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Local ad buyers have more choices than ever when it comes to spending their marketing dollars. And with all those choices, coupled with changes in how they decide to allocate those funds, important new trends are emerging that will impact the success or failure of sellers of radio and other media. “Some of these are big about-faces, not ongoing trends,” Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell explained to the firm’s customers during a clients-only webinar Tuesday that focused on five key findings.

Internal Marketing Teams Are Gaining Influence

It used to be the “craggy old owners” of local businesses who developed their marketing plans. While that’s still the case for 46% of the 2,811 local ad buyers surveyed by Borrell in April, May and June, they increasingly share that role with a new crop of young marketing people or teams that are gaining influence. Nearly half (45%) of survey respondents say a marketing staff person, or team, is developing their marketing plan. “There are more influencers than decision makers,” Borrell said. And they’re helping businesses save money by using more marketing without actually paying for it.

Local Businesses Now ‘Use’ Marketing More Than ‘Buy’ It

Borrell used to ask local ad buyers what media they “used” instead of what they ‘bought.” Turns out 12% are using various media without buying it. For example, 93% said they use social media while 57% said they purchase it; and 43% use streaming video but only 14% buy it. “It’s almost one to one for all the traditional forms of media – you use TV, you buy it, you use radio, you buy it,” Gordon Borrell said. But it’s a different story with digital media because the local businesses own their Facebook page or YouTube channel. And increasingly, they need somebody who can manage it. “That’s one of the biggest findings. These people really need some help and they’re going to be picking partners,” Borrell said.

They Want Personal Contact, Not Platforms

More than four in 10 respondents (43%) bought advertising through a self-serve platform in 2020 but it’s not their top choice for ad buying. Asked which way they prefer to buy, 43% said via email with a sales rep, 30% said in-person, and 9% over the phone. In other words, 82% want some form of personal contact. “It’s especially the smaller businesses that want to have contact with a sales person,” said Borrell Associates President Jim Brown. “This is good news because it’s an opportunity to influence these people. They’re telling us they do rely on sales people, they want the interaction with them.”

Online Video is the 3rd Wave… and It’s Local

Whether you call it OTT or connected TV, online video tops media’s hot list in 2021. And 34% of those that are buying it are paying for it with a new budget dedicated to it, not by trimming other media budgets. And unlike the first two digital waves, there is no category killer in online video. Google cornered the market on search advertising (the first wave) and Facebook dominates social media (the second wave). But no one occupies a similar position in online video. Local ad buyers purchase it from a TV, cable or radio sales rep. “This is the third wave, this is really big,” Borrell declared. “It’s a great opportunity for the smartest of local media businesses to capture a pretty significant amount of digital advertising and marketing and other fees associated with the production of those videos.” Within just a few years, online video has become the third largest media category in terms of popularity among local buyers.

They Want Reps With Holistic Marketing Expertise

Out of 12 media rep qualities, which are most important for buyers when making media decisions? This year the Borrell survey results are different. Topping the list is a high level of marketing expertise, cited by 85% of survey participants. Four to five years ago it was a rep who understood the media they were selling. Today’s reps need to “have an overall high level of marketing experience, irrespective of what media they might be presenting,” Brown said. Also important: having a partner attitude rather than a vendor attitude.

The 2021 Borrell Associates survey is based on data collected from 2,811 local advertisers and 701 ad agencies fielded by Borrell between April and June. The biggest share of advertisers came from the real estate, restaurant, and insurance industries.