Should Local Advertising be Bracing Itself for On-Demand?

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Buy now key on a white keyboardUber’s success has convinced many that on-demand is the future, while the surge of start-ups trumpeting themselves as ‘Uber for X’ has many others predicting an empty fad.

While it’s easy to lump the wave of recent on-demand startups together and write it all off as excess run amok, we’re all shrewd enough to separate these ideas into the sensible (food delivery, home services), the workable (valet parking, massages), and the wacky (Santa Claus).

For the local advertising industry, which is still withstanding ripples with its shift from print to digital, why not look ahead to on-demand?

The first question would center around demand. Are SMBs even concerned with getting their marketing products instantly? Is that even on their radar?

My question: Why wouldn’t it be? Just because expectations among SMB owners have been conditioned towards moderate turnaround doesn’t mean an SMB wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled to have their newly purchased website and SEM package running tomorrow instead of next month.

Think about it this way. We may never reach the idealized on-demand future thatsome predict, where every service from sock darning to letter writing can be ordered on an app and arrive instantly, but no one can argue that things aren’t skewing towards a more instantaneous economy.

A month-long turnaround for a display advertising campaign may be passable now. It won’t be in a couple years.

The second question would revolve around feasibility. Whereas Uber involves only a driver, a passenger and a car, the local media space is complicated. With its roots in print, local advertising has had to weather a complete paradigm shift and the swift infusion of hundreds of specialized vendors. Expecting this industry to leapfrog to the forefront of the instant economy seems a bit of wishful thinking, like expecting to ace calculus with nothing more than a simple arithmetic background.

But is it that difficult to equip today’s media companies for tomorrow’s turnaround times? If you asked me a year ago, I’d say yes. Speaking now, I say no.

Many media companies have been built by acquisition, and as a result, operations are usually handled among a hodgepodge of internal systems working in silos. The intricately tangled nature of many local media companies, coupled with the industry-wide proliferation of digital product vendors, goes a long way towards explaining the difficult task facing those wishing to cut down turnaround times.

And until very recently, the only option for a media company wishing to upgrade their inefficient operations was to tear it all down and start from scratch — the cost of which is enough to make this route impractical.

Today, however, with new integration and cloud technology we are beginning to see new alternatives for overhauling operations—options that can integrate legacy systems into a unified, cloud-based operations environment. Rather than forcing companies to hit the reset button and suffer through the burden of a massive overhaul, these new solutions provide a low-cost bridge from complexity to next-level efficiency.

A classic sports motivation tool is to ask your underdog team the question, “Why not us?” As the world turns its affection to seamless on-demand services like Uber, I pose the same question to the local media industry.

-1Andy Vogel is Chief Operating Officer at Colony Logic. Prior to Colony Logic, Andy was Senior VP of Digital & Mobile for Tribune Company, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, and 39 broadcast television stations, including WGN America on national cable and KTLA.