Media Consumption During the COVID-19 Pandemic and How it is Shaping the Advertising Landscape

Ana Fidencio-Ramos
Ana Fidencio-RamosSenior Media Planner
Media Consumption During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As more people have been ordered to stay home due to the growing concerns surrounding COVID-19, our daily media consumption is rapidly changing. The pandemic is influencing consumer attitudes, behavior, and expectations, while shaping the foreseeable future of the advertising world.

Media Consumption and Consumer Behavior:

With “Shelter in Place” mandates in several states and school closures across the country, the amount of time spent on platforms of choice has increased.  Younger audiences are discovering live linear viewing while older audiences have shown an increase in social media engagement.  

According to Nielsen, from the week of March 7th (before much of the country was on lockdown) to the week of March 15th, the most noticeable jump in traditional TV ratings was seen in kids ages 2-11 (up by 19%) and teens 12-17 (up by 21%).  While it is too early to say whether these younger viewers will remain TV watchers when the outbreak is over, the ratings surge has been a nice surprise for many networks, who took a big loss when major sports were suspended in early March. 

As for digital, Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds and stories have seen increases in usage as people are using it to receive updates from family and friends as well as stay in the loop with news and announcements. Users over the age of 50 have noticeably been commenting more actively than usual and with concerts and sports games cancelled, celebrities of all ages have taken to TikTok to fill their time.  While the primary demo for TikTok users remains teens 12-17 years of age, there has been a notable increase of new accounts among adults 18-34.   

The device-level data usage also increased in mid-March for mobile phones, smart speakers, connected TVs and streaming boxes. These increases are likely attributable to more Americans using the internet on their phones to work from home.  With social distancing guidelines across the country, companies are catering to a captive audience, offering free trials and discounts to attract and retain customers.  For instance, ViacomCBS Inc. is offering extended free trials for its CBS All Access and Showtime streaming services, while some television providers are giving their customers free trials of premium cable channels, according to Adweek.  Netflix, however, continues to dominate the streaming space with usage times tripling in the last month.  Netflix recently announced a feature called Netflix Party that attributed to this increase in usage.  When you add the free extension to your Google Chrome browser, it allows you to watch a movie or show at the same time as a group of friends and family without having to be in the same room.     

Consumer Expectations from Brands:

While it can seem beneficial for advertisers to use this time and unexpected surge in media usage to reach consumers, it can be a tricky situation.  Messaging, if not done right, can be poorly received. Kantar’s latest study, COVID-19 Barometer, reveals that 77 percent of respondents would like brands to inform consumers about their efforts to face the situation and offer a reassuring tone.  Brands who are taking care of their employees and prioritizing their health also seem to have an impact when it comes to brand loyalty. Advertisers shouldn’t take advantage of the situation to promote a product, but rather remain true to who they are while refocusing their message to remain relevant during these times. For example, Tito’s Vodka recently announced that they would begin making their own hand sanitizer and plan to give it away for free in support of those in the service industry. Ford's "Built for Right Now" campaign is lending a hand to manage customer credit in these uncertain economic times, while Nike is encouraging people to use its apps to remain active and "keep playing" at home. When consumers see advertisers doing something to help their local communities and show support during tough times, they are likely to return the support when times get better.      

What This Means For Your Brand: 

These are unprecedented times, but it is also a strong opportunity to grow brand awareness.  Embrace these changes in media usage to strengthen the loyalty with consumers. A thoughtful strategy paired with the right messaging and tone can help ensure stability. As our TXC media team continues to monitor the shifts in media consumption, we can also help you craft a new plan or re-work your existing plan. It is important to partner with leading experts who acknowledge the current crisis and can help your brand quickly adapt to these changing media consumption habits. We take pride in finding solutions that work for all of our clients and partners. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.