How radio advertising can help brands find untapped audiences

Advertising on radio has three distinct advantages: its flexibility, its value for money, and most surprisingly, its capacity for targeting

Brands shouldn’t discount radio as an old-fashioned channel, but one that can drive real recognition and growth

By Mohit Gyanchandani

Radio is one of the most time-tested advertising channels out there, but many of today’s marketers tend to look over audio within their media mix for newer and more measurable alternatives.

In reality, radio is anything but old school. In fact, we’re seeing the revival of a golden age of audio: According to research by AZ Research Partners Private Limited, COVID led to an increase in time-spent on radio by 23% within India, with many consumers turning to their favourite channels to help them stay informed and up-to-date on news and regulations. Ad budgets are reflecting this trend, and as regions slowly emerge from lockdowns, the radio industry is seeing huge growth in spend from brands: ad volumes rebounded a huge 22% in the first half of 2021, as per data shared by AdEx India, a division of TAM Media Research.

But how can you get started with radio advertising, and what are its key benefits compared to other forms of media?

A channel like no other

Advertising on radio has three distinct advantages: its flexibility, its value for money, and most surprisingly, its capacity for targeting.

Firstly, audio production is much easier than TV, and creatives and messaging can be altered with relatively short notice. No other offline media gives you the possibility to book so spontaneously: in some cases, you can book radio inventory up to just two days before airing. This means you can even adapt messaging to external factors like weather or special events happening in your target region.

And because radio spots are fairly easy to produce, they’re also good value for money. Generally, you’ll need to budget for a studio set up, a voice actor, and post-production costs, as well as any translation and localised voice overs.

Lastly, many marketers might be put off by radio because it’s not as easy to target as other forms of advertising. However, when it comes to regional campaigns, radio offers great ROI. With over 369 operational private radio stations in more than 101 cities and towns across India, according to Wikipedia page on FM broadcasting in India, any product, business model or campaign with a regional aspect can make the most out of radio’s local targeting capabilities.

Getting started: three tips for success

Looking to set up a killer radio campaign? The process begins way before you hit the airwaves. Careful planning and production is key – but first, it’s all about deciding on your campaign goals.

As with other media, there are two essential types of radio campaigns: performance or awareness-based. If you’re focusing on performance, you’ll want to spend your budgets on maintaining a high frequency of spot airings. Keeping the pressure high will make sure that customers get multiple touchpoints with your brand, which is more effective to drive conversions.

Looking to raise more brand awareness instead? This means the airing frequency of the spots are lower. In short, your spots will be aired more broadly across networks to more people, but each individual will hear the spot fewer times. Whichever route you decide to go down, it’s worth thinking about how your radio spots fit into your wider marketing campaigns – and how other channels can help resonate and mirror your radio messaging.

From there, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the landscape: research pricing, fragmentation, flexibility, network ownership and targeting possibilities before honing in on your target area. Here’s where working with a media planner can drive value, offering easy access to pre-existing relationships and networks, helping you negotiate prices and advising on the best stations to hit your target audience.

Lastly, plan your timings well. Be conscious of your target consumers’ behaviour and how that affects pricing and effectiveness in radio slots – regarding times of day, days of the week or even seasons. Remember that prime time, particularly on weekdays, ranges from 7-10am and 5-8pm, and will give you the best chance of reaching a wide audience.

Can you really measure radio?

Since radio isn’t a direct response channel, your customers aren’t likely to download your app or visit your site directly after they hear your ad. This makes it nearly impossible to accurately attribute visits to individual spot airings.

However, the industry’s made big strides in recent years when it comes to radio attribution. Using Bayesian models is one of the best ways you can start tracking the untrackable: the model tries to predict how a KPI (like website traffic) would look without a campaign running, and then compares it to actual traffic data. The model can also be built including information like seasonality (e.g. weekday vs. weekend), underlying long-term trends (e.g. organic user growth) and the effects of other marketing campaigns.

Looking for something a bit more straightforward? Working with a consumer research company can help you poll consumers about the impact of your campaign. Was it seen enough? Was there enough ad pressure? Does the audience remember the campaign or your brand? If the answer is largely no, then perhaps the creative wasn’t clear enough.

Radio in the “new normal”

Looking for any more encouragement to start testing on radio? Now is the perfect time to do so: radio spends decreased dramatically during the lockdowns, as commuters form the backbone of many stations’ core audience. With the majority of people stuck at home, it simply didn’t make sense for brands to spend on radio. But with commuting slowly picking back up in our “new normal” way of life, now is the best time to start experimenting and target the country’s metro cities again.

Brands shouldn’t discount radio as an old-fashioned channel, but one that can drive real recognition and growth – particularly as part of a cross-media campaign.

(The author is head, media planning and growth, DCMN India. Views expressed are personal.)

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