Streetwise Tips on Radio Advertising – my rebuttal

My responses to this article are in RED

Critical mass

Radio is referred to by some advertising people as the ”Cinderella medium.” It can be spectacularly successful if everything clicks—the right offer, the right message, the right copy, the right stations. Or radio spots can fall on deaf ears.  

Is this any different that other forms of advertising?  I don’t understand your point.

Radio ads require repetition to work. A minimum run of at least fifteen ads on one station during a one-week period is recommended. Furthermore, if your entire advertising run on a particular station will be less than sixty spots during a month, try to keep the ads within a particular time slot. This way you will reach the same listening audience during each spot or often enough to create an awareness and ideally a desire to buy or inquire about your product or service. If your spots run on an erratic schedule, you might reach the full listenership of the station but you won’t be reaching any one group of individuals often enough to motivate them to take action.

I believe that all media requires repetition.  The reason for this is that the marketplace of consumers is made of a dynamic and ever changing group of people.  Let me use an example to illustrate my point.  

Think about the last time you bought a car or a house.  When you were in the market, did you notice how many ads there are for the vehicle you were looking for?  Did you notice how many “For Sale” sale signs there were in the neighbourhood you  are looking at?  I believe that consumers are only consciously receptive to advertisements when they are in the market.  At all other times we tune out the ads.  

I believe that there are many different triggers and reasons that make people receptive to ads, which by the way, are impossible to predict.  Talk to your local rep about the right kind of schedule for your campaign.

A great way to zero in on the same people and have added impact is to buy a sponsorship of a daily feature, such as a news or sports broadcast. A sponsorship guarantees your ad will run at a particular time and typically affords you a brief “sponsored by” message in addition to your ad spot.

Errors and rip-offs

New advertisers are often suspicious as to whether or not their ads have run correctly or even run at all. Advertising salespeople respond by saying “No need to worry, our ads are recorded in our operating log as required by the FCC. To not run an ad would violate the law.”

Don’t believe the salespeople for a minute. One of the very largest Boston radio shows was subject to a major scandal a few years back because they were skipping clients’ ads on a regular basis, logging the spots and billing the clients as if all of their spots had run as per contract.

While skipped ads are fairly uncommon, they can happen—and happen to you. What is a lot more common, however, is an unsatisfactory ad presentation. This is most likely to occur if all or part of the ad is read by on-air talent.

Most radio stations are going digital.  What that means for the client is that reps are able to print off a log of the exact times that commercials ran.  If you’re skeptical, just ask your rep.  We want you to be happy and we want your ads to work so that you keep buying more radio.  Skipping your ads is counter-productive to both our pockets.

For example, in running a series of ads that included changing short live taglines on six major radio stations, I discovered that only one station read the ad correctly. Most made significant errors in the live taglines. Some actually skipped the tagline altogether. Some ran the wrong ad on the wrong day. One station even ran half of the recorded version of an ad, abruptly cutting it off midway through the spot.

You need to monitor your ads to assure that you are getting your money’s worth of exposure. And don’t hesitate to demand free spots, called make-goods, for significant goofs.

Any radio rep worth their salt will make good on spots that ran in error.  In my 4.5 years of experience in radio, errors in live reads can happen, but aren’t the norm.  


If your audience is fairly general and you have successfully tested radio ads on one station, you may want to consider running ads on many stations at the same time. The practice of airing television or radio ads on several stations simultaneously is called a roadblock. The advantages of this strategy are that you get multiple exposure, reach those people who frequently switch stations, and are more likely to benefit from word-of-mouth or viewers talking you up after the ads have run.

I once did roadblock advertising in the Boston marketplace and saw newsstand sales of a local magazine I was publishing almost double during a two-week period. I also saw the sales slide back toward their former level about a month after the ads stopped running.

As the results of my campaign show, radio ads tend to work best for advertisers who can concentrate a lot of money in one marketplace, with heavy concentration over an extended period of time.

In 4.5 years of radio, I’ve never heard of a roadblock before, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that the effect was real.  There are numerous studies that prove that using multiple media is more effective than using any single media platform.  

There are a few reasons for this positive effect on newsstand sales that I can think of.   First, is that people (in Canada at least) consume TV, RADIO and INTERNET nearly equally over the course of a week.  By using TV & RADIO, this campaign would have delivered this message to consumers during approximately 60% of their media consumption time.  Secondly, there is good evidence to show that campaigns that engage more than one sense ie. taste, smell, touch, sight and sound are more effective than single sense campaigns.

Let’s make a deal

The real fun in radio advertising is negotiating rates. Try to wait until a slow season, then call every station that meets your demographics. Tell them either how much money you are considering spending on their station or how many spots you intend to place. Also tell them nicely, but firmly, that you are only going to run ads on the station or stations that give you the best rate deals. Get one or more of them to show you their ratings book, ideally from Arbitron, and compare how many people in your target audience they will be reaching.

Get all of the bids from each station. Then call each station back and say you still haven’t decided which station to choose, and can’t they do any better?

If you choose a slow time of year and are persistent but pleasant with people, you should be able to negotiate rates that are even lower than the those paid by large national advertisers that buy huge blocks of advertising time.

You will be amazed to see how much less than the published rate card price you can buy radio time for. You will also note that, from radio station to radio station, there is an enormous difference in the station’s willingness to negotiate.

For example, a Boston station, which normally sold morning drive ad spots at $150 per second, sold me a package deal costing only $10 per spot. What you should typically expect through negotiating, however, is half the published rate. If you can do this, you are doing great!

We negotiate rates everyday, to a point.  I’d like to point out that every consumer should try to negotiate.

Some stations will sell their product for any price just to get the sale.  I think radio is the same as any other business, you do get what you pay for.  If a rep is willing to sell a $150 spot for $10 do you think access to their audience was really worth $150 to begin with?

In my opinion, the best stations have rate integrity.  The reason this makes them great is because you can feel confident that there aren’t a dozen other clients buying the same station at a fraction of the price you’re paying.  It also means that these stations are likely selling out…proof that they are as big as the reps say they are.  

During slow times of the year JAN/FEB and JULY/AUG most media platforms sell their inventory at special rates and/or with extra bonuses.   HOWEVER, in most cases, these rates and bonuses disappear when the busy months kick in.  If you want a real deal, negotiate a rate and buy as much media as you can during a recession.

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