Commentary

Good Radio Ads Yield TV-Like Recall

Good Radio Ads Yield TV-Like Recall

Though collected over a 20 year period, radio research has made some important discoveries relating to effective radio ads. An early RAEL White Paper summarized a large set of published research which estimated that, on average, radio commercials generate about 80 percent of the recall of a single TV ad. A more recent White Paper found how important it is to invest more time and effort in the quality of radio advertising creative. It turns out that there's more variation around the historical average for radio than for other tested media.

Many studies have shown that there's a wide variation in effectiveness among radio commercials, but the PreTesting Company found that the difference in recall between radio and TV ads is much smaller when the analysis is limited to the top quartile of each medium.In other words, the best radio ads and the best TV ads are much closer in recall impact than are radio and TV ads in general.

To test that a radio ad is among the best, some of the earliest published research in this area came from Radio Recall Research, Inc., which used a combination of in-mall exposure and day-after telephone calls for a commercial testing service. RRR used a lab setting to expose people unknowingly to radio ads embedded in background music. Participants were then called on the telephone a day later to test their recall.

In early mall-based sampling to compare radio ads to each other. RRR used an analytical method to find which radio ad content characteristics had the most impact on "proven recall." The variables which clearly had an effect were:

  • Number of words (more is better, all else being equal)
  • Brand mentions (more is better; early in the ad is better)
  • Number of different ideas (more than four or five is bad)
  • Execution format (straight announcement and "sing-and-sell" were weakest)
  • A simple duplication of a TV soundtrack was weak

A later analysis found that the effectiveness of humor in radio advertising depends on the product category, finding that humor worked best for "low involvement" products.

The White Paper concludes that there's considerable research showing how wide the difference is between good radio ads and the not-so-good. Furthermore, there's some evidence that the good-to-bad range for radio ads has typically been wider than for other media.

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