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COVID-19 Radio Ad Effectiveness is Breaking Records

Posted by Angela Jeffrey on May 27, 2020 2:27:41 PM

In a study of 145 COVID-related Radio ads measured by ABX since March 4th, advertising effectiveness scores were amazingly high.  Radio spots featuring thanks to first-responders, helpful advice to listeners regarding resisting the virus, and conveying a serious tone in their announcements all did well.  Of course there are always those that don't work, as well.  Below are a sample of each and some tips for using radio effectively in crisis times.

Stunning Results for Covid-related Radio Spots

In our last post, we write that consumers are not reacting negatively to advertising during this COVID epidemic.  Rather, they have welcomed it and responded more positively to advertising overall than they did before the pandemic got started. 

In an ABX survey of 14 countries, we have learned that average ad creative scores have improved by 13% in the U.S. and 11% in Europe, the Americas and Austral-Asia since the beginning of March.  Those with COVID-related content performed better than those without by 175%.  This tells us that advertisers can become authority figures during times of crisis if they play it right. 

Covid radio spots vs. non-covid spots in this chart.At the forefront of this good news is Radio advertising! Some 65% of radio ads tested by ABX have been at the forefront of generating COVID-related messaging.  And this messaging has generated some of the highest ABX ad effectiveness scores ever recorded. Radio spots featuring thank-you's to first-responders, helpful advice on how to resist the virus, and carrying a serious tone did well. When we look at ABX radio norms, it is significant to say all but five radio ads with COVID-specific messages were above the norms and long-term averages.  The chart below show radio effectiveness score AVERAGES for each company since March 4th.  There were too many spots to chart individually, but we'll look at some detailed spots below.

ABX chart of average radio scores for each .company


radio artAs you evaluate these spots with us, keep in mind that an "average" ABX Index score across all media is 100.  Unfortunately, so much radio is poorly produced, the ABX Radio norm is only 90.  So when you see radio creative scores in the 130s and 140s, they are truly outstanding.

IHOP Radio “Share IHOP’s New Family Feast” - This spot appeared early on and offered an IHOP Family Feast for Four for only $24.99, either delivered to the customer or provided at curbside pickup.  The male voice is friendly and enthusiastic about the value being offered, but is clearly operating within the new boundaries. While this spot is a bit more commercial than we'd expect to see with an ABX Index of 142, IHOP communicates that  the restaurant is open; it has modified its approach for safety and social distancing; and, it offers delivery and pickup options in a short amount of time.  The scores below are extremely high for Message, Reputation and Action.  You can hear the spot by clicking on the link above.  IHOP radio score for ABX ad effectiveness at 142Pizza Hut – “Pizza Hut now Delivers Pizza and Beer” - This is a clever spot, starting with a "weather report" and then announcing "Pizza Hut now delivers to your door both pizza and beer."  Everything is right in this spot from an ABX Index of 138 to Brand Awareness and Message.  Similar to the iHop ad, Pizza Hut pulls a Reputation score in the 200s. As the announcer says, "When you are home and worried about becoming sick, having pizza and beer delivered is about as good as it gets."  Interestingly, a similar ad for Pizza Hut with much of the same story scored very poorly, as you'll see below. ABX scorecard for Pizza Hut at a high score of 138Comcast Xfinity – “The Corona Virus has Affected …” Comcast delivers a high-scoring, informational spot delivered by a male voice with no sound effects, that deals with giving free internet access to consumers at all hotspots nationwide throughout this crisis.  No data fees will be charged, no late fees, etc.  Comcast is truly "giving" to the community through this offer.  Not only is the ABX Index huge for this radio spot (138), but the Message scored 148, Reputation scored in the high 200's and listeners were ready to act.Comcast cartouche


Pizza Hut – "Pizza Hut doesn’t just Deliver" - This is a fascinating example of how the same information can be used with opposite results.  In the first Pizza Hut ad, the brand gave a weather report along with its offer of delivering both pizza and beer.  Soft background noises could be heard and the ad was a huge success.  Then, in this version, Pizza Hut offers the same pizza and beer but shows no concern for the crisis.  The spot also conveys a party feel with heavy metal that drowns out the voice track and ends up an ABX Index of 94, 3rd from the bottom.  In fact, this repackaging resulted in a Reputation score of 50 out of 100.  The lesson?  Don't let your 20 year-old art director hold sway.

ABX ad effectiveness scorecard of 94 for Pizza Hut.Lidl Food Markets – "Lidl Food Market Continues to Support the Community" - This Lidl ad sounds good initially because the V/O talks about encouraging social distance and cleaning their stores with a special method, but nowhere does it convey a personal caring about the consumer.  It's a good example of throwing a couple buzzwords out concerning today's situation, and moving on to sales.  Also, the “Lidl” name appears to be hard to understand (83 for Brand Awareness) and the Message (85) was flat.  However, listeners did give Lidl some Reputation points that show the intent was understood.

ABX ad scorecard for Lidl at ABX Index of 93
McDonald's - "For All Those Going Out ..." The spot is very odd, with odd background music.  A slow male voice tries to hook into the crisis by saying, "for all those going out each day doing what they can to hold us all together, McDonald's is here to help those helping us all by keeping its lights on."  McDonald's demonstrates here what happens when arrogance enters creative writing, and how much listeners hear it.  The full Creative Report for this spot shows a score of 212 for DISLIKE, most likely for trivializing the crisis.  Listeners are so tired of hearing generalities and banalities about Covid, and even about Covid itself. But this was a big miss for McDonald's, with every ABX ad score in the negatives.  What's fascinating is McDonald's started out with the best-scored Covid TV spot by careful messaging.  Maybe the creative team is exhausted and threw this radio spot out here as so many brands do with Radio.  
One of worst ABX scorecards on Covid radio spots is for McDonald's
Be sure to see our recent post dealing with  other types of media, "COVID Advertising Effectiveness can Increase 175% with the Right Focus."  We'll continue to measure Covid-19 related ads as we move forward and will shortly unveil a global COVID advertising study.

Are you satisfied with how you are measuring advertising effectiveness?  Is it resonating through Awareness and Message, and having an impact on Reputation and Action?  ABX provides the largest normative database in the industry across all media types. On average you can improve your creative effectiveness by almost 20%.  If you have questions, or would like a quick, informal chat, please click here.

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