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For Back-To-School Advertisers ‘Channel Choice Will Be Critical,’ Nielsen Says.

With buying and school habits having changed since the pandemic – which itself remains in transition with the rise of the Delta variant – retailers focused on back-to-school shopping this month need to adapt to changes in media use as well, according to Nielsen Media's latest “Perspectives” blog.

“Brands can’t just re-purpose previous creatives from previous years with minor tweaks,” Nielsen Media Director, Marketing Effectiveness Lucille Toniolo says. “In terms of engaging with consumers, the world is in a different place than it was last year, and channel choice will be critical.”

The good news for radio is it should remain top-of-mind for advertisers. “Getting out of the house also means more time spent in cars again, and listening to the radio,” Toniolo says, citing Nielsen figures showing radio's reach of 86% of U.S. adults surpasses that of other media. “For this year’s school season, twice as many kids will be driven to school compared with those who will take the bus.”

For back-to-school advertisers buying radio, there's evidence that reaching younger buyers is more crucial than ever. “Retailers need to be [aware] that the decision makers are increasingly becoming the students instead of the parents,” Toniolo says, pointing to results of a Rakuten survey showing that students are driving this year’s buying decisions.

In addition to radio, retailers should also consider direct mail, based on Nielsen research showing it helps drive brand recall and consideration. “It sounds contrary to the digital lives that we’re all living these days, but for advertisers that missed out on brand presence due to closed stores, direct mail offers a way to stay top-of-mind with shoppers,” Toniolo says, adding that video should also be in the mix, given Nielsen data showing the average American spends more than half their time spent with media each day in front of a screen. “For retailers, that means it’s critical to know who your audience is and then plan your advertising in the channels where your audience will see it.”

For as much as this back-to-school season differs from those before, there will be some return to pre-pandemic habits. “Parents and students [are moving] toward a hybrid of online and in-store shopping experiences,” Toniolo says, while citing Nielsen data that nine of 10 U.S. consumers say they are “ready to go” in resuming many pre-pandemic activities. “Those activities involve time away from home and shopping, which means they’re influenced by out-of-home advertising and branding, all of which are part of building up shoppers’ awareness and consideration of advertisers.”

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