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Read Instructions Before Using

May 4, 2020

I was always taught to read a product’s instructions before using. No, this is not about the proper use of disinfectants. Instead, this is about Nielsen’s instructions on how to use their reports during these constantly changing times.

For those who missed it, the instructions say:

The March Nielsen Audio PPM data released recently and, while every market is different, we saw listening impacted most at or around week 3 of the survey. That wasn’t a surprise because only a portion of the survey period was seriously impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Conversely, the entire April survey was conducted when most U.S. states had some type of shelter-in-place order in effect.

For markets that are still experiencing a shutdown situation, the impact of the pandemic on radio listening and your station is extremely relevant. However, some states, led by Georgia, are starting to reopen commerce. With shops and businesses opening and more folks in their cars and offices, the April survey will not be as relevant because it does not properly reflect the “new normal” of radio listening.

To be clear, it will take some time before the average American is back to a pre-COVID-19 lifestyle. However, many will not be locked down like they were during the April survey either.

The point is simple. Nielsen has instructed its clients, both radio salespeople and media buyers, that the April survey is not a proper reflection of listening after the COVID-19 restrictions start to lift. Therefore, the April report should not be used to determine radio buys or rates.

As non-essential businesses reopen, we all hope that advertising will start to increase. The February survey, which covered January 30 to February 26, is probably the best recent measurement to judge the appropriate radio stations to select for an advertising campaign. As always, we suggest considering a multi-book average, which in this case should probably be January and February.

Paying attention to instructions is important. Nielsen has made it clear to follow their instructions and not consider the April survey for advertising decisions once the nation starts getting back to business as usual.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner