Corey Elliott

As local advertisers look ahead to the next six months, they’re slowly but surely feeling more optimistic, according to the latest wave of survey results from Borrell Associates. “We’re not quite back to pre-pandemic optimism but we’re a hell of a lot better than in March 2020,” says Borrell VP of Research Corey Elliott.

Flash back a year ago to March 2020 and 73% of local advertisers said the economic environment was poor, 21% described it as fair and 5% said it was good. By August 2020 conditions had improved somewhat. The portion saying things were poor fell to 48%, fair increased to 36% and good nearly tripled to 14%. Advertisers have an appreciably more upbeat outlook in the most recent survey. One third says conditions are poor, 49% say fair and 16% describe the economic environment as good.

More importantly, a plurality of advertisers surveyed see conditions improving in the next six months. Nearly half (45%) says things will get better (up from 21% in August and 14% in March 2020). More than one third (34%) say things will stay the same (down from 46% in August and up from 12% in March 2020). And 20% predict they’ll get worse (a consistent decline from 30% in August and 71% in March 2020).

“A year ago things were dark and they thought they were going to get worse,” Elliott said during the latest episode of Corey's Local Marketing Minute. “And though it’s not back up to pre-pandemic standards, it is swinging better. There is optimism in the air.”

But are they loosening the purse strings on advertising? Borrell asked marketers if they plan to spend more, the same or less in the next six months. In the dark days of March 2020, 16% said they were going to spend more, 28% said the same and more than half (52%) indicated they would spend less. By the time August rolled around, roughly half (52%) said they would spend the same, 20% said more and 27% said they planned to spend less. In the current survey, “same” jumped up to 61%, more grew to 22% and less is down to 15%, which is right around the pre-pandemic average. Elliott notes that while “more” got as high as 37% in 2017, it usually bounces around 30%.

“There’s hope that things are getting better – slowly. But they’ll get there,” he says.

Using an open-ended question, the survey also identified four main things that are top of mind with advertisers right now: cost containment, planning challenges (IE: trying to understand what’s going to come next), changing their media mix, and digital advertising.

“There’s a pretty nice wave to ride to go talk to an advertiser right now, especially the ones that are feeling a little bit more optimistic than they did a year ago,” Elliott concludes. “They might be willing to try some stuff.”