Digital Marketers: Behold the Power of… Radio?

For nearly a century, marketers have been turning to radio to get their messages in front of the right audiences. Communicating a story via audio has become an artform in and of itself; with copywriters concocting creative uses of the soundstage to make up – and in some cases even eclipse – the magical combination of sight, sound and motion that the visual field provides.

While a person can be easily distracted while looking at multiple things at once – say, for instance, while glancing at a television, their tablet and out their window, it’s really only possible to listen to one thing at a time, with audio therefore commanding consumer attentiveness more than visual-first mediums. 

Radio – and now, audio advertising more generally – allows for precise audience reach that can take into account rich datasets, hyper-targeting messages to those that are most likely to be receptive to them. This sort of interest-based advertising isn’t new in concept, but has grown to be far improved over radio’s early days in its modern application. 

Marketers can choose from a growing array of audio marketing options that are best fit for particular applications and marketing goals:

Terrestrial radio
Pro: Many people still listen to terrestrial or satellite radio in their cars and are (hopefully) not distracted from the road. Local radio presents myriad messaging options, including traditional commercial spots, announcer reads and even sponsorships and brand integrations. The nature of local radio means that ads can be geographically targeted with a very high degree of accuracy, and can be very affordable and cost-effective, even for smaller advertisers.

Con: National buys can be more challenging to accomplish. Unless the buy is national in scope with geographic segmentation, or marketing mix models are in place, it can be difficult to get an objective measure of performance. AM/FM radio is in many cases losing ground to streaming options (more on that in a moment.)  

Streaming audio
Pro: Can be purchased programmatically, often on the same buy as other forms of media. Cross-device targeting is possible, allowing for sequencing of creative, competitive targeting and frequency capping across multiple channels. Ability to reach consumers that don’t have cars, and/or want a free audio entertainment option. Advanced targeting and attribution.

Con: Can be expensive. Periods of high demand (such as election cycles, back-to-school and holidays) can cause supply constraints. 

Pro: Extremely high-precision targeting is possible, as there are podcasts for virtually every taste and interest. Announcer-read spots – essentially, native audio ads – can be very powerful, as they can deliver messaging without taking the listener out of the “moment,” and without taking on expensive creative production costs. 

Con: More popular podcasts can be difficult to find availability, and can be quite costly. Although there have been strides made towards building dynamically-rendered ads into podcasts, this is possible only in a minority of cases, so further development is needed. Along similar lines, measurement of campaign success can be difficult, as rich, programmatic-style metrics are generally not available.

In conclusion

While video tends to get most of the love, owing to its inherent ability to persuade and elicit emotion, audio provides many of the same benefits while also improving upon affordability, contextual targeting and attentiveness. Different business objectives call for different executions, with a steadily increasing volume of audio options being available programmatically. 

So listen up: radio’s days are far from being over. To the contrary, marketers would be well served to evaluate the growing array of audio options available, and take advantage of the medium’s unique capabilities as the space continues to evolve. 

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