The newest edition of Nielsen’s “Total Audience Report” is out, and it includes extensive data from 2020. You know: The Year That Changed Everything.
The report aims to track media consumption and device usage from quarter to quarter and year to year. So for 2020 specifically, it helps us see how the pandemic, social justice issues, divisive politics and other societal factors have impacted consumer habits. But just as importantly, it shows us where broadly-held assumptions are dead wrong. Let’s take a peek at two modern marketing myths, and how this data (along with other data) disproves those myths.
Myth #1: “It’s All Digital Now—People Don’t Spend Time with Television or Radio.”
There seems to be an assumption that the reach of television and radio have been tumbling. Bzzzt. Both television and radio reach more than 80% of American adults…as does app/web usage on smart phones. Yes, smartphone reach has accelerated dramatically in recent years, but even now its reach (for ad delivery) is roughly the same as television and radio. In other words, the reach of smartphones is additive, not subtractive. People are still watching a lot of TV (whether traditional, streaming or via connected devices), listening to a lot of radio (whether that’s terrestrial radio or streaming) AND using smartphones.
Q3 WEEKLY REACH, USERS 18+ (SOURCE: NIELSEN)
- Radio 88% 88%
- App/Web on a Smartphone 85% 85%
- TV (Live + Time-Shifted) 80% 80%
- TV-Connected Devices 56% 56%
- Internet on a Computer 52% 52%
In fact, share of daily time spent actually began to increase in 2020 for both television and radio. This can be attributed in part to the pandemic, with more people working from home and having time to interact with media.
Q3 19 SHARE OF DAILY TIME, USERS 18+ (SOURCE: NIELSEN)
- Radio 14% 14%
- App/Web on a Smartphone 33*% 33*%
- TV (Live + Time-Shifted) 33% 33%
- TV-Connected Devices 8% 8%
- Internet on a Computer 4% 4%
- App/Web on a Tablet 7% 7%
Q3 20 SHARE OF DAILY TIME, USERS 18+ (SOURCE: NIELSEN)
- Radio 15% 15%
- App/Web on a Smartphone 24*% 24*%
- TV (Live + Time-Shifted) 37% 37%
- TV-Connected Devices 11% 11%
- Internet on a Computer 6% 6%
- App/Web on a Tablet 7% 7%
You may note these figures show what looks like a precipitous drop in smart phone usage. But that comes with a giant asterisk. Yes, people have done more surfing on their computers, and less on their mobile phones, during the pandemic. But Nielsen also changed their smartphone measurement in May of 2020 to “more precisely capture users’ intended behavior.” Thus, a significant portion of this shift is probably attributable to methodology…and unfortunately, we’ll need more data to establish a baseline for Nielsen’s new smartphone methodology. (In retrospect, it’s likely Nielsen regrets changing its measurement methodology in the midst of the most disruptive global event in a generation. But that’s another story.)
Additionally, the two most “trusted” forms of advertising are…television and radio. Anecdotally, this should come as no surprise: television and radio advertising have existed longer than digital technologies, so that longevity itself certainly contributes to trust. But this is important: younger demographics (18-34 and 35-49) actually trust television and radio advertising as much as or more than than viewers age 50+.
TV ADVERTISING IS “VERY TRUSTWORTHY” OR “SOMEWHAT TRUSTWORTHY”
- 18-34 51% 51%
- 35-49 59% 59%
- 50+ 51% 51%
RADIO ADVERTISING IS “VERY TRUSTWORTHY” OR “SOMEWHAT TRUSTWORTHY”
- 18-34 54% 54%
- 35-49 60% 60%
- 50+ 51% 51%
STREAMING MUSIC ADVERTISING IS “VERY TRUSTWORTHY” OR “SOMEWHAT TRUSTWORTHY”
- 18-34 50% 50%
- 35-49 55% 55%
- 50+ 37% 37%
PODCAST ADVERTISING IS “VERY TRUSTWORTHY” OR “SOMEWHAT TRUSTWORTHY”
- 18-34 50% 50%
- 35-49 54% 54%
- 50+ 28% 28%
APP/WEBSITE ADVERTISING IS “VERY TRUSTWORTHY” OR “SOMEWHAT TRUSTWORTHY”
- 18-34 45% 45%
- 35-49 53% 53%
- 50+ 40% 40%
SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING IS “VERY TRUSTWORTHY” OR “SOMEWHAT TRUSTWORTHY”
- 18-34 39% 39%
- 35-49 43% 43%
- 50+ 25% 25%
We love digital marketing, and it’s a key component of effective campaigns. But radio, television, email marketing, events, automation, signage and so many other tactics are also viable. Trying to reach audiences with digital only is like trying to build a stable stool with one leg. It just ain’t gonna work.
Myth #2: “National Brands are More Powerful than Local Brands.”
We’ll start with a big caveat here: Nielsen has reconfigured this edition of the Total Audience Report, devoting a lot of space to consumer attitudes and behaviors impacted by the global pandemic. Of course that makes sense for them; countless companies rely on Nielsen for key business intelligence. Unfortunately, much of this data is based on consumers self-reporting their behaviors. What consumers say they will do, and what consumers actually do, are two entirely different things. All of us, as humans, tend to idealize by giving answers we think “sound” best, or answers that reflect what we wish we would do in given situations. Our real decisions, choices and behaviors are often at odds with those idealized visions. However, it’s immensely helpful to know consumers’ idealized views of themselves…because it shows aspirational thinking, and all effective marketing ties to aspiration.
A large section of the report, entitled “Home Field Advantage: Living Local Means Buying Local,” details the growing power of local brands. (Incidentally, this is exactly what we predicted in our 2021 Consumer Trend “We’re Better Than This.”) Consumers in general want to support businesses that reflect their ideals…and increasingly, that means supporting local businesses. Almost three-quarters of urban populations (74%) felt it was very important or somewhat important to shop at local businesses, compared to 67% of suburban audiences and 70% of rural audiences. Regardless of where they live, fewer than 10% felt shopping at local businesses was somewhat unimportant or very unimportant.
SHOPPING LOCALLY IS “VERY IMPORTANT” OR “SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT”
- URBAN 74% 74%
- SUBURBAN 67% 67%
- RURAL 70% 70%
SHOPPING LOCALLY IS “SOMEWHAT UNIMPORTANT” OR “VERY UNIMPORTANT”
- URBAN 8% 8%
- SUBURBAN 10% 10%
- RURAL 8% 8%
This stands in contrast with the conventional wisdom that national and international brands have the most momentum in terms of consumer affinity and sentiment. Indeed, we feel this is a unique opportunity for local businesses to tap into consumer sentiments impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Now, more than ever, people are devoting attention to services and brands in their back yards. Now, more than ever, it’s time for regional and local brands to capitalize on those unprecedented consumer preferences.
Download the full report for yourself, and dig into the data.