RAB webinar

So why is it that amid the COVID-19 pandemic America’s late-night television hosts are doing their shows from their homes when they could just air re-runs?

“The answer is that they want to stay relevant and stay connected to their audience,” explained Tony Mennuto, the president of Wordsworth and Booth, the in-house audio division at ad agency Horizon Media. “If they did go dark and showed re-runs, they would lose that connection. And it’s the exact same thing for advertisers.”

Mennuto made his remarks Wednesday during a Radio Advertising Bureau webinar called “How to Craft Your Messaging in Times of Uncertainty.”

Mennuto cited recent survey findings from Kantar to underscore how crucial it is to reinforce trust and strike the right tone — especially at a time when business is tough, millions are out of work, and uncertainty looms everywhere. He noted that 65% said a brand’s response to the COVID-19 crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood of purchasing it in the future.

Sixty percent say they’re turning to brands they absolutely can trust, and more than a third say they’ve started using a new product because of the innovative or compassionate way it has responded.

“Never before have the stakes been higher for brands in terms of tonality and responsiveness and what the message is,” Mennuto said.

This is a time, he said, for brands to demonstrate how they’re making an impact in the community — or sharing new ways for their products to be used.

Grocery stores, for example, could take this opportunity to introduce dedicated shopping hours for senior citizens or medical personnel. Retail stores might advertise crafts or projects that will keep children busy while they’re home from school. And small businesses could send out “We’re here for you messages” or sell gift cards — which customers could use at a later date.

Another panelist, Jamie Aplin, CEO at radio creative shop CreativeReady, said keeping clients on the air remains a chief focus. But he also explored the virtues of allowing an advertiser to pull their advertising amid such economic chaos and uncertainty — demonstrating that it’s people first and business second.

“It’s a selfless move that really demonstrates how much you’re there to serve your clients and their business,” Aplin said. “… I think when you show compassion to your clients and treat them as valued friends as opposed to just another advertiser, you can never go wrong.

“Besides,” he continued, “I think if they’ve already decided in their mind that they want to pull or pause their schedule, they’re likely going to do it regardless. So your best move is just to support and guide them in their decision making.”

The free event is the latest installment in the RAB’s “Business Unusual” tool kit.