Local Ad Buying Is Returning to ‘Normal’


“They’re far from feeling great about the economy, but the ad buyers in our latest panel are emitting positive vibes,” says Gordon Borrell of Borrell Associates’ freshly minted look at ad buying habits from small and medium-sized businesses.

Could this be good news for broadcast media, or another lump of coal and direct mail and local digital instead benefit?

That’s a billion-dollar question no one may have the answer for, as Borrell has released its latest report, SMBs Adjusting, Recovering from COVID-19.

The 12-page report includes more than 150 comments from ad buyers expressing their biggest concerns headed into the holidays.

However, the biggest takeaway is just how total local ad buying is bouncing back. The year-over-year trends are still downbeat. But, the percentage of SMBs spending less in 2020 as seen in August far less than seen in March.

While half still feel the business climate is poor, that’s a big improvement since March.

And, Borrell says, their outlook is normalizing. “In March, only 12% felt economic conditions wouldn’t change in the next six months. In August, the number shot to 46%.
Twice as many expressed optimism that things would improve, compared with four year averages.”

Further, the COVID-19 impact has settled. “In March and April, 56% said their
businesses felt large negative impacts. In August, 34% said so.”

In fact, there is a growing “silver lining” from the novel coronavirus, Borrell asserts. “There’s been a threefold increase in those who say the pandemic has helped their business. Sixteen percent now feel that way, with 6% claiming a ‘large positive impact.’”

Says Gordon Borrell, ”We have to move swiftly to stay current. Nothing that worked
before is the same, so old buys that were laid in for the year are [not] relevant in today’s market.”