The Secrets To Successful Radio Advertising

Ask some businesses about radio advertising and they'll tell you it's the greatest investment they ever made while others will tell you it was a complete waste of time and money. So why does radio work for some and not for others? What's the secret to successful radio advertising?

Know this: Radio can be a major player in your advertising mix if you know how to do it and I'm about to give you the secrets to successful radio advertising so read on.

First, write down a detailed description of who your core customers are. You can do this by looking at prior sales or just by knowing your products and services. Are they women in their 30's and 40's who have a good disposable income? Are they men in their early 20's who are into sports and cars? Figure out who your target customer base is and then you'll be one step closer to figuring out how to reach them.

Second, give a listen to the radio stations in your market besides the ones you usually listen to. Remember, just because you listen to a certain station every morning doesn't mean your potential customers do. Most stations have a pretty definitive type of music or format they follow which gives them their listening base. You don't have to be a media buyer to know that certain stations will be right for your targeted consumer while others will be way off the chart. For example, if your customer base is women in their 30's and 40's, then you can rule out formats such as rap and sports, right? If you live in a major market like Atlanta or Chicago there may be as many as 30 to 40 stations on the radio dial so you'll have plenty to choose from. If you live in a smaller market you'll have less stations to choose from but you'll still have a good selection.

Third, figure out your budget. How can you do this if you know nothing about radio costs? One way is to contact an advertising agency who places radio on a regular basis. Most likely they'll have the pulse on the market you're in and if not, can gather enough information to help you decide how much you'll need to spend to make radio effective. If you're hesitant to call an ad agency right away, the next best thing to do is call two or three of the stations you've chosen yourself. Ask to speak to the sales manager and let them know you're trying to gather information for a radio buy. Most likely they will assign you an account executive to work up a plan. Keep in mind that a good advertising agency may be able to negotiate for better rates and added incentives due to their relationship with the stations and their experience but at the very least, this will give you a good starting point . Don't be overly concerned if you discover that you cannot afford the top stations in the market. There are usually several stations in each market that share listeners and formats and their costs will vary greatly. The rates you receive will be based on many factors including the time of day you want to advertise, how soon you want to be on the air, and the "avails" or inventory the stations have at the time you want to advertise. "Drive time" is the term used by radio to mean just that: the times listeners spend driving in their cars listening. Typically this is 6am to 10am and 4pm to 7pm. These are the coveted listener day parts for most stations and they can be very expensive. But do you need to buy these times? Again, by defining your target customer, you can determine the best times to reach them. There are also spots known as "broad rotators" that can be equally as effective and less expensive because you allow the station to place them over a longer period of the day for example, 6am to midnight.

Fourth, and I feel this is equally if not the most important aspect of radio advertising: the message. While some stations brag about playing thirty minutes to an hour of uninterrupted music, this can be bad for you as an advertiser because it also means that your radio commercial or spot will be slammed with six or more other spots at one time in order to get all their advertisers on the air. I don't know about you, but if I endure three or four spots in a row and the fifth one doesn't catch my ear, I'm punching the button. Therefore your spot has to be clever. It has to make the listener want to hear your message. Remember that the spot they hear may be the first time they learn about your business so it needs to catch them right away. I have found that humor, when done well, can be very effective. It's always amazed me how some companies will devote so much time and money into making sure their radio buy is right but devote so little time to the message itself. Sure, they're on the airwaves alot, but are the listeners paying attention? Without an effective ear-grabbing ad, it's money down the drain. That's why it would be wise to let a professional write and produce your spot. The radio stations may even volunteer to do this for you for free but remember, you get what you pay for.

The final piece of advice I will give you is this: repetition, repetition, repetition. It doesn't matter how clever your ad is or how well you placed the buy if you do not have the budget to stay on the air consistently so make sure when putting together your budget you think long term. Consumers are bombarded with so many messages every day including television, the internet, billboards, mailers, matchbook covers, even some grocery store floors and elevators now carry advertising, unless you stay in their ears on a regular basis, they will forget about you.

Utilize these basic rules and soon when someone asks you if your radio is effective you can reply, "Yes it's been wonderful!" because you've learned the secret to making radio advertising work.

Hal Eisenberg is an award winning copywriter, voice over talent and producer, as well as owner of The Eisenberg Agency, a full service advertising agency specializing in creative ads that get results. Visit his web site at http://www.eisenbergagency.com. Contact Hal at [email protected].

In The News:

US Advertising: 'Past the Tipping Point'  Radio & Television Business Report

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