Radio advertising is just what it sounds like – advertisers buy time on the radio to advertise their products and services. Like TV, radio ads have the potential to reach a large audience. Radio also provides different options for ads, including price points, types of ads, and audience reach. Because of this, it’s a good medium to consider when putting your advertising efforts together.

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This post has been updated in August 2021.

Radio Through the Years

It didn’t take long from the time radio was born to the time it began to be a medium for advertising. In 1922, the first radio ad came to be. AT&T began to toll, or sell, its time on the air. According to AdAge, AT&T said it would “provide channels through which anyone with whom [AT&T] makes a contract can send out their own programs.” Though many people thought this was an offensive idea, many others knew what it meant to the world of advertising and consumerism. This was a new wide-reaching and affordable forum to get the word out on a company’s product or service.

In August of 1922, Queesboro Corp. was the first radio advertiser. They paid $50 to broadcast a low-key, 10-minute promotion for an apartment complex. This was groundbreaking. It didn’t take long for other big-name companies to start their own radio advertising campaigns. Some of these companies were Tidewater Oil, American Express, Macy’s and Gimbel’s department stores.

Radio was quickly advancing with national broadcasting making its place in 1924. With this came the opportunity to advertise on a national scale. This also began the story of advertising supporting radio. Listeners got free programming because advertisers paid for it. Many companies skipped around the concept of outright advertising with commercials, and, instead, they sponsored programming. Some examples of this were “The Eveready Hour” and “The Bakelite Hour.”

When Lucky Strike Tobacco began its radio advertising campaign in the late 1920s, sales grew fast. This was proof that radio ads were an effective means of advertising and growing sales. That was only the beginning of a long successful history of radio advertising. This concept is still going strong today. Radio ads are successful at reaching both national and local listeners in a wide variety of demographics.

advertising on the radio radio ads

Types of Radio Ads

A century ago, sponsorship seemed to be the most popular type of radio ads. While sponsorships are still doing very well, radio has produced other types of radio ads that are also very effective. Let’s take a look at some of the most successful types of radio ads.

Leighton Broadcasting shares the most common types of radio ads as the live read, the jingle ad, the testimonial, the personified commercial, and, of course, the sponsored ad.

Live Read – In a live read commercial, the on-air host will share the ad. This can include personal experience and knowledge of the product or service. Because these hosts are well known and have established trust and relationships with their listeners, the ads have a credible, trustworthy element to them. The host can also weave this type of radio ads into the show. This way it doesn’t even seem like an advertisement. These are more like chatting with a good friend.

Jingle – We’re all familiar with those catchy tunes we hear on the radio. Not the top 40 hits but the commercials that stay in your head. Music is memorable. With all the things we hear, when something is put to music, we tend to remember it. When radio ads only have a few seconds to air, a jingle is a great way to make sure listeners remember the ad. Subway’s Five Dollar Foot Long and McDonald’s I’m Lovin’ It are great jingle examples.

Testimonial – When someone gives an actual account of a product or service, this is a testimonial. You hear these often on the radio for colleges, insurance companies, and even meal service kits. When people share the positive impact a product or service has on their life, it becomes relatable. Listeners think about how it can help them. Therefore, it’s an effective ad.

Personified Commercial – This type of commercial includes a narrative and a fictionalized story that goes with it. You know, two people are going through a drive-thru talking about what they’ll order…that’s a personified ad. Because radio has no visual, the words and actors need to be spot on for this to be effective.

Sponsorships – With a sponsored ad, the radio host shares the advertiser’s name and contact info and connects it with a segment of the show. For instance, a company may sponsor the weather or traffic segment. The host will share their information saying, “Traffic report brought to you by…” This is effective as it gets name recognition out there. It’s less intrusive than other radio ads and many listeners appreciate that. Another feature of sponsorship ads is that they can get exclusivity in that product category for that station. In other words, if you are a sponsor advertising gyms with exclusivity, the radio station won’t advertise any other gyms.

Important Terminology in Radio Advertising

Just like anything else, radio ads have their own terminology. While some of these words may be obvious, for others, an explanation won’t hurt. Here are some of the most common terms you will hear in radio advertising from

Average Quarter-Hour Persons (AQH) – The average number of persons listening to a certain station for at least five consecutive minutes during a 15-minute period.

Best Time Available (BTA) – Commercials that the station schedules at the best available time after other advertising commitments are filled. This is often at night or on the weekends.

Daypart – These are the time segments that the day is divided into for the purpose of selling advertising time. The dayparts are morning (or AM drive), midday, afternoon (or PM drive), and evening.

AM Drive and PM Drive – These are the two dayparts with the highest number of listeners. The AM Drive is the morning commute, usually around 6-10 AM. The PM Drive is the afternoon/evening commute, usually around 3-7 PM.

Fixed Position – A commercial that runs at a precise time or within a specific program.

Flight Dates – The starting and ending dates of when radio ads will run.

Net Reach – The number of different people that will hear a specific radio ad at least one time.

Cost Per Point  – This is the cost of reaching an audience that equals one percent of the population in a particular demographic group (also known as CPP).

Size of Signal – This is the reach or number of communities and general area a station covers.  It is also the number of households and listeners in that area.

radio ads commercials

What Factors Dictate the Cost of Radio Ads

The cost of radio ads can differ greatly from one ad to another. Multiple factors can dictate the cost of an ad. Some of these factors are location, time of day the ad will run, the radio station itself, size of signal, and the show it runs on.

For instance, a radio ad in Los Angeles will probably cost more to air than an ad in Greenville, South Carolina. An ad during the AM drive will cost more than one at 10 PM. Some of these things are in your control. Some are not. You may not be able to control your geographical location, but you can control the station and time of day your ad runs. These are some things you can weigh to get the most for your money. Maybe you want a particular radio station but you don’t mind what time the ad runs. On the other hand, you may be fine with that local radio station as long as you get a prime time slot.

Pros of Radio Advertising

The Basics to Radio Marketing shares some advantages to radio advertising. For one, while radio ads can reach a large audience, you can also target them to a specific demographic. So whether you want to reach a large, broad audience because your product appeals to the masses, or you have a niche product that appeals to a specific group, you can reach them through radio.

Another pro is the cost-effectiveness of radio ads. Radio is much more budget-friendly than television or big-name magazines. With some flexibility and negotiation, you can get a great ad spot for a great price.

Yet another pro is that people listen with less distraction. When people watch tv, they often change the channel or fast forward through commercials. In a magazine, they can flip right past an ad. With the radio, however, it is harder to skip the ads. People often listen in their cars and patiently wait through an ad, listening and taking in the information. Radio ads are very memorable.

There is also a lot of flexibility through the different formats of radio ads. You can have the host share a testimonial or you can write a script yourself. If you want an ad with a script but don’t feel comfortable writing one yourself, you can have experts do that work for you. Professionals like those at Bunny Studio are more than happy to help, and they have the expertise to do so.

With all the pros of radio ads, it is a great avenue to take for advertising. Radio ads are memorable pieces that reach a wide range of listeners and consumers.

The Bottom Line

Advertising can be intimidating. There are a number of different mediums and a variety of options within those mediums. But once you narrow it down, you can have a perfect ad for your product or service in the medium that is just right for you. Radio ads have great options and flexibility, and they fit a wide variety of price points. Radio ads can be your sole source of advertising or a nice supplement to another medium. You can write the ad, have the host talk about your product without a script, or have a professional write your ad. With so many options regarding radio ads, it is a medium that fits just about anyone ready to advertise.

Create the perfect audio ad today with Bunny Studio!