One of the best ways to get the message about your product, brand or business out into the world is to use radio advertising. As a savvy business owner, the first question that would usually be asked is “how much do radio ads cost?”
So, why such variance?
And is there any way to capitalize on radio ads without spending unnecessary dollars?
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This post has been updated in October 2021.
The first take – why choose radio advertising anyway?
AdsForCarts lists the top 5 must-know radio advertising stats, and they kind of speak for themselves.
- 92% of Americans listen to the radio every week
- 59% of Americans listen to the radio every day
- There are over 6000 radio stations in the US alone
- 25% of individuals get more interested in brands due to radio ads
- Radio remains the most accessible media
We’ve also written an article on radio advertising trends that dives deep into how radio fits within the current advertising landscape. You can read more about the advantages of radio advertising here.
In a nutshell, advertising on radio gives your brand or business broad-scale reach in a relatively cost-effective manner. Using radio listener data, businesses can select stations that will best match their target audience. And because radio is often listened to in a habitual way (e.g. on the drive to work in the morning, five days a week), businesses can maximize the exposure of their brand to the consumer.
The second take – what are the variables for costing radio ads
There are five main points to consider when looking at the breakdown of radio advertising costs. These are:
- Ad production
- Broadcast frequency
Let’s look at each one in more detail.
Radio ad production costs
Many radio networks offer free or discounted ad production rates. This would obviously be the most cost-effective way for a small business to go, but also runs the risk of their ad sounding very similar to all other ads on the network, or coming off sounding cheap and tacky.
To create a truly individual and personalized radio ad, you can hire a copywriter (to develop the script) and voice actor, also paying for audio editing services if required. There are many online platforms that offer copy-writing or voice over services. BunnyStudio is one such platform, and offers both services from the one company.
In engaging your own script-writing and ad recording services, you’d be looking at a spend of between $300 and $1000 depending on the length of the ad, level of editing required and which voice talent is selected. While this seems like an expensive outlay compared to that offered by radio stations, it is a one-off cost per ad and is significantly cheaper than television ad production.
Reach is the largest variable in terms of cost for radio ads. It refers to the audience size of a particular radio network. Stations that have a large audience size, or large reach, charge more for advertising spots than stations with smaller audiences.
The reason for this is because of the way advertising rates are structured. According to FitSmallBusiness.com, the following equation is used to determine the price of an advertising spot:
Number of People Listening x Cost to Reach 1,000 listeners (CPM) = Cost of Advertising Per Spot
We can see this in action with data provided by Local Marketing Ideas about the weekly radio advertising costs by market.
|New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago||from $4000 to $8000|
|Dallas/Ft.Worth, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego||from $2000 to $5000|
|Denver, Cleveland, Kansas City||from $1000 to $3000|
|Akron, Wichita, Baton Rouge||from $800 to $2000|
|Myrtle Beach SC, Green Bay, Topeka||from $500 to $1500|
The larger the audience, or potential reach, the greater the cost of the radio ad.
And, according to FitSmallBusiness, the demographic of the audience can also affect the cost per advertising spot. You can roughly expect a $4 increase per ad spot for listeners in the 18 to 49 year-old age range compared to listeners above 50 years.
Time is two-fold: the duration of the ad playtime and the time of day an ad is played on a particular network.
As already mentioned, the duration of the ad can affect the cost of ad production. Rates also tend to be higher for ads that run for more time. The longer the ad, the greater the cost. Most ads run for 15-, 30-, 45- or 60-second timeframes. Determine the length of the ad at the production stage – a shorter ad will save you money at this step but also when it comes to broadcasting. In saying that, if you need more time to get your message across in a clear and informative manner – well, that’s money well spent.
The time of day an ad is aired affects the broadcasting costs. For most radio stations, the peak times that listeners are tuned in are in the morning slot (between 6 am and 10 am) and the late afternoon slot (between 3 pm and 7 pm). The reason for this spike in audience is due to the daily commute to and from work. And with the spike in audience comes a spike in price.
Each time slot is priced according to this different yet predictable number of listeners. The more listeners there are, the higher the rate. Generally, overnight timeslots offer the cheapest rate but they also afford the lowest number of potential listeners.
So far we have determined that the number of potential listeners, the duration of the ad and which time of day the ad is played are all essential in determining the cost of an ad spot. However, a single ad spot is not really going to do anything for your brand, product or business.
Radio advertising is so effective because it allows many repetitions of the same message to reach the consumer. According to Zimmer Marketing, many brands use the 21/52 strategy successfully. Using this approach suggests 21 ad spots per week for 52 weeks of the year.
Obviously, every time you broadcast an ad, you pay for the ad spot. Therefore the more often you broadcast, the more you pay. Conversely the less often you broadcast, the less you pay. The broadcast frequency can and should change depending on the purpose of your advertising campaign.
One other factor that is often overlooked when it comes to finding out how much radio ads cost is competition. Competition is determined by how popular or in-demand a particular ad spot is with other businesses or brands.
For example, an ad spot at 8 am on a national network that plays top 40 music will generally be more in demand than a 10 pm ad spot on regional talk-balk radio. Because of this, networks can charge higher rates for the more popular spots knowing businesses will pay for this prime time.
In addition to this, advertising at certain times of the year or during special events can also drive the cost of an ad spot up. For example, advertising costs in the lead up to Christmas can increase due to the demand for ad spots.
Don’t let this fool you, however. Just because an ad spot is in demand for many businesses doesn’t mean it’s the right spot for you. Knowing the purpose of your advertising campaign is critical to make the best judgments about where to spend your radio advertising dollars. You can read more about that here.
Other cost savers
But are there some other ways to advertise on radio outside of broadcasting ad breaks. It’s worth keeping these in mind when negotiating an advertising contract with your network of choice. Leighton Broadcasting suggests:
- Station promotions
- Sponsorship of contests
- Public service announcements & community calendars
- Weather or sport segments
- Deal of the days
Remember, many radio networks rely on advertising dollars to run their business, and like most businesses, there is always room for negotiation. In fact, FitSmallBusiness suggests a reduction of 20-40% can be possible in some situations.
The final take – spending on radio ads
Hopefully, it’s a bit clearer now as to why the cost of radio ads can be quite difficult to pin down.
If, for example, you have $2500 in your radio advertising budget you could:
- Utilize free or low-cost ad production services offered by radio networks, or you can outsource script and voice over services to produce your own ad.
- Spend more on a network or station that has greater reach and higher audience numbers, or less on a smaller station who may not have as great a reach, but are more targeted to your consumers
- Pay more for the production of a longer ad to share more detail about your brand or product, and also higher spot rates, or pay less for something short, sharp and shiny
- Run your ad in peak times when more people are tuned in for a premium, or pay lower rates and run your ads when there may be fewer listeners tuning in
- Elect to run your ad to whatever schedule suits your brand – remembering the more times your ad runs, the more spots you have to pay for
Each decision you make on each factor of radio advertising will come with its own pros and cons. Sometimes, the cheap option is the best option, but often paying a bit more can result in better conversions for your business.
Having a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve is paramount. Being willing to negotiate or try alternative radio advertising opportunities can also hold you in good stead.
Whatever your budget is, there is sure to be a radio advertising solution for you.
Start your own audio ad today with Bunny Studio!