COVID-19 and a polarized political climate have caused consumer preferences – from what people buy to what media they consume – to shift quickly. And marketers need to know which media platforms inspire the most trust and influence, and reach the most consumers.

At the pandemic’s start, initial spikes in media consumption were across the board. Nielsen’s COVID-19 Media Consumption tracker showed that in March, as consumers spent more time inside, their consumption of news and current events spiked in the US compared to 2019. Local broadcast TV news unsurprisingly experienced big viewership spikes. As of August 2020, local TV viewership is still significantly higher when compared to August 2019.

In the April Coronavirus Media Usage Survey from the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB), trust levels remained high for TV, followed by government websites, local newspapers and radio. This matters because as the Facebook ad boycott demonstrated, the issue of trust is more critical than ever. This is reinforced by the Edelman Trust Barometer which shows trust and transparency are increasingly crucial markers for ad environments.

So where should marketers turn? When examining third-party research from three key advertising verticals – healthcare, automotive and home improvement – much evidence points to TV.

1. Healthcare: The return of non-COVID patients

Due to the pandemic, consumer healthcare spending dropped 18%, driven by postponement in elective procedures (BEA/Haver Analytics).

The sector slowly rebounded as initial restrictions eased; an analysis from TransUnion revealed June outpatient volumes were only down 7% the week of June 21, an 88% recovery from the weeks dating back to April 5th. Inpatient volumes were down by only 8% compared to pre-COVID numbers, a 75% rebound. A FAIR Health study showed massive spikes (4000%) in telehealth but that slowed down as a semblance of normalcy returned. While this might reverse during the current spike, consumers got the message: even during a pandemic, it’s important to stay on top of other health issues.

Healthcare consumers are TV watchers. According to the GfK TVB 2020 Media Comparisons survey, urgent care and hospital visitors (adults 18+) spend over five hours daily watching TV, compared to a bit over an hour each with radio and social media, the two next most popular platforms. TV has an 82% reach for urgent care and hospital visitors; email is the next highest (69%), followed by radio and social media (60%). The survey also indicates beyond preference and reach, TV ads are also most effective at influencing purchase decision for urgent care and hospital visitors.

2. Automotive: A pulling back, then a rebound

After a dip in new vehicle sales the first eight months of the years, the trajectory reversed course with an upswing in September and October. Total retail sales for October 2020 are expected to be up 0.3% from a year ago and down 14.3% from September 2020 when adjusted for the same number of selling days. Earnings news has been relatively positive. Ford Motor Co. reported a $1.1 billion Q2 profit, which jumped to $2.4 billion in Q3, as the pandemic became more of a temporary fact of life, and General Motors – after nearly breaking even in the second quarter – showed sequential sales increases in the US for each month of Q3.

Those companies’ performance in Q3 makes sense in light of a survey of prospective auto buyers from CarGurus in June, which showed that just 2% of 2020 initial prospective buyers reported delaying their purchases indefinitely, down from 8% in April. It also found 22% of 2020 purchasers and prospective buyers had not planned to buy a vehicle before the pandemic but changed their minds – a tangible example of the pandemic’s effect on business and the American economy.

When it comes to trusted media environments to reach these potential buyers, 78% of prospective auto buyers said they trust local broadcast TV news, compared to 31% who trust news from social media (GfK TVB Media Comparisons). The primary source of news for adults 18+ planning on purchasing/leasing a vehicle in the next year is local broadcast TV news (21%), followed by national broadcast (14%), and social media (12%).

3. Home improvement: Staying at home means working on it

The pandemic has many reevaluating their vacation plans. Many have reinvested funds into long desired remodeling projects. Almost 75% of homeowners are planned renovations this year, according to a LightStream Pulse Survey. Home Depot reported sales of $38 billion in second quarter of 2020 and $33.5 billion in the third quarter, both were a 23% increase in sales from the year earlier period.

In a recent GfK Home Improvement Purchase Funnel Study, 55% of home remodelers said they made a purchase under $1,000 in the past 12 months, and 23% made a purchase between $1,000 and $4,999. 53% said they intend to make a similar purchase under $1,000 in the next year, and 24% plan on spending $1,000-$4,999.

Approximately 40% of home remodelers said TV ads influenced them no matter where they are in the purchase funnel. TV’s overall influence was significantly higher than social media, newspaper and email, among others.

As advertisers and marketers plan media strategies into 2021, it’s important to appreciate the impact of TV advertising, across not only linear, but OTT, apps and websites on consumers across all categories, and to recognize the effectiveness of TV ads in concert with digital. By driving viewers to find out more information online, TV is not the only way – but its continued relevancy, prevalence, and trust should not be overlooked.