national brands. Brooksbank says: “Mumsnet and Gransnet also helped deliver our message to their local networks and groups, [helping us] tap into local school gate communities.”
How regions use social media versus cities
The research shows that where we live drives media needs and behaviours, with social media usage differing by region. Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr are more city-centric platforms – Instagram is used twice as much in urban areas, while nearly three times as many people use Tumblr in cities compared with more rural areas. Instagram use in London specifically is 38% compared with 15% in the rest of the UK.
Outside cities, social platforms allow people to engage with their local community. Facebook is the central hub for localised events, news and sharing, with those outside of cities using fewer social platforms on average than those in cities. People use an average of three social platforms in cities, whereas outside cities, it’s an average of two.
Robson says: “In London there is a younger demographic, we have better connectivity, there is more time on public transport, so there is more time for people to be on those platforms.”
She adds: “One of the interesting things is how social media is used in urban versus rural areas. In rural areas, platforms like Facebook are starting to take the place of the village pub or post office. These village institutions are closing down across the country and that community coming together is happening in a digital way. It’s a shift in how communities are coming together and sharing.”
The research points out that targeting en masse is no longer a viable solution to sell products and services to consumers in the UK. People are increasingly tailoring preferences and looking for brands that cater to their local, national and regional identities and media needs.
If brands use London as a basis for how the rest of the UK will interpret a campaign, they will miss out on the opportunity to stand out and be relevant to potential customers in other parts of Britain.