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Seller to Seller: Gary Sarner, ROI360+

There’s passion and then there’s Gary Sarner. Think you love doing what you do? Meet Gary Sarner, former media salesperson and manager who now owns RO1360+, an ad agency which specializes in legal advertising. He loves what he does more than you do. Trust me.

As a teenager in the early 80’s, Sarner, whose father was a big radio advertiser, hung out in the studios of WQXI (now WSTR) in Atlanta. He said while he was there one time a PD came running in and told the DJ he had to play a song. The DJ turned to Sarner and said, “In 10 seconds if the phones light up, it’s a hit. If they don’t, we’ll never play it again.” The song was Lionel Richie’s ‘You Are,’ and needless to say they played the song again. “I was hooked at that moment on radio, and I quit school and went into my dad’s business.”

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Within a month his dad had sold the business, and he needed a new job. Sarner said he went and asked his neighbor, who was running Jefferson Pilot at the time, “What is it that you do that you don’t work on weekends? He told me to call my favorite radio station, which was Y100, and I ended up getting a job at Y100 and started my radio career in February 1987.”

Sarner spent about 18 years in two different stints with Beasley in Miami and sold WQAM and at different times had the Miami Marlins, Florida Panthers, Miami Dolphins and University of Miami to sell. Later he would spend eight years with Audacy in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area.

Sarner started his new agency in April 2021, and when asked if he misses the business that had been such a big part of his life for a long time, he explained, “I don’t miss anything because I’m a radio advocate. The difference between working at Audacy and having ROI360+ is I’m not beholden to just Audacy.”

Sarner explains if an advertiser has to reach a certain demographic, but a certain media company only has two stations that hit that demo, in a perfect world, the seller from that company would have sellers from the other stations in town that have that same audience and they could work together to do what is best for that particular client.

On the other hand, if a radio seller forces that client to buy their whole portfolio, some of the stations won’t work, therefore the campaign won’t work, and the client is going to make the decision that all of radio doesn’t work. So, Sarner started the agency so he could buy the right stations for his clients.

Something else Sarner is a big believer in is clients have to give campaigns time. “I say all the time, ‘Marketing campaigns are measured in years not weeks or months,’” he said. “And the more stations you’re on, the faster the campaign works. When you pigeonhole yourself to one two or three stations, it’s going to take a lot longer to become a part of somebody’s brain.” Sarner says he won’t put a client on the air unless they are committed to an annual.

Sarner loves radio, but believes most stations are programming for Nielsen and not for their audience. If it were up to him, stations would have more, shorter stop sets, which you typically only find in sports and news talk. He also has a big problem with the way stations stream their product and air commercials online.

“You have everybody out there trying to sell digital products at radio stations, but they don’t know how,” he said. “I know how to reach a hundred percent of the audience on the radio. You cannot do that on a stream.”

Sarner started working with a law firm in South Florida in 2013 and built such a great relationship with the client that, with his employer’s blessing, he became their media buying person. When he was notified the company no longer wanted him to work with that client, the next day the idea for the agency happened and went from an employee at the radio station to soon being the buyer for their top client.

“I didn’t plan on being a legal marketing expert but guess what, I knew that the best, because I was doing all the marketing for the law firm, and we had gone from Miami-Ft Lauderdale to statewide in eight years.”

That particular client was doing what Sarner calls ‘The Holy Trinity’ of advertising – radio, TV and billboards. And while Sarner acknowledges that not many businesses can afford the whole trio, Sarner says no matter what, clients have to understand who the target is and no matter which form of advertising a business does, own it or at least own a piece of it.

“It’s math, then finding the right target and we look back at who the shopper is. Most advertisers out there and local advertisers, you know what? They don’t know who their target market is, and they don’t even know their own numbers. So, Radio, TV billboards, it’s all math and then you figure out how much money you have to spend. And have somebody believe what you’re saying, right? They have to trust the message, that’s very important.

Sarner knows in the end, many potential clients for any business are going to wind up searching for the client and looking at their website or reviews online. “Guess who gets beat up in that?” Sarner asks. “Radio, TV, and billboards. Well, if you didn’t do the radio, TV or billboards, guess what? They’re not going to find you on the internet. You’re just like somebody else…When people look at their metrics as the lead source, radio never wins, TV never wins, billboards never win.”

In addition to his passion and knowledge about advertising and advertising schedules, Sarner says it is his belief that other people matter that separates him from others.

“It’s not about me,” he said. “If I do what’s right, I’m going to win. I always call myself ‘the most accessible person in media.’ I answer my phone. I speak to people. There’s no texting and there’s very minimal emails, although email happens. But it’s about connecting one-on-one and caring.

“I enjoyed every minute I had in radio and I’m loving every minute owning an agency and getting to work with amazing clients who put a lot of trust in my team. We’ve changed what happens on the radio dial with legal advertising like almost to the point where we shoot ourselves in the foot, because once we launch somebody, other people want to follow. The difference is they don’t know how to buy it. They’re being sold stuff by someone they end up trusting, but who doesn’t really know. A typical radio seller today has no idea how to really put a schedule together, they’re paid to do sell packages.”

Gary Sarner is very proud of the success he has had and the relationships he has built with his clients. Sarner boils it all down when he says, “Our clients win, because their media campaigns are managed correctly.”

Dave Greene
Dave Greenehttps://barrettmedia.com
Dave Greene is the Chief Media Officer for Barrett Media. His background includes over 25 years in media and content creation. A former sports talk host and play-by-play broadcaster, Dave transitioned to station and sales management, co-founded and created a monthly sports publication and led an ownership group as the operating partner. He has managed stations and sales teams for Townsquare Media, Cumulus Media and Audacy. Upon leaving broadcast media he co-founded Podcast Heat, a sports and entertainment podcasting network specializing in pro wrestling nostalgia. To interact, find him on Twitter @mr_podcasting. You can also reach him by email at [email protected].

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