While more media agency and brand marketing workers have returned to the office since COVID, they still lag behind everyday Americans, nearly 90% of whom are commuting again, suggesting that the average American is exposed more frequently to ads on AM/FM radio and out-of-home media than ad execs may believe.
That's based on an analysis of studies commissioned by Cumulus Media, from Advertiser Perceptions and Maru/BLUE, in Westwood One's weekly blog. Findings from Advertiser Perceptions' October and April 2022 surveys of more than 300 media agencies and brands were compared to a three-year series of Maru/BLUE studies of more than 1,500 adults 18+, the most recent of which was conducted earlier this month.
The results show that while three-fourths (76%) of marketers and agencies are currently commuting to offices some, most or all days of the week – up from 63% in April – 87% of pre-COVID commuters overall now work outside the home. According to Maru/BLUE, total share of commuters actually hit the 76% mark in October of 2020 and has been in the 80%+ range since June 2021, up from 86% in March.
Meanwhile, 23% of marketing execs report currently work only at home, down from 37% in April, according to Advertiser Perceptions, while Maru/BLUE's study shows just 13% of Americans working at home, down from 14% in March 2022 and last over 20% during March of 2021.
Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard suggests that the ad world's significantly higher share of at-home workers may lead agencies and brands to the conclusion that radio and out-of-home ad audiences are down, assuming total U.S. numbers are the same. “Americans are much more frequently exposed to billboards, out-of-home and AM/FM ads than folks in the advertising business...because [they are] still not up to the number of days at work [of] the average American,” he says. “This is one of these situations when we realize that we in the media and advertising business are very different from average Americans.”
Looking at this data from a days-per-week standpoint, the average number of marketer/agency office days is up from 3 to 3.5, still below the 4.3 days of average Americans. More than twice as many commute five days a week (56%) compared to the marketing industry (26%) while conversely, 28% of marketers and agencies spend just one or two days in the office compared to only 12% of everyday Americans.
Among those still working at home, nearly half (48%) of average Americans expect to be returning to the office within a year, vs. just 14% of agencies and brands. Likewise, 31% of typical Americans who still work from home say they don't plan to come back, vs. nearly half (49%) within the marketing industry.
The data shows, as Bouvard says, “The vast majority of average Americans are back to work, [so] the commuting habits of the ad industry do not align with America. Despite the fact that a big chunk of marketers and media agencies are commuting to work, and that has grown, there are still more average Americans commuting than people in the advertising business. It's all too easy for us to overlook how different our lifestyles and perceptions are from the people that we talk to.”