The ‘Seismic’ Surge Of Consumer Sentiment: Good News For Broadcast Media?


On Friday afternoon, Nielsen released the results of a second review of U.S. consumer sentiment on COVID-19 recovery and purchase intentions that yielded a stark contrast to what Americans thought at the start of May, compared to their views at the end of May.

In the words of Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard, who closely examined the results, it is a “seismic bump up” in terms of how positive consumers feel right now — and great news for radio’s AEs and sales managers to get the ad revenue rolling into summer.

While only a month separates the two studies, the shift in American attitudes on reopening of the economy and a return to normalcy is remarkable, he says.

In early May, 34% comprised the segment expressing the greatest optimism on a return to normalcy. The “ready to go” segment grew twenty points to 54%. The most pessimistic segment, “wait and see” consumers, dropped from 29% to 11%.

The respondents also indicated varying levels of agreement or disagreement for reopening statements. The degree of agreement with these statements determined which of the three optimism segments consumers were assigned to.

“There are massive gains in the number of Americans who say stores are reopening, normal activities are beginning to resume, and their area is starting to emerge out of the crisis,” Bouvard notes.

The average agreement with the recovery statements is up 18 points, a 44% increase.

As far as Bouvard sees it, “ready to go” translates to “ready to spend.” On average, he points out, the “ready to go” segment is +23% more likely to make purchases within a month across a broad range of purchase categories.

Of course, there’s a tie to radio that Bouvard brings to the table, and it’s this: “ready to go” consumers happen to be “heavy” consumers of broadcast radio stations. Citing Nielsen Audio research, Bouvard notes that the “ready to go” consumers are 33% more likely to be heavy AM/FM radio listeners compared the most pessimistic “wait and see” consumer segment.

Additionally, compared to heavy TV viewers, heavy AM/FM radio listeners are “much more likely to purchase within a month after the crisis eases across a vast array of categories.”

Citing Nielsen, Bouvard notes that on average, 32% of heavy TV viewers say they will make purchases one month after COVID-19 eases in their area. A far greater proportion of heavy AM/FM radio listeners (42%) say they will make purchases within a month after the crisis eases across these twelve categories.

Across these purchase categories, on average, 22% of heavy TV viewers say they will make a purchase within the next two months. Among heavy AM/FM radio listeners, 33% say they will make a purchase within the next month, a 50% difference.

And, in another sign of growing consumer confidence, a greater proportion of consumers (17%, up from 14% a month ago) say they will make a major purchase that has been delayed.

There’s other pro-radio data that Bouvard offers, including the likelihood of a new car purchase being more likely among heavy radio consumers, compared to heavy TV consumers.

But, his point may be valid. Driving has increased overall in the last several weeks, as the “reopening” of the U.S. from COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions has been seen. As such, AM/FM listening occasions, or “cume,” is recovering, early data show.

With that, an eager consumer awaits business looking to attract new and returning customers. Radio just may be the most cost-efficient medium for spreading the message.

The new Nielsen study is based on 1,025 nationally representative interviews with persons 18+, conducted May 27-29, and compared to the same study fielded with 1,000 people on April 30-May 2.