Is Radio Advertising Effective?
Alex Cosper (7/23/13)

One way to get on the radio is to buy airtime. There are stations throughout the country that offer "block time," which allows advertisers to either resell the time how they choose or do their own show. These "brokered stations," however, usually don't have huge audiences and are found on the AM dial. Not every city has such a station, but many big markets do. The value of buying time on any radio station is that it can be promoted as a radio event. The show itself may not help sell a product, but it can be beneficial to someone who already has a following and needs a platform for delivering a message or a program.

As far as buying commercial spots on a radio station, the results can vary from effective to no effect at all. Buying one 30 second spot that runs once probably won't get much response, but buying a package of about 50 spots run over the course of a week on a popular station can generate results. The key is that the commercial has to appeal to the station's particular listenership. Running an advertisement for a progressive political candidate probably is money down the drain on a station that features all conservative hosts. Music stations that cater to the 18-34 demographic tend to feature a lot of nightclub and concert advertising that can get results.

Repetition is a big factor in whether or not the campaign will work. But the actual spot has to also be well written, well executed and well produced. The most effective radio advertising happens during drive times, which are the morning and afternoon commutes to and from work. Keep in mind, however, that many listeners tune out the second they hear a commercial and switch to another station or their own CDs or mp3s. Only a small percentage of the station's audience will consciously hear the commercial, which is why it needs to stand out as much as possible.

Many small businesses have gone out of business because they spent too much money on radio advertising and did not get a return on investment. Radio is usually more effective as a reinforcement tool for things people already know about, such as restaurants, clubs or high profile businesses. It can help raise awareness about a business, but not as well as print, which gives the consumer more to think about. After people hear a commercial on the radio, it's usually not what they focus on while the next song is playing. Radio is usually helpful to national chains, who are able to get deals on advertising rates when they buy time on multiple stations owned by the same company. Combined with other media, such as print and TV, radio can be very effective.

But before you spend $500 to $50,000 on radio advertising, ask yourself does the station really reach your target market? Remember that many people talk about the songs or talk shows they hear on the radio but not that many people talk about commercials. One way to get free plugs on radio or TV is to create a newsworthy event that somehow benefits the community. Public radio usually does not reach as many people as commercial stations, but public radio is more open to putting free community messages on the air.

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