TV is a core advertising channel for many local businesses. These TV advertisers appreciate the reach it provides and how engaging it can be. They use it for brand awareness and to drive promotions and sales. Many of these companies haven’t pivoted their messaging. While that is not always a cause for concern, it can impact the results they experience.

The reality is that the world has changed considerably, and so has the audience watching local TV. These consumers prioritize different things when making purchases beyond the price. That’s been a hook for TV commercials for decades. Price is still important to customers, but they have new expectations. Additionally, younger generations now have substantial buying power and care about things generations before did not, such as sustainability, a brand’s values and how businesses contribute to the community.

So, how can you gently recommend a shift to TV advertisers, and what should that new messaging include?

Indications It’s Time to Shift Messaging

Should your advertisers shift messaging? You’ll want to ask specific questions to understand their goals and audience. Questions could include:

  • Has a competitor increased their market share? If so, what about their advertising is resonating with customers?
  • Does your advertiser’s sales data offer any insights as to why people are buying? Are there trends that could be beneficial to developing new messaging? For example, a local specialty retailer may learn that customers are still using curbside pickup because it’s convenient. Another trend they may see is that most of their customers are younger compared to a few years ago.
  • Has current messaging hit a dead end? Is it no longer relevant or engaging for audiences? Any data regarding results from TV campaigns could uncover this.

Based on what the advertiser tells you and on other market trends, you can assess if it would be valuable to develop new messaging.

Having the Conversation About Messaging

Longtime TV advertisers may have misconceptions or long-held beliefs about the content in their ads. You aren’t there to tell them their baby is ugly — just that the baby needs a new outfit. You have a relationship with local advertisers, who value you as an expert. From that angle, you are simply providing input on best practices to help them achieve greater ROI on their advertising spend.

Change can be hard and met with objections. Your job is to provide clients with your best recommendations for content and creative. Talk to them about why a pivot would be good by noting data and market trends. It’s all coming from a place to help your client, not critique them.

So, what new messaging is likely to matter for local businesses and their customers?

New Messaging for TV Advertisers: Ideas to Pitch

New content for ads will always depend on the industry, audience and goals. According to the experts at BIA, the top industry spenders for local TV (outside of political) are automotive, restaurants, finance/insurance, health care, leisure/recreation and retail. For these segments, what messaging would be the most pertinent and significant?


The key challenge automotive is facing is inventory shortages. Experts don’t think they’ll be at full capacity until 2024. While dealerships are seeing substantial profits, they also don’t have as many promotions as they did before the pandemic. Many are focusing on the lucrative used car market as well as their service centers. The buyer experience is another possibility.

Dealership TV ads have almost always been about sales and incentives. If those are off the table and they are still investing in advertising, suggest these tweaks:

  • Focus on the customer experience and how easy it is to purchase a car, starting with doing a lot of the paperwork online.
  • Highlight the value of used cars and how those who own them can trade them for profit.
  • Emphasize their service center by including actual employees who do the work.


Restaurants have high competition in any market. Their TV ads have long been focused on price and appetizing menu items. Most people are back to onsite dining, but others still appreciate the convenience of curbside pickup and delivery. If your advertisers continue to see trends related to these preferences, they should emphasize that in TV spots.

Another angle is new menu items that align with dietary needs and preferences. They should consider highlighting them if they are selling more of these items. Categories could include vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or dairy-free.

Finance and Insurance

Local customers are looking for trustworthy and credible organizations or individuals regarding finances and insurance. There are currently a lot of concerns about the economy, which impacts how people save and invest. Instead of leaning on rates in the financial sector, companies should consider education opportunities. They can promote these on TV and use QR codes for watchers to scan and sign up.

Insurance is often a local buy. People want to talk to an agent versus just getting coverage online. As a result, the trust factor matters more than any cost savings they can realize by switching. The national insurance companies rally around two primary messages — reducing costs and having the proper coverage. Those will always be important, but a local agent could create a stronger connection with customer testimonials about how the agent helped someone through a claim. This tone is different and builds credibility.

Health Care

TV advertisers in this category are typically hospitals and individual practices. Hospitals focus on delivering excellent care, specialties (e.g., cardiovascular, cancer) and community support. Most large markets have multiple hospitals, so patients have choices. On the practice side, advertisers can range from primary care to specialty (e.g., orthopedic, psychiatric, etc.).

Doing a deep dive with health care advertisers can help form new messaging. Look at a few things:

  • Do third parties recognize them as a leader? If so, make that a message point.
  • What does their community involvement look like? How they support their region through events and nonprofit partnerships can matter in perception.
  • Will they be expanding services soon? If so, content around this can be informative for viewers.
  • What makes them unique? Is it the patient experience? Do they offer telehealth? Whatever their differentiators are, they should be part of messaging.

Leisure and Recreation

The industry has rebounded significantly in the past year. The demand for it is steady and rising. TV ads in this category are usually all about the consumer’s experience and the fun they’ll have. Fun should stick around in their content. Much of this is seasonal as well, so that’s going to be consistent.

The tweak may involve overcoming the barriers of why people aren’t visiting these places. Do they perceive it as too expensive, inconvenient or not family-friendly? How can messaging overcome these perceptions? The TV ad needs to talk to the person or family who isn’t a current customer. By targeting this group, advertisers may see traction for new guests.


Retail is another industry with lots of competition. Local retailers, from clothing to specialty to grocery, want to be the local favorite. Retail TV ads rely heavily on pricing, promotions and seasonality. Those are a given, but what other stories could they be telling?

Those could include spotlighting specific products, convenience factors like delivery and pickup, what’s new, and the customer experience. Retailers will always want to showcase their deals, but price isn’t always why people buy. When retail businesses can connect with their audience more emotionally, consumers will be more apt to shop there.

Messaging Matters in Advertising

Messaging always matters, no matter the type of company or audience. If it’s tired and uninspiring, your advertisers won’t get the results they expect. Shifting to relevant and compelling content can help them acquire new customers and keep others loyal.

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