Local ’07: Nick Grouf, Spot Runner

Spot Runner, the high-profile video production house and media buyer for small businesses, is winning some big deals with national players that want to provide solutions for partners and affiliates and also target locally.

During his Day 1 keynote at Local '07, Founder Nick Grouf says that “by solving problems for small business, we're seeing substantial demand from Fortune 1000 brands.”

Jewelers, for instance, are getting coop dollars from manufacturers, such as DeBeers diamonds, so that “a dollar invested is bigger than a dollar.” The manufacturer foots 25 percent to 50 percent of the bill. Similarly, Realtors are coming in via Caldwell Banker and other brokerages. “We're the agency of record for 260,000 real estate agents, working out of 10,000 offices,” he says. While Spot Runner's stock footage is templated, with multiple options, it appears to be unique to local audiences, because the company grants geographic exclusivity.

To date, the power of combining production and media buying has proved compelling. And small businesses apparently see the company's price point in the environs of $500 as a good deal (although some competitors are coming in cheaper). “Five-hundred dollars is not the negating item. We're pretty confident if we wanted to raise price, we could. But what we're doing is working with very small businesses.”

While Spot Runner is pushing hard on self-serve  if Google can do it, why not Spot Runner?  Grouf says the company has also begun working with agencies to extend the local sales channel. “Many account executives have been banging on the doors of accounts for decades. People say they can't afford the price of an ad” and its production.

But the company's media buying side  reaching into markets such as Santa Barbara for as little as $10 to $12 per spot  is becoming a larger part of the equation, even for companies with no apparent use for the production side. “We provide greater reach and efficiency from the targeting we want to do. For instance, the company recently launched a campaign for Warner Bros.' “The Painted Veil” for 200 movie screen locations. “They bought a five-to-ten mile radius around each screen,” he says. “They targeted $5,000 per screen, but working with Spot Runner, they did $12,000 per screen.”

The key to the small-business market, Grouf believes, is to be a value-added partner and not cut in on traditional relationships. “Google is stumbling in the market not because it is reselling other people's inventory, but in an increasingly difficult market, it has strained relationships with partners,” he says. “After the YouTube acquisition, the perception of Google changed in a major way. Google put its flag in the sand, saying 'your future is mine.' They're creating a certain channel conflict for themselves.

“They are going to have to resolve whether they are a media company, or whether they help companies buy media,” Grouf continues. But they are savvy and “they will fix it.”

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