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Study: Advertisers Dramatically Underestimate State Of U.S. Worker Commutes.

For radio sellers, half the battle is getting media buyers to set aside misperceptions and embrace the facts about how the American public lives, works and consumes media. A pair of new studies show many marketers and agencies dramatically underestimate the state of U.S. worker commutes.

According to a survey fielded by Advertiser Perceptions from Oct. 7-14, marketers and agencies with media budget responsibilities perceive that 43% of U.S. workers are working from their homes. They also believe only 32% are commuting every day. Yet the latest results from an ongoing tracking study of American worker commutes found nearly twice as many U.S. workers are commuting every day. October 2020 data from the U.S. Federal Reserve shows 56% are commuting to work daily and 19% of workers are working from home daily.

Similarly marketers and agencies over-estimate the portion of Americans that are not employed, perceiving that number to be 18% compared to the 10% figure from the Federal Reserve.

Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media/Westwood One, says putting the two studies side by side shows how advertising decision makers often assume their own behavior is representative of the population at large. “Marketers and agencies believe that since they are all working from home, so must the rest of the country,” Bouvard says in a blog post. Acknowledging this, Colin Kinsella, the CEO of Havas Media North America, says, “The biggest risk for AM/FM radio is the 26-year-old planner who lives in New York or Chicago and does not commute by car and does not listen to AM/FM radio and thus does not think anyone else listens to AM/FM radio.”

Over the last nine months, the Federal Reserve has also tracked Americans who were in the workforce prior to COVID-19. Its data reveals a steady increase in the number of Americans commuting to work and a concurrent reduction in the number of Americans working from home and out of the job market.

For example, back in May during the shelter-at-home lockdown, 55% of pre-COVID-19 workers were still commuting to work, 26% were working at home, and 19% were not employed. “Over the course of the spring and summer, commuting increased, those out of the workplace dropped, and the number of those working at home decreased,” Bouvard observes. Fast-forward to October 2020, and more than seven in ten (71%) of those who were employed pre-pandemic were commuting to work, compared to 19% who were working from home and 9% who were not employed.Bouvard’s takeaway: “The commuting workforce continues to recover to pre-pandemic levels.”

Commuting is a key indicator for radio since the car and the workplace are the top locations for radio listening. The latest Nielsen update shows AM/FM radio listening has returned to its pre-pandemic levels. PPM market data for the November 2020 survey and diary market data for August/September/October reinforces the rebound. Nielsen reveals that AM/FM radio’s November weekly reach is now 97% of March and total day average quarter-hour persons is 94% of March in the 45 PPM markets. In addition, the last two months have seen a significant surge in morning drive audiences. November’s Mon-Fri, 6-10am AQH is now 90% of March 2020, middays are 96% of March, afternoon drive is 93%, nights are 88%, and weekends are 98%. Bouvard calls this a “strong recovery performance in all dayparts.”

And in continuous diary markets there has been almost no impact in listening levels versus pre-COVID according to the latest August/September/October 2020 release. The medium-sized continuous diary markets saw “barely any impact in spring AM/FM radio listening audiences,” Bouvard says. “Since summer, mid-sized diary market audiences are virtually identical to pre-COVID listening levels.

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