The primacy of local market connections: why speaking directly to the city still matters

Sean O’Brien
By Sean O’Brien | 1 March 2021
Sean O'Brien

Sean O’Brien is managing director – Nine Adelaide.

I love our industry, but if there’s a sin, one that we’re all occasionally guilty of, it’s defaulting to a national approach in our marketing, and potentially missing the opportunities that exist to speak to local markets more directly.

Too often cities like Brisbane (population 2.3 million), Adelaide (1.3 million) and Perth (1.9 million) can risk simply being tagged into media plans. My question for marketers is whether this is always the smartest approach for the more than 14 million people who live outside Australia’s two biggest cities?

In my experience, cities like Adelaide offer a raft of opportunities for clever marketers to both test and learn (before rolling out a national campaign), and also to seize good-value audiences in markets that are less cost-restrictive than perhaps some of their East Coast counterparts.

Adelaide has a strong heritage in a medium like television (for example, Adelaide’s NWS-9 was the home of Australian TV childhood icon Humphrey B. Bear) and while today the business model for TV production has evolved, our commitment to live and local content has never wavered.

Every weekday we produce more than two and half hours of local news out of our Hindmarsh Square studio (including a 30-minute FIVEaa radio bulletin – a first of its kind in this country). Why does that matter in a place like Adelaide? Because a live and local connection to the city and the community matters – it matters from an audience perspective, but also importantly it matters commercially in creating unique and powerful platforms for marketers.

While other competitors chose to leave or pull back in Adelaide, we knew that our market needed the investment and commitment to local news that mattered. That has been borne out by our growth in news audience in recent TV ratings. Audiences want to see local newsreaders, they want to hear you on their local radio, and they want to see your brand in their local events (we sponsor or are involved in everything from the Adelaide Fringe and Royal Adelaide Show to the Adelaide Football league and Football Federation of SA). All of it is designed to ingrain us in the culture of the local community in Adelaide.

Similarly, we’ve also invested in our local client strategy offering (something too often missing in cities outside of Sydney and Melbourne) with our own local head of strategy and client experience who sit within Powered by Nine and play two important roles: helping national brands tap into a local market like Adelaide to maximise the opportunity in the city, as well as helping local brands capitalise on the opportunity in their own cities, and hopefully over time take that to the next level. We have already seen this with the work being done with Beaumont Tiles and The Block, APT and the Australian Open, or Mitsubishi and 9News.

I also love the opportunity that a place like Adelaide offers because there’s the real ability to test and learn with campaigns through running them in one city first.

At Nine we trialled this with the rollout of 5.00pm news bulletins two years ago. We trialled it in Adelaide then adapted and learnt before rolling it out to another market that heavily values live and local – Perth.

My advice to all brands is always to think big. I understand the inherent desire to go straight to national, but I also think we need to recognise the value and opportunity that still – and will long continue to – exists in local.

For any brand, building or tapping a unique local platform helps you speak directly to people in that city and drive a powerful connection, in a way very little else can. It is a powerful means of building brand loyalty and engagement and clearly differentiating yourself from the competition, who too often take the alternative approach.

Sean O’Brien is speaking at Adnews Live: Adelaide Amplified on March 4.