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State of media channels in the post-lockdown ad market

With the economy slowly trying to return to some sort of normality, we’ve seen a strong increase in spending across the market. Often, this is reflected in a tightening of availability in those media channels. However, there can be conflicting messages when that availability suddenly relaxes at the last minute. So, to get a better idea of how this might be changing, we’ve looked at spending both pre-lockdown, during it, and now that we’re (hopefully) coming out of it in some guise.

April shows the first big hit in revenue, as the bulk of spend had already been committed to TV for March. As lockdown started to ease in July and August, we have started to see some improvements in spending, indeed, almost back to where we’d expect to be year-on-year (YoY), down just 12%.

TV sector

Due to its sheer size, TV saw the drop and subsequent increase overall, but it is still down 22% against where it was in March. We do need to keep in mind that summer is typically a slow time as holidays and the better weather affect TV viewing. Taking this into account, the market is only down 7% YoY.

Press sector 

Press too saw a huge change as lockdown began, but its recovery has been significantly slower compared to TV, and is still down almost 40% against March levels. As with TV, summer is typically a slower period than Q1, but even comparing this YoY, print is still down significantly. The reason for this is quite simple, there are just fewer opportunities to buy a printed publication. Grocery shopping makes up a significant percentage of a publication’s sales and with more people shifting this to online or making fewer trips to the supermarket, the frequent ability to buy a paper or magazine was reduced. The next main area for print sales is transport hubs. With commuter travel numbers drastically reduced due to working from home, places like a WH Smith’s at stations have simply not had the footfall. Coupled with the severe drop in international travel, the same is true of airports as well.

Radio sector 

However, there is one medium that seems to be bucking the trend. Radio, as with other channels, felt the same initial sting in April and May, however since then it has bounced back at an incredible rate and is now outperforming where it started the year. It is up 2% YoY, and up 8% compared to March.

All Response Media viewpoint

While TV initially benefitted from a lockdown viewing boost, as people started to go back to work, TV viewing began returning to more normal levels. However, there is some evidence to show that the radio listening habit developed over lockdown has continued even as there is a slow return to normal. Unlike TV, which you can’t watch in the office or while working from home, radio is easier to listen to and still be productive.

Also, the recent Touchpoints research from the IPA shows some more practical real-world influence that traditional media has. When asked how much trust people have in their media, it was press and radio that showed a strong uptick. National press grew 9% from pre to post-lockdown, radio was up 6%, and direct mail was up 1%. While TV remained flat, trust in online dropped significantly, with search results and social media down 8% and 13% respectively.

This trust in channels such as radio and its ability to command a strong audience is perhaps one reason that we’ve seen such a strong bounce back in spending. It will be interesting to see if this spend continues into Q4, but we are already saying to clients to finalise approvals for radio sooner so that they do not lose out on availability.

Also, the initial April and May short-term deals seen at the peak of lockdown, have slowed, limiting the value of booking last minute. However, due to the way we plan and buy radio, we are still well placed to secure incredible value within the radio marketplace, and we’ve seen several clients already benefit from this in recent months.

With the ongoing uncertainty of regional lockdowns, it will be interesting to see how media usage and spending changes. But given the flexible and clearly trusted nature of radio, we would expect this sector to remain strong moving into 2021. That said, we will continue to monitor things closely.

To see how TV, radio and press can provide you with an Unfair Competitve Advantage, click here.