In its most basic sense, radio commercials are a form of advertising where an advertiser pays for a spot on a radio show to promote a product or service. Commercials on the radio have been around for almost 100 years. They are still considered one of the most successful forms of advertising. Whether this is the only format a company chooses to advertise in or it’s in combination with other media forms, radio commercials are a strong advertising medium. Always evolving, advertising in radio has withstood the test of time. This format remains a great platform to promote products and services. If you can seize that magic moment on the air, your ad can be successful, and you’ll watch your business grow.
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This post was updated in June 2021
A Brief History and Overview of Radio Commercials
According to an article on NPR.com, in 1922, the New York radio station, WEAF broadcast the first paid radio commercial for the Hawthorne Court Apartments in Jackson Heights. This was the beginning of something huge in advertising. This new format for advertisers could reach more customers in real-time. Very different from newspaper advertising, radio commercials could portray a more personal, more conversational tone. This brought listeners into the world of the product and became one of the most successful advertising forms. Radio advertising remains so today.
By the 1940s, radio advertising was a huge part of American culture. Jingles were becoming more and more popular. Advertisers could see that radio commercials were a way to reach and connect with more customers. Some of this is due to President Roosevelt’s discussions of the events at Pearl Harbor via radio. Companies saw this as a new way to communicate with their customers and the public. Since then it has been a thriving form of advertising and continues to be a strong format for any type of business to advertise.
With different types of advertising formats, from the live read to jingles, radio commercials can personify a company’s brand. At the same time, they can reach a specific, desired audience. This format can also adapt to the active lifestyles of today. Radio can reach people in their cars, at work, at home, on the run, and all in between. Radio commercials are an adaptable, reachable, engageable, approachable form of advertising.
Finding Your Audience and Programming for Your Product
With radio commercials, you’ve got a lot to consider when advertising when it comes to your audience. If you don’t reach the right demographic, you may be wasting your efforts. On the other hand, finding the perfect spot for your potential customers is key in securing new customers and sales. Finding that sweet spot is all-important.
First, let’s look at who is listening to radio. In a 2018 Nielsen article, reports show that AM/FM radio is America’s top medium. A diverse group listens, and it covers almost all ages, ethnicities, and demographics. About 93% of Americans over the age of 18 listen to the radio. That number is higher than for any other platform, including TV and other devices.
One way or another, you can find your desired demographic in radio. As mentioned, it’s vital to reach a specific audience with your radio commercials so you aren’t wasting your efforts. Leighton Broadcasting advises looking at the following to reach your audience successfully:
- Consumer habits
You may not find your young adults listening to talk radio or your older generations listening to Top 40. Make sure you do research to find the right programming for your product. Time of day is also a consideration. So not only does the station itself matter but so do the shows and time of day. It’s all key to finding the right programming and the right listeners.
Different Types of Radio Commercials
Now that you’ve narrowed down your demographic and found the right programming for your radio commercials, you’ve got to decide on the format for them. Again, think about what will appeal to your listeners and your target buyers. There are five main types of radio commercials, and each one appeals to different audiences. Leighton Broadcasting shares these categories:
- The Live Read – Here the host of the show shares the ad and often an experience with the product. This adds personalization and connection to radio commercials.
- The Jingle – Everyone is familiar with some jingle or another. You know the tune that won’t leave your head. Jingles are great ways for listeners to remember products.
- The Personified Commercial – In these ads, a character shares the commercial. This way, you can tell more of a story in an audio ad. The listener can form a good picture in his or her mind to remember the product.
- The Testimonial –An actual person shares an experience in these radio commercials. Some that may come to mind are law firms or car dealerships ads.
- The Sponsored Ad – This type of advertising incorporates your company as a sponsor to types of programming. For instance, if you sponsor a traffic segment, the announcer may say “…brought to you by” your company’s name.
Your product or service should determine what type of radio advertising you want to pursue. Each format has a different appeal that should match your audience.
This article may further help you in marketing your radio commercials.
Some Examples of Strong and Effective Radio Commercials
When a commercial is good, people talk about it. It becomes recognizable and stays with consumers. One such ad almost everyone is familiar with is for Jimmy John’s sandwich chain. The fast-talking voice has become quite familiar in this successful radio ad.
Another few examples are Geico, Home Depot, and McDonald’s. All of these are national companies that can reach almost any audience. They are successful through this and have become consistent and genuine in their advertising. This promotes brand loyalty and familiarity.
Depending on your product, you may not need to reach as far as these national big guys. Many hospitals, tutoring services, and car dealerships advertise successfully on their local radio stations. Through a variety of formats, they reach their desired demographics.
How Much Do Radio Commercials Cost?
It’s no surprise that the cost of radio commercials can vary greatly. Some factors that play into the cost are location, market reach, station and even time of day and length of the commercial.
As mentioned, the location will matter. A radio commercial in New York City or Atlanta will cost more than one in Memphis or Greenville, SC. Another factor is the time of day it airs – an ad played in during the morning or afternoon commute will cost more than a late-night ad. But, those higher-priced ad spots will reach more people.
A key number is the CPM (Cost to reach 1,000 listeners). This multiplied with the number of people listening is often the cost of the ad per spot. That is why the more listeners at the time the ad is played, the higher the cost of radio commercials.
A lot of variables come into play here, but the good news is that you probably can find an affordable spot for your ad to reach your target audience. You may just have to start a little small if that is what your budget allows.
Incorporating Strong Elements to Make Your Radio Commercials Effective
Now that you have found your spot, your style, and your price point for your radio commercial, what should your commercial say? Remember, most radio commercial spots are at most 60 seconds, so every word and sound must count. Here are some key elements recommended by the experts:
- Repeat all key information several times in the radio commercial.
- Make phone numbers, text codes, and promo codes very easy to remember. Listeners are often driving and can’t write things down.
- Include a call to action, like “Visit our website,” “Come by for a visit,” or “Serve our cookies at your next event.”
- A conversation between people is better than one person talking.
- Stick to one clear message and point rather than trying to say too much.
- As with any advertising, you have to grab your listener’s attention quickly at the beginning and hold it throughout the ad.
With radio commercials, you have to pay attention to some extra things that print ads or visual commercials don’t need to worry about. For instance, radio commercials have to spark the imagination and form a visual picture. Though this may be more work, it can be a huge advantage. Imagination can go a long way to the success of an ad.
Another key element is authenticity. Make that connection with your listeners. Remember that you can’t reach everyone, but work hard on reaching the ones you want. Radio commercials provide a platform for making that connection, being genuine and trustworthy. You’re coming into your target audience’s car, their home, their ears. Be someone they want to hear from again and again.
Your script is all-important, too. Remember that every word and sound matters. Keep it concise, to the point, memorable and include that call to action. Read this for more information on writing your audio script.
Radio commercials offer a great advantage over other forms of advertising. For one, your audience is already there, you just have to narrow them down. Another advantage it that there is a price point for anyone, again, you just have to find the right spot. Choose your script and words carefully and make yourself memorable. With a strong narrative or script that hits your target audience, you’ll have a new flow of customers before you know it. And your radio commercials can grow as your business does. You can always capture more listeners by widening your reach and adding more time spots.
Bottom line – radio commercials are a great way to advertise. You should be pleasantly surprised with your results.
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