Radio Advertising

April 27th, 2012
by jem

Radio Advertising

Article by Mohan Chen

More and more frequently, businesses are testing direct response radio after experiencing success with DRTV campaigns. One client we work with came to us after establishing a successful DRTV spot campaign to fill their educational seminars. They wanted to test DR radio to determine whether it could be an additional, profitable source of new seminar attendees. They didn’t expect radio to do as well as their TV campaign.

After the initial testing with radio, the results were just about where the client expected, with a higher CPR (cost per registrant) than their DRTV spot campaign. However, after a few weeks of refining the radio campaign, DR radio began outperforming DRTV. The client was surprised that DR radio could produce results on par with DRTV. “How is this possible?” they wondered.

It’s possible because of the way DRTV and DR Radio work together. Or rather, how they don’t.

Marketers, it seems, tend to subscribe to the classical “integrated marketing” theory, which suggests that there will be a “synergy” between the advertising mediums. This view is that radio might be a profitable customer acquisition channel because of the media exposure established through DRTV – radio will convert all those who’ve seen the TV campaign and have yet to buy.

However, in our experience this synergy-based theory doesn’t at all describe the interaction of direct response radio and DRTV. You don’t need TV exposure to be successful in radio, nor does significant TV exposure itself guarantee DR radio success. Consistently we see that regardless of the amount of TV exposure, DR radio campaigns work because of their own strengths, not as a result of wide TV exposure.

Why is this so? Because DR Radio delivers your message to an audience that is distinct from a DRTV audience – not one that significantly overlaps. This makes sense when you think about how much media people would have to take in to see your infomercial a few times as well as hear your radio ad at least once. For successful campaigns, that would require a lot of both TV watching and radio listening by a lot of people.

So, if radio and TV don’t work in the “synergistic” way originally thought, what accounts for the success of campaigns that begin with DRTV and add DR radio advertising to the advertising mix?

In a word: New. When you expose a new audience to a new, well-crafted message about a product for which there is proven demand, you have the ingredients for a very successful campaign.

That means that even while a DRTV campaign may be maturing, and CPO’s edging up, there’s still a profitable customer acquisition channel that will give you access to a new audience who’ll hear your message as fresh and respond to it with corresponding eagerness.

There is another implication of the “separate audience” insight. It also means that you can’t assume you’ll capture the untapped radio demand for your product just because you have a successful DRTV campaign. It’ll require creating a radio-specific ad and going through the process of testing and refinement. But it’s very much worth the effort because leaving radio advertising out of your mix provides competitors with an attractive avenue to establish a profitable foothold in your category. Since it is often costly to displace an established radio campaign, it makes sense not to wait too long to establish your radio presence when you’ve built a successful campaign with DRTV.

The issue of “inadequate data capture” remains, however it has changed in a fairly dramatic way. Since we first wrote the “Five Biggest Mistakes” article, the web has catapulted to the top data tracking issue. Why? Because we’ve learned that radio advertising drives a boatload of online leads and orders. In our testing we’ve found that for every dollar we see coming through a phone center, there is between $ .35 and $ 1.00 coming via the web. It’s actually more complicated than that, because that assumes nobody is trying to pick off your customers with their own PPC and SEO efforts – which is a bad assumption that gets worse as your campaign gets more successful. Other companies will try to reap the benefit of your advertising, and they’ll succeed if you don’t do something about it. We now require all clients to meet minimum web tracking benchmarks before proceeding with testing.

For whatever reason, “Flying Blind” is not as big an issue. People seem to know their key metrics.

Using vendors that don’t know direct response radio, particularly when it comes to the call center, remains a significant challenge. The good news on this front is that over the last few years some of the more well-known call centers have become much better at closing radio calls. In the past, they had become used to the layups that come in from TV infomercials and their sales skills were not as sharp.

The creative process remains under threat on a few different fronts. The most meaningful seems to be clients who perhaps don’t have enough trust in the experts they’ve hired to create radio ads for their business. This is an understandable situation since the client is the one spending the money and it’s their product so they know it best. But our recommendations are based on years of experience with what works and what doesn’t in direct response radio. We combine that with what we learn from the campaign brief provided by the client to produce an a radio commercial (or commercials) that we believe will produce the best results. The best way for us to describe how to avoid this mistake is this: provide the agency a full and complete campaign brief up front. Then, when you’re asked for feedback on copy or the final produced ad, do your best to restrict that feedback to a) customer insights that you feel were missed, b) incorrect facts in the ads, and c) legal requirements that need to be met.

I am Mohan read mathematics at Stanford and remained there for his MS. From 1998-1999 on researched in Evolution and in Animal Behavior in Camrbidge, UK. I was was then a professor in the departments of Anthropology and Biology, New Jersy College, USA. Now teaches at the department of Zoology. Carried out research in several areas of evolutionary biology, particularly in sexual selection and the comparative method.

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