New report reveals commercial media usage similarities across generations

Making Sense – The commercial media landscape (4th edition)

One of the striking findings of the new IPA TouchPoints report Making Sense – The commercial media landscape (4th edition) is the changing nature of the relationship between the media consumption habits of 16-34s and people aged 55+, with data indicating some increases in convergence. This is counter to previous TouchPoints data where there have been significant declines in the correlation between the habits of these two audiences.

According to the report, this convergence is driven by the fact that 16-34s appear to have reached peak digital penetration and patterns of consumption are levelling out. Concurrently, for 55+, the advancement of technology uptake brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in rapid digital media uptake, and the expectation is that this will continue to be the case in years to come.

Looking at the figures, the correlation between the commercial media use of 16- 34s and 55+ from a time-spent perspective was 58% in 2015. By 2019, this had fallen by more than half to just 25% showing evidence of digital behaviours really taking hold of 16-34s, in 2020 this fell again to 21%, and in lockdown 2020 dropped even further to just 8%, showing a 92% difference between the two audiences. However, when we look at the data for 2021 post-lockdown, the new data reveals an increase to 18%.

In terms of the correlation for the reach of media channels between 16-34s and 55+, the report details an equally interesting pattern. Prior to the first 2020 lockdown there was evidence of an increasing correlation between the reach of media channels for 16-34s and 55+, going from 35% in 2019 to 39% in early 2020. This, however, fell to 21% and 23% respectively in the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns. In post lockdown 2021, the report reveals a dramatic increase to 52%.

These increases in time spent and reach of media are just some of the findings from the Making Sense fourth edition report, which compares 2021 to 2015 IPA TouchPoints data to give an understanding of how commercial media consumption is evolving and to help evidence some of the changes which occurred under lockdown and where things may be headed post COVID-19.

Looking at the fuller picture, the analysis shows that across the last five years the curated commercial media landscape has been redefined by the rapid growth of smartphone usage and subscription-based media. However, the shifts are not universal and the commercial media landscape is becoming increasingly fragmented and complex in some areas.

To guide the industry through this complexity, the report summarises the following five key takeaways:

  1. The media landscape has evolved significantly between 2005 and 2021, more than ever a greater focus is needed on diverse media plans to maximise overall campaign performance. As similarities between 16-34s and 55+ media behaviours increase, don’t be fooled into thinking that this makes planning easier or that their behaviours within these platforms bear any resemblance to each other.
  2. Increasingly media planners are facing challenges when building broad-audience, high-reach campaigns, and with the exception of OOH, no single curated channel can reach 90%+ of All Adults per week, highlighting the need for nuanced understandings in media planning.
  3. Online Video has seen the most significant growth over the last five years of any channel and now commands a greater share of media time than Live/Recorded TV for 16-34s. We know from the work of Les Binet and Peter Field that video is key for brand building, but how video is consumed is becoming increasingly complex.
  4. For commercial media in 2021, more time is now being spent with digital rather than non-digital channels. For All Adults the split has grown from 58:42 towards non-digital in 2015 to 46:54 in favour of digital in 2021. For 16-34s in 2021, 78% of all curated commercial media time was spent with digital channels.
  5. The report shows how brands combine their digital and non-digital brand-building activity is now key. While it may not be as newsworthy as ‘channels dying’ or ‘calling out hype’, Making Sense shows that brand building balance between digital and non-digital channels should be the absolute priority for brands that want to grow in the long term.

Says Simon Frazier, Head of Marketing & Data Innovation, IPA:

"Whilst we should certainly feel encouraged by the rising correlation figures we have seen, it’s still really important to bear in mind that increases in similarities in reach and time spent figures only tell part of the story but alone, they don’t give any indication of how the media is used by the different audiences. In order to understand the full picture and to ensure that media are utilised in the most effective manner possible to drive business outcomes, what is needed is a comprehensive analysis of the IPA TouchPoints dataset and nuanced understanding of media usage by target, the context of usage and arguably most importantly comprehension of how attention and mental availability vary by media at the moment of engagement.

"As the commercial media landscape continues to evolve, an experimental mind-set, more diverse media plans and a stronger focus on outcomes, have never been more important for marketing to be effective in both the short and long term. It’s clear from the data throughout this report that the combination of both digital and non-digital media has the greatest potential for brand building today and that traditionally opposed media platforms often work far better in harmony with each other than in competition."

The media landscape has never been more crowded and complex than it is now, so this report looks to give clarity on where brands should focus their research, attention and effort to continue to thrive post COVID-19.

Download Making Sense: The commercial media landscape for free.
Last updated 01 May 2024