Radio - Deserving Of More Attention?

I’ve written before about my view that no medium innately “deserves” any particular share of ad spend based on the amount of time people spend with it.  Nor should the simple matter of audience size be the sole determinant that drives budget allocation.

Other variables such as the context of consumption (where and when the medium is accessed, the social setting, the user experiences and the inter-relationship with other media by day part etc.) all go to informing the allocation of media budgets and yielding a higher return on investment.

Then there’s the simple fact of how well a given sector does in building and retaining its share.  This, of course, is the ultimate determinant of success. In the arena of media sales, its devil take the hindmost and anyone who can achieve a share that is apparently disproportionate to their relative position as a medium (or property) is free to do so -- all credit to them.  The notion of proportionality has no place in this particular mix.



But even taking into such points into account, I still find it curious radio has -- for the most part -- become an over-looked medium for many brands relative to TV and even to much smaller (but perhaps newer and more shiny) media opportunities, such as social and mobile. 

The point of course isn’t that radio -- or any of the others -- are “better” than the rest. Any medium can only be fully maximized for an advertiser when approached as part of a joined up media mix. But when you consider the near-ubiquity of radio in many consumers’ lives, it is surprising that the medium has to fight so hard for its share of the pie. 

For example; with 79% of American adults using a car in any one day and 40% of AM/FM radio listening taking place in the car (where the medium far out-paces CDs, satellite and mp3s), there is clearly a significant opportunity to reach many audiences at key moments.

Add to this the fact that radio outstrips all other media combined in terms of reach in an average weekly morning among adults making purchases in a QSR between 12-12.30 p.m., and it’s not difficult to justify the medium’s reach on a campaign plan in that sector.

Similarly (and this is another example, as above, taken from USA TouchPoints data), in the hour before the early afternoon peak shopping time of 1:30 p.m., a full 34% of shoppers are listening to the radio for at least some of that hour -- significantly more than any other medium.

Does that mean that those other media don’t have a role to play in targeting shoppers with relevant messages in key moments of receptivity?  Of course not.  But there’s a communications continuum for any brand targeting a given consumer group, and while TV might be further from the point of purchase and mobile may be at the point of purchase, radio makes a pretty strong case as the medium that bridges the two.

These are just a few examples, but as I look at the data -- data that has much more to do with context of use and likely moments of receptivity than with simple measure of time spent or reach alone -- I can’t help wonder why more brands aren’t making better use of a medium that can get them to the right place at the right time.

Has the industry been seduced by things that are simply newer and more shiny? Or is the absence of video sufficient to justify a brand’s absence at key times in the day?



3 comments about "Radio - Deserving Of More Attention?".
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  1. Jonathan Latzer from MarketJon, March 28, 2012 at 9:02 a.m.

    Mike- All great points but nothing really new here. Radio has owned the dashboard (though that is changing too) and the medium that is closest to the purchasing decision. Unfortunately, there is no real ROI associated with the medium. It maintains it's share based on the branding experience but there are bigger and more "reach" oriented mediums that deliver that metrix. Radio has historically been a very positive medium for local retailers who depend on the frequency of messaging to drive sales and that hasn't changed much. The big question is will radio continue to evolve as consumers continue to evolve their media media consumption.

  2. Mike Bloxham from Magid, March 28, 2012 at 10:08 a.m.

    I agree that historically (and much like TV) Radio has been more about brand and driving store traffic at the local level etc.
    Your final point about the future evolution in the face of evolving media consumption patterns is really interesting. I believe that like every medium if Radio takes best advantage of emerging technologies like Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) to strengthen the link to smartphones and the like to deliver coupons etc., then the ability to link on-air campaigns to sales metrics will improve. Of course the pace and manner of progress in that direction remains to be seen.

  3. Ken Hammock from WVFJ, The JOY FM, March 30, 2012 at 9:33 a.m.

    Quick point - Radio is the original social media, and because of mass mergers and streamlined jukebox programming, the radio industry has allowed their relationships with listeners to be affected. Listeners may be loyal to the genre of music, but not necessarily the station. Many station no longer have personality - just a format. Radio is supposed to be "fun." Consumers now have too many options to bail out of long stopsets. So, most radio stations only have themselves to blame if they choose not to emerge along with the consumers it is supposed to be serving.

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