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Who Should Be Advertising Now? Listener Interest And Perceived Risk Offer Some Clues.

What activities are Americans ready to resume now? And which ones do they consider too risky to take up again? The answers have implications for both programmers and sales as radio stations aim to help audiences and local businesses begin to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.

New findings from an online survey of 16,004 radio listeners in the U.S. and Canada, fielded from May 12-14 in association with the Radio Advertising Bureau, provide a road map for the activities ready to take off, as well as those that may require more time, preparation and education. Respondents were invited to take the survey by a participating station, whose loyal listener database they belong to.

Grocery shopping, attending parties/social events and eating in restaurants are among the things core radio listeners show the highest interest in resuming. More than seven in ten rated their interest in these activities as a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale where 5 is very interested. And at least six in ten expressed the same level of interest in going to see a doctor/dentist, getting a haircut/going to a salon, going to a beach or public park, going to a concert, theater or festival performance or going to a sponsored event put on by the station that sent them the online survey.

Conversely, the survey turned up a raft of activities that the most listeners aren’t ready to resume just yet, like going to a political rally (only 6% are interested), taking an Uber or Lyft ride (11%), using public transportation (11%), going on a cruise (16%) or visiting a casino. With the virus still spreading, these were seen as highly risky by a majority of listeners in the survey. Yet even some of the high-interest activities, like going to a bar/cub, attending a concert or eating in a sit-down restaurant are also perceived to be risky business by many listeners.

The study maps out activities on a grid-based on their interest and risk levels, which Jacobs Media General Manager Paul Jacobs says can provide a roadmap for radio sales teams. Advertisers in the high interest/low-risk quadrant (grocery/pharmacy, doctor/dentist, beach/public park, haircut/salon) should be spending money right now, he said on a webinar this week. High interest/high-risk categories (party/family event, sit-down restaurant, radio station event, concert/theater) should also be advertising, Jacobs said, as long as they use appropriate messaging. “The creative approach they need to take is educational but they need to be advertising,” he said, adding that the category grid can be used to make ad sellers experts and to help clients feel comfortable about advertising.

As an example of a category that has pivoted its approach due to the pandemic, he pointed to the auto industry. “Look at what car buyers are doing right now. Touchless car buying, order online, we’ll bring the car to your house. They’ve completely changed their communication and their whole business model.”

Jacobs suggested account execs use the category grid to talk with clients. “This is an opportunity to become an expert, to become a true resource and use not only the strength of our medium but the strength of our information to help our clients survive.”

View a recording of the webinar and download the survey results HERE.

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