Post-Pandemic, Radio Seen As ‘Soundtrack of America’s Recovery.’

With car travel returning to pre-COVID levels, nearly a third of workers commuting full time again and data showing a steady return to a back-to-normal economy, Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard makes a case for radio advertising to accelerate business recovery in this week's Westwood One “Everyone's Listening” blog.

In the post, titled “With America back on the move and vehicular traffic up, AM/FM radio’s surge in listening can help businesses recover,” Bouvard backs up the good news in Nielsen's April PPM data, showing radio's audience reach at its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, with economic factors, miles-traveled data and consumer purchase data to show that AM/FM radio is, as he says, “the soundtrack of America’s recovery.”

A key driver, if you will, is in-car listening and trends showing miles traveled increased 67% in April 2021 compared to a year earlier at the height of lockdown, according to audience location measurement company Geopath, while car trip search requests via Apple Maps were 36% greater than before the pandemic. “Growth in vehicular traffic and miles traveled means increases in AM/FM radio time spent,” Bouvard says. “With an 88% share of ad-supported audio in the car, AM/FM is the queen of the road.”

Other positive indicators cited by Westwood One's blog include April's Federal Reserve data showing 62% of workers now commuting full time and 18% commuting some days, with 20% working from home, and May figures showing a steady decline in Google search trends for the term “COVID” to its lowest level - and Moody's Analytics “back-to-normal index” of economic activity at its highest – since the pandemic. The index, created by Moody's from a variety of economic activity data sources including measures of output, labor market activity, travel and leisure activity, housing market activity and consumer behavior, has been rising throughout 2021 and is now at a high of 88.

AM/FM radio benefits from these positive indicators when looking at Nielsen consumer purchase data from its March 2021 consumer sentiment study, showing post-pandemic purchase intentions among AM/FM radio listeners are 36% greater than TV viewers, and that across many different purchase categories, podcast listeners and AM/FM radio listeners show stronger purchase intentions than heavy TV viewers.

Bouvard suggests that all these trends working in radio's favor can be used to help advertisers accelerate business recovery. “Coming out of a recovery, business will grow from increased supply and consumer 'herd mentality' even without advertising. However, as the economy recovers, businesses that advertise accelerate early growth. Businesses that continue to advertise generate stronger sales growth that converts into higher long-term sales.”

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