7 Rules for Buying Radio Time

Is radio still a good place to advertise? Now that so many people are switching to streaming and satellite, can traditional radio ad time still deliver results?

Well, let me put it this way: I spent several years in radio before coming over to the agency side. Now I’m at Balcom, where we’re at the forefront of emerging channels like mobile and online video. But we also still buy good ol‘ fashioned radio time. 

Because it works.​

“We still buy good ol‘ fashioned radio time. Because it works.”

The trick is doing it right. Here are the top things I’ve learned in over 30 years on both sides of the business.

  1. Foreground formats – First, choose formats with engaged, actively listening audiences – like play-by-play sports, talk and news. Spoken word generally delivers better results than music stations (which often just become background noise).
  2. Lifestyle – This is common sense, but choose a radio format that matches the lifestyle of your target audience. For instance, a news talk station might not be the best way to reach a young female target audience.
  3. Ratings – If there are Nielsen ratings in your market, start by looking at the highest-rated stations you can afford (assuming they suit your target audience). Then choose the one with the lowest cost per point (CPP) – that’s the rate divided by the rating. Sometimes a lower-rated station turns out to be the most efficient.
  4. Nonrated markets – If ratings aren’t available, survey your target demographic to find out what stations they prefer. Ask customers or friends and family, or conduct an in-store survey. Get creative – for instance, if you’re in the automotive industry, ask your service personnel to see what radio stations customers have set in their cars. 
  5. Frequency – Buy a lot of commercials. Run enough for the average listener to hear your commercial three times (or more). If you can't afford a high frequency for the entire week, concentrate on one day or one part of a day.
  6. Be flexible – Ask stations for the best value they can give you. They may offer different pricing for certain weeks or even certain days. Do you need to run 60-second commercials or will 30-, 15- or even 10-second commercials accomplish the same goals? Work with them; they’ll usually work with you. Your flexibility can mean substantial savings.
  7. Added value – If you make a commitment with a station, especially a long-term commitment, ask for value-added opportunities. These might be sponsor billboards, bonus commercials, website exposure, live commercials, on-site appearances or inclusion in station promotions.

These are just general guidelines; there are exceptions to all of them. For instance, stations are less flexible in sold out situations and more flexible when inventory is wide open. But it never hurts to ask for more – you might be surprised what extras they can provide.

Why not let us take care of it for you? We’ve got experts to find the right time slots and negotiate the best deals for you. 

Tags: Branding & Advertising, Media Planning & Buying

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