A4 Advertising's Focus on Local Business Uncovers a Resilient Force for Economic Growth

By a4 Advertising InSites Archives
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a4 Advertising's 2021 approach to local and regional advertising is not "business as usual" says George Costa, vice president local ad sales, and Rich Davis, senior director local ad sales, who shared observations and insights for 2020 and beyond with MediaVillage. "Last year we witnessed a focus among local advertisers to just being a good partner in the community," Costa shared. "You know, [being] health and safety conscious, and [placing] much less focus on how much profit am I driving. I just want to sustain. I want to keep my employees employed. I want to keep the business going."

Today that priority remains, but it is accompanied by a return to attention to advertising results. "Advertisers are looking at what is the cost per acquisition, how many people do I have to bring into my store or dealership," Costa notes. As data and resources for measurable ROI become more accessible to local advertisers, how local advertisers respond is evolving. "Many of the [top] verticals are still the strongest: healthcare, education, financial institutions and automotive," Costa says. "What's changed along the way consistently, for all of them, is the messaging. The messaging went from a call to action -- 'buy now,' 'buy today' -- to a more empathetic, compassionate 'we're open for business,' 'we're still here,' 'we sanitize everything,' etc."

Costa points out that "auto advertising is starting to come back, albeit with some inventory issues," and other key growth verticals, such as education and healthcare, are really starting to surge. "When you look at healthcare," he says, "messaging was around testing early on, to vaccine distribution and now to better health."

With the need to adapt to changing market conditions, the a4 Advertising local ad sales teams focused on stability. "The thing that didn't change is the basic process and fundamentals," Davis explains. "Where we can help the business; identify and solve the pain points; understand their goals; that all stayed the same. What changed was the relationship dynamics and the messaging to the consumer. Being consistent is important when shifting messages. You need to stay true to your brand."

As the conversations with local businesses have focused back on results, Davis notes that "the conversations we're having are more granular. Small and medium businesses are focusing on defining their strategy while they're managing all the issues they are dealing with."

Costa explains that a primary objective of the local sales teams is to educate clients and help them manage through this challenging period. "Continuously educating our clients is our greatest opportunity to help them understand the potential value of shifting advertising tactics and investments from their traditional media," he asserts. "Because there's such awareness of changing viewing behaviour, we can have conversations about our OTT product and our targeted message delivery verification. Our advertisers are listening, learning and getting positive results."

Both Costa and Davis are bullish on the future growth potential. "The expansion of OTT will be leading the charge for the rest of the year and into 2022," Costa says.

"When we talk to customers and they tell us, 'you helped me through this, the advice you gave really helped my business,' it's a game changer for long-term relationships," Davis adds. "One client said, 'We're not sure we would have made it. Advertising was that one thing that just kept our head above water until we were able to get back to some semblance of normal.' It is really gratifying to have had some small part in their success. I'm amazed by the resiliency of small businesses and the resiliency of our people."

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