What every marketer should know about using radio spots

With both traditional and digital radio broadcasts readily available, there's never been a better time to incorporate radio spots into your ad campaign.
woman adjusting the radio in her car

There are more advertising “channels” to reach your audience than ever before. But while social media and TV spots may get a lot of attention, there is still great value to be found in using radio spots for your company.

Before we dive in, a note: These days, radio advertising doesn’t just include over-the-air radio stations. It also includes digital radio (think Pandora or Spotify), as well as podcast downloads.

Whether you want to raise awareness for your brand or promote a limited-time offer, radio ads can be an amazing way to reach your target audience. Here’s what you should know about this advertising method.

What is a radio spot, anyway?

Flinstone character scratching his head

The term “radio spot” is really just another term for a radio commercial. If you’ve traveled by car, you’ve probably heard your fair share of radio ads.

Generally speaking, radio advertisements are produced in 30-second or 60-second spots, though you’ll sometimes hear 15-second spots as well (usually on digital). Some ads feature voice actors or AI voices speaking over background music and sound effects. Others use catchy (or annoying) jingles to catch listeners’ attention.

The wide reach of radio spots

First, let’s get one important thing out of the way: The idea that no one listens to the radio is totally off base. According to Pew Research, 83% of Americans age 12 and up listened to AM/FM radio each week in 2020. At the same time, weekly listenership for online radio has gone up dramatically, reaching 62% of Americans in early 2021.

The thing is, radio ads can be incredibly effective. British research found that radio ads were 20% more cost effective than TV. Other studies have found that drivers who hear radio ads for fast food restaurants while driving are more likely to make a visit to that restaurant. When done right, radio can make a big difference for awareness and sales.

Research has shown that reach (the number of people who see your ad) drives sales 2.5 times more than targeting. So, by getting your message onto a radio station or podcast with wide reach, your chances of getting more sales will go way up. Other studies have found that you get a $12 return on investment for every $1 spent on radio ad campaigns.

To sum up, radio is a great way to market a product, service, or promotion to general audiences in a specific geographic area. Regardless of industry or target demographics, if you can communicate your value proposition in a straightforward, concise message, you can make radio advertising work for your brand.

What makes a great radio spot?

three guys singing radio spots in a studio

Because radio spots are so short, they need to be fairly direct, focusing on a single, clear message. Also, because there aren’t any visuals with a radio spot (unless you have a digital banner to go with a digital radio ad), the voice overs need to do the heavy lifting to get your message across.

On the radio, we don’t have time for any of those metaphorical and sometimes downright weird TV commercials that you’ll see for perfume, personal injury lawyers, or local car dealerships. Your listeners are quite often already distracted. They’re listening to music while driving to work, working in the garage, or hosting a party.

This means that your radio spot needs to grab their attention right away. It also means that quite often, you’ll need to repeat information during the ad to ensure that it sticks in listeners’ minds. This is why when you hear a radio ad for a local plumber, they’ll repeat their phone number or website multiple times during the commercial.

Creating a radio ad starts before you sit down and write a script. As with any other form of advertising, you first need to decide on a goal for your campaign and research your target audience. Focus on the ONE thing you want your listeners to learn or do because of your ad. This should guide the entire concept of your ad.

No matter what the specifics of your radio spot look like, the most successful ads generally follow a three-part format: a hook that captures listeners’ attention followed by an explanation of your value proposition and a call to action. It could also help to think of this format as a way of presenting a problem, and then offering a solution.

When writing your script, one of the most important decisions will be whether to use a 15 second, 30 second, or 60 second spot. There’s a reason why so many modern ads are 30 seconds or less — our digital age has made the average attention span shorter than a goldfish

Getting your radio campaign out to listeners

man dancing while listening to radio spots

After you’ve written your radio spot, the next step is to bring it to an audience. While radio spots can be produced at a relatively low cost in comparison to other ad types, buying air time can be expensive for certain markets and stations.

Traditional, over-the-air radio stations usually provide a set rate table. The rates will vary based on the time of day you wish to advertise, the length of your ad, and the frequency (or number of times you want to play the ad on that station). Not surprisingly, you’ll pay a higher rate during rush hour when more people are on the road.

Larger markets and more popular radio stations are also going to charge higher rates than a less popular station in a small market. You’ll get a lot more people listening to news radio in San Francisco than there are listening to an oldies station in Des Moines, Iowa! Of course, keep your audience demographics in mind when buying ad placements — if your target audience is more likely to listen to a niche station, that’ll be even better for your budget.

Advertising campaigns over digital radio options can reach listeners across the country. Digital audio platforms — including podcasts — also tend to have varied rates based on factors like total listenership, the ad’s placement during a program, and more.

Remember, to be truly effective, you’ll need to repeat your ads multiple times. The advertising rule of thumb is that in any medium, your audience needs to be exposed to your ad at least seven times before they’ll be ready to buy. Be sure to factor this in when making your campaign budget. It won’t do you much good to spend all your money on a single ad placement.

Radio spots can make a marketing difference

Man shooting dollar bills into the air

While the COVID-19 pandemic initially boosted podcast listening while hurting radio listenership (just think of all those people who no longer needed something to listen to during their morning commute), radio is coming back stronger than ever. 

In fact, a survey of heavy radio listeners revealed that, due to the pandemic, 18% planned to listen to more radio, while 79% said they would continue to listen to the same amount.

With both traditional and digital radio broadcasts readily available, there’s never been a better time to incorporate radio spots into your ad campaign. And Decibel Ads can help. With easy-to-use DIY tools and a streamlined, affordable ad buying process, you can get your radio commercials in front of relevant listeners to grow your business. Sign up today to get started.

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