Radio advertising trends, like all trends, have fluctuated over the years.  For almost 100 years, radio has been a big player in the advertising industry. It has a broad-spectrum application across many markets and target groups and is more cost-effective compared to other media forms. This means that radio advertising continues to be a pathway that many small, medium and large businesses choose when selling their product or brand.

But what is the reality today when it comes to radio advertising trends?

And is there a pathway that may be better suited for your target group?

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Recent trends in radio advertising

In today’s multi-faceted world, the battle for our attention is fierce. The consumer is selective and specific about which media platforms they use, and there can no longer be a blanket approach to advertising by businesses in terms of reach and market share like there once was.

Business owners must be savvy about where they spend their advertising dollars and have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve with them.

So, how does radio compare to other advertising mediums?

We’re going to take a look at radio advertising trends by focusing on advertising spending, the advertising landscape and how it fits specifically within the audio media sector.


Advertising Spending

One way we can track the trends in radio advertising is to look closely at the spending habits of the businesses using these services.

Figures from MAGNA’s Fall 2019 report on advertising forecasts indicate that sales for advertising in the US using TV, publishing, audio, and out-of-home (OOH) formats were stable in the first half of 2019.  This stability is attributed to growth in some areas balanced with a decline in others, namely:

  • digital video (+25%)
  • OOH (+7%)
  • audio media, including radio advertising (+2%)
  • National TV (0%)
  • local TV (-5%)
  • publishing (-12%)

This leveling-out comes on the tail end of two consecutive years of decline in spending in this sector in both 2017 and 2018.

Advertising Landscape

Looking at the statistics on audio consumption can also give us clues on radio advertising trends.

The Nielsen Audio Today 2019 report looks closely at where radio sits compared to other mediums.

Radio holds the top spot for overall reach, and the numbers are mirrored across consumer groups. It would make sense that as the medium with the greatest potential reach, it would see continued growth as the preferred choice by businesses and brands to advertise their ware.

But it’s not as clear cut as this.

What’s the trend for radio advertising within the audio media sector?

If we take a closer look at audio media advertising, the MAGNA report shows:

  • +0.7% growth in radio advertising for the third consecutive quarter
  • network radio (+6%)
  • broadcast radio stable after declines in all quarters between 2013 and mid-2018

This is not insignificant and indicates a rally in radio advertising in recent times.  But alone, this does not account for the overall growth of 2% in the audio media advertising sector.

The lion’s share of responsibility for this growth must be given to digital audio formats and digital ad sales.  After minimal movement in 2017 and 2018, there was a 12% increase in digital advertising sales in the second quarter of 2019.

So what’s driving this trend in radio advertising in particular, and across audio media in general?

Growth Drivers

Bang for buck

One of the growth drivers for these trends is that radio advertising has the benefit of tailor-made frequency, reach and consistency to meet the budget and sale needs of brands, businesses, and products.

Using a combination of:

  • radio station data
  • changes to how often you have your ad played
  • which stations you target
  • and having a consistent approach

leads to positive outcomes for businesses and brands (see discussion on radio advertising effectiveness here).

A review of the listening habits of Americans by The Nielsen Company suggests that upwards of 90% of the population listen to the radio each week. Radio is the clear winner for listenership across all age groups. The Nielsen Audio Today 2019 report acts as a strong vote of confidence for the growth trends in the radio advertising sector, particularly in the US.

But as this discussion by Digital Music News suggests, these figures may not be as accurate or as staggering as they first seem. Of note is the concept of active listeners – how focused on the ad is the listener or is the radio station simply background noise?


Radio advertising vs. digital audio advertising?

If radio is one side of the audio media coin, then digital audio is on the flip-side.  And just what is digital audio? In short, it’s audio advertising that uses a digital format and medium. It’s the ads you hear when you listen to Spotify or streaming radio services.

