Changes in Media Consumption Due to COVID-19

This article was written on March 31, 2020 by FMS' EVP of Emerging Media, Amber Farley

Almost everyone in the United States is experiencing some level of home isolation right now. Several states have implemented shelter-in-place orders. People are self-quarantining. Schools have canceled classes. Companies are allowing people to work from home. The list goes on.

But one thing is certain. For the first time ever, in a time when almost nothing is the same, we know exactly where our target audience is: Home.

Other than “essential workers” like nurses and doctors, we are all at home. Moms. Dads. Kids. Grandparents. Executives. Teachers. Everyone. And because of that, our behavior and media consumption have changed as well. Most of us are reading online news, scrolling through our social media feeds, visiting government websites like the CDC, searching about investments, visiting YouTube for educational tips and home school suggestions, streaming videos and watching TV more than we ever have. In a recent analysis from Nielsen, Americans stand to watch as much as 60% more television now that increasingly strict coronavirus-related lockdowns and shutdowns are in place in cities around the country. Comscore is also seeing a notable rise in streaming usage. Connected TV and streaming boxes/sticks have registered significant year-over-year growth. Overall, streaming boxes and sticks make up 56% of to-date OTT streaming hours in March 2020 and connected TVs account for 32%. 

Marketers need to acknowledge this shift and consider what it means for all marketing plans. After all, you can’t talk about marketing without talking about the market itself. It’s always been critical for marketers to have a solid understanding of consumer behavior and available mediums in order to evaluate the opportunities and determine the best channels to reach your target audience at the moment of relevance.

Among other things, a bank marketer’s normal day might consist of studying data, looking at trends, conducting focus groups, pulling customer files, communicating messages, testing new creative, implementing best practices, utilizing optimal delivery channels and evaluating what’s working.

We know this. We do this. And yet in the past couple of weeks, it feels as if everything we know has changed. People aren’t doing what they’ve always done. People aren’t going where they’ve always gone. Businesses aren’t operating like they always have. Almost nothing is the same.

While it’s not the right time to promote bank products like we normally do, it’s also not the time for us to go dark. Banks need to stay in front of customers and their communities with meaningful communication. To do that effectively, you need to reach them where they are during their new “normal” activities, with a message that is timely, compassionate and relevant. In other words, it's important that you "read the room" before delivering your message. Make sure it's reaching your audience and providing value to them. 

At FMS, we are evaluating our clients’ media plans and placements to ensure we are using our clients’ dollars as wisely as possible. For the most part, our original plans are still intact, utilizing a combination of both traditional and digital media. However, we are discussing how media consumption during COVID-19 might impact those buys in the coming months. Some things we’re considering are:

  1. Pulling product ads that seem insensitive and replacing those with heartwarming brand messages, helpful information related to customers’ FAQs, specific ways community banks are helping, community outreach and more.
  2. Placing more social media, programmatic and other digital placements while making sure the creative message feels native to the channel.
  3. Evaluating the search terms our clients are bidding on in order to account for new keywords, phrases and negative terminology related to community banks, COVID-19, and the PPP (paycheck protection program) as part of the CARES act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).
  4. Utilizing smarter dayparting in our local broadcast and cable programming, as well as more OTT placements in order to reach people while they are watching.
  5. Utilizing streaming radio services, like Pandora, to reach music lovers at home.

Even though we are discussing these changes, we’re not abandoning traditional media placements. There is, undoubtedly, a place for traditional TV buys, outdoor, print, radio, etc. However, we expect that some adjustments will be needed now and in the coming months. This is uncharted territory. There is no playbook for what we are currently experiencing. But, together, we’ll get through this and come out stronger than ever.

As our CEO, Tim Pannell, mentioned in this article: “Community banks have a tremendous opportunity to truly shine through this crisis. Make sure to show your compassion, be authentic, provide information and always advance your brand.” 

Thank you for all that you are doing to serve your clients and communities. It makes us proud to keep serving you! Keep up the good work.