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Direct Response Marketing

Radio Renaissance

1 Feb, 2014 By: Pat Cauley Response

Whether terrestrial, satellite or online, DR marketers can find a powerful captive audience among today’s radio listeners.

“Whatever happened/To Tuesday and so slow/Going down to the old mine with a/Transistor radio/Standing in the sunlight laughing/Hide behind a rainbow’s wall/Slipping and a-sliding/All along the waterfall/With you, my brown-eyed girl”
— Van Morrison

Radio sure has come a long way since Van Morrison courted his brown-eyed girl with a transistor radio. And as marketing on television becomes increasingly challenging, radio remains an evolving yet dependable outlet to reach consumers.

When driving up the 405 with that warm Southern California sun beaming into your driver’s side window, a sense of happiness often comes over you. That is until you see the red taillights ahead that quickly bring you to a screeching halt. And whenever the aforementioned moment occurs for drivers in L.A. — or drivers anywhere for that matter — the one thing that can truly take your mind off it all is the radio.

From a marketing perspective, take a moment to consider how close a consumer really is to radio advertising while driving. “If they have Bluetooth in their car, they can literally call the number from right there. There’s so much interactivity potential between the radio commercial and the consumer and their phone, it makes it very easy,” says Peter Feinstein, CEO of Phoenix-based Higher Power Marketing.

Metaphorically speaking, in most cases they’re completely surrounded by the ad in their cars — as opposed to a television ad, which is often seen or heard from a distance in one’s living room. “The person who is listening to the radio, even if they’re in their car or in their office and it’s in the background, there is a certain level of consciousness that the person brings to their radio that they might not necessarily bring to their TV,” Feinstein says.

Radio also has the advantage of habitual behavior. “You think about TV: you buy advertising for a 500-channel universe,” says Joe Rashbaum, owner and founder of The Radio Solution Co., based in Marlton, N.J. “You think about the Internet: while we all have our favorite websites, realistically we do surf around and we’re incredibly A.D.D. when it comes to the Internet. Radio is all about habit. We listen to radio at roughly the same time, for roughly the same amount of time, roughly the same periods of time, each and every week.”

Moreover, with most listeners almost always tuning into the same channel, another distinguishing factor about radio is its fantastic ability to zero in on demographics. “Radio’s ability to specifically target demographics will always be one advantage it holds over TV or print advertising,” says Jeff Small, founder and CEO of Portland, Maine-based Strategic Media Inc. “Also, radio ads can be repeated often, at much less cost than TV or print. And radio can reach people as they’re on the way to the store, primed to make purchases.”

Best of all, radio is often very cost efficient for DR marketers when compared with other media. “I would say to anyone that radio is something that has — relatively speaking — a low barrier to entry. You can go in and test something for a reasonable cost, and you can also test different creatives for a reasonable cost, which is critical,” says Doug Frankel, president of Malibu, Calif.-based Broadcast Communications Media Inc. “With radio you can be more flexible and make changes at a much more efficient pace than you can in television.”

Consequently, Small argues that this flexibility enhances marketers’ bottom lines. “With radio, changes to creative or media can be implemented in a number of days — versus weeks or months — which means a quicker learning curve with radio than other traditional media, and, therefore, a shorter path to profitability,” Small says.

Another differentiator for radio is the level of intimacy it has with its audience. “With TV, we’re broadcast to as part of the masses. If we turn on the news, we don’t necessarily feel as though we could be buds with the anchor. Not so with radio. With radio, we tune into our favorite talk show hosts and disc jockeys because they speak to us — not as if they’re broadcasting to the masses, but as a one-on-one individual; as though we are one of the cool kids in their lives,” says Rashbaum.

He and others contend that this intimate connection with listeners trickles down into radio advertising as well. However, maintaining the connection depends entirely on an ad’s creative.

Creative Contact

“I always prefer calling a game on radio because the pictures there are better.”
— former sportscaster Jack Buck

“Radio still enjoys that direct connection type of mentality and activity,” says Feinstein. “The radio listener is less impulsive and less impulse driven. They