Advertising - Radio Advertising
You're Not Buying a Commercial, You're Buying an Audience

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You're Not Buying a Commercial, You're Buying an Audience

Radio stations sell time, and they sell access to markets. The key feature of a radio station is its format--the type of programming it features and the style of the announcers in between. The format determines the audience the station appeals to, and the audience it delivers to advertisers. Some of the most common descriptions are:

  • Top 40
  • All talk
  • Progressive rock
  • Golden oldies
  • All news
  • Classical
  • Adult contemporary
  • Beautiful (easy listening)

Some local stations will be affiliated with the national broadcast networks like CBS. These stations have more credibility as a news source, and consequently will be able to charge higher rates.

Buying Radio Time: Pick Your Day-Parts
Radio stations design their programming to attract certain listeners, then sell those listeners to advertisers in tiny increments. A radio station has an ad time inventory of about eighteen minutes per hour, which it sells in increments of fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, and sixty seconds (:15s, :30s, and :60s). But not all minutes are valued equally. Audience size shifts dramatically throughout the day, and radio rates vary to reflect the change in the estimated number of listeners you are reaching.

The day is divided not into hours but into day-parts.

A.M. drive time, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., has the most listeners. They are at their most receptive, too--ready for the news of the day, and the news of your product as well.

Midday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will have considerably fewer listeners, but they are often very loyal to a certain station. These people are listening to the radio while they work, and they follow very predictable habits in their listening. If you do too, advertising at the same time daily with the same message, you will build awareness quickly with these people.

P.M. drive time, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., will have almost as big an audience as the morning drive time. These people may be in more of a buying mood than those rushing to work in the morning.

Radio listenership drops off rapidly once people get home and out of their cars. The evening belongs to television--unless you're in a "shift town." If you are buying radio time in a city where factories run around the clock, pay more attention to your local station's Arbitron ratings than to these generalizations. Radio in the workplace is a powerful influence.

The Evening day-part lasts from 7 p.m. to midnight, and Late night from midnight to 6 a.m. At these times you'll find fewer, but fanatically loyal, listeners. These listeners have made a conscious decision to listen to radio rather than watch TV. With the right creative approach and the right match of station format to product, the evening hours can lend themselves to breakthrough advertising. If evening gives you access to the right market, it could be your best time to buy.

Radio prices are based on the day-part, the length of the spot you run, and the frequency, or the number of times your ad will air over the course of a certain period. If you're comparing radio to advertising in the newspaper, you might say that the day-part is analogous to what section of the newspaper you appear in, the length is equivalent to the size of the ad, and the frequency is to how many days your ad appears in the paper.

* Source Streetwise Small Business Start-Up

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