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'Commutes Are Back' As Time Spent With AM/FM In Cars Hits Eight-Year High.


While the commuting gap between average Americans and marketing/agency workers has been gradually closing since COVID's worst days, that gap still exists to a point where Americans have significantly greater exposure to advertising on AM/FM radio than advertisers themselves.


That and other findings about marketers vs. U.S. workers overall come from an analysis of several research sources in Cumulus Media/Westwood One's weekly blog, including October studies from MARU/Matchbox and Advertiser Perceptions – the former among 1,000 adults 18+, and the latter of more than 300 media agencies and brands.


Compared to results from earlier surveys by MARU/Matchbox and Nielsen since April 2020, the height of the pandemic – when more than half (52%) of pre-COVID commuters were working at home – that share gradually fell to just 6% in the recent survey, meaning 94% of average Americans are now commuting to work. In just the past year, that represents an increase from 87%, although from April 2020 to March 2021, the work-from-home share dropped sharply, from that 52% to 21%.


According to Advertiser Perceptions, the share of brand marketers and media agency workers now commuting to work at least some days jumped from 63% in April 2022 to October 2023's 82%, so 12% lower than average Americans. Looking at just those commuting to work all or most days, that share has more than doubled, from 22% to 49%, while those commuting to work some days fell from 41% to 33%. Meantime, advertisers working from home only dropped from 37% to 18%, which remains three times the 6% of average Americans.


“Despite growth in brand and agency commutes, the marketing industry is still working from home more than the average American,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says, “[which means] compared to marketers and agencies, the average American is exposed more frequently to billboards, digital signage, out-of-home advertising, and AM/FM radio ads.”


That finding goes hand in hand with Edison Research’s eight-year trend showing that for 2023, AM/FM radio’s share of time spent in vehicles hit a 45.0% high for those eight years, matching only its share in 2019. In just the past year, in-car AM/FM listening has increased 18%, from 38.2% in 2022, which fell during three years of COVID lows.


“The commutes are back, and in-car AM/FM radio audiences have surged [since] the pandemic depressed AM/FM radio’s share of in-vehicle time spent from 2020 to 2022,” Bouvard says. “For marketers and media agencies, the message is clear: out-of-home media audiences have roared back, as billboards, digital signage, AM/FM radio, and SiriusXM offer mass reach at full pre-pandemic levels.”


With Americans overall reporting working in an office an average 4.9 days a week vs. 4.0 for advertisers, and half of marketers still working from home saying they are never coming back full time to offices, Bouvard reminds agency execs that commuters' greater exposure to AM/FM radio should be taken into account during media buys. “Make sure you take the 'me' out of media,” he says. “Don't assume that if you're in the advertising business that everyone in America is like you – they are not, you are very different than the average American.”

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