And while radio advertising holds court in the benchmarks of frequency, reach and consistency, digital audio is selective, specific and targetted.  Businesses and brands are becoming more aware of the difference between these two approaches. They are structuring their advertising campaigns accordingly, driving growth trends across radio and digital audio advertising.

Riding on the wave of data collection that underlies the digital world, advertising in this format can drill right down to who exactly the listener is, what their interest areas are, and how they are most likely to respond as consumers. A more in-depth comparison can be found here (Audio Ads vs Radio Ads – The Full Guide).

Radio talks to the whole class about insects. Digital audio picks out the kids already interested in insects and has an in-depth conversation with them. The first’s strength is in converting those who might not have realized they liked insects. The second’s strength is the potential engagement of existing bug lovers.

With the rise of podcasting, music streaming and smart speakers, the contrast between radio and digital audio advertising is set to grow.

Perspective trends from the industry on radio advertising

Wideorbit surveyed more than 9000 ad buyers and media company executives on their relationship with radio advertising.

The 2017 survey looked at the shift towards programmatic radio (digital audio) from traditional radio advertising practices. The report showed a discrepancy between ad buyers and media company groups (including radio stations).

  • 30% of ad buyers were already using digital audio strategies for their advertising
  • 57% wanted to begin this strategy within the following twelve months.

Recent growth in digital audio advertising spending suggests that this did in fact occur.

In contrast, while 46% of media groups were already offering digital audio advertising and 18% were looking into it, over a third (36%) did not want to use this form of advertising strategy.

Another point raised in the report is that most ad buyers surveyed saw benefits of advertising across both radio and digital audio mediums.  Of those purer in their preferences, the numbers were split: 21% used only radio audio and 22% used only digital audio.

Follow the trend and choose radio advertising

What will it cost?

Looking again at the 2017 Wideorbit survey, it seems that how much businesses want to spend on advertising is completely up to them.

The majority of ad buyers surveyed (34%) had no specific budget in mind.  17% anticipated they would spend under $10,000 per year while 16% had their budget set at over $100,000.  The rest fell somewhere in between.


In the past, businesses have outsourced their media advertising to agencies.  According to a report on programmatic in-housing by IAB, outsourcing is still the main method of advertising for many businesses and brands. However, in-housing, either completely or in part, has grown over recent years.

There is no reason for this growth to be independent of radio advertising. Both radio and digital audio advertising may benefit in terms of cost and in creative control by considering in-housing for advertising.

In-housing gives businesses control of:

  • their campaign and direction
  • which sources they will use
  • which mediums they will advertise in

According to the IAB report, however,  for the nuts and bolts of creating the ad, the vast majority of businesses surveyed already worked with an external partner or would prefer to be doing so.

Nuts and bolts of audio advertisement creation

With the rise of digital audio recording and voice over services, such as Voice Bunny, it is easier than ever to partner with creative specialists and create your own audio advertising content.

Businesses and brands wanting to exercise control over their advertising campaign can hire professionals at any stage of the project they desire.  Professionals with skills such as:

…can be partnered with to develop an advertisement to be used in the growth industry of audio media. This approach offers both flexibility and affordability and results in a high qualtiy and effective final product.

The Future

Recent trends in radio advertising hold promise for the future of ad buyers wanting to use this format.

Many businesses still use radio as their primary medium of audio advertising.  The potential for customer conversions is high, with the greatest broad-spectrum reach of all advertising mediums. Demographic research can further pin down the target or potential target audiences.

The cost of audio advertising can vary. The movement towards in-housing means businesses and brands can spend their advertising dollars across a number of mediums and demographics.  This, in turn, strengthens their position in the advertising landscape.

And if the ad buyer flips the coin, so to speak, and they use digital audio advertising as well, they can be sure of sharing their message in a direct and personal way. It will be up to individual businesses to decide which approach will best suit their needs and meet their advertising goals.

Whatever you listen to, keep your ears tuned for the future of audio advertising – it could get very loud.


Start your own audio ad today at Bunny Studio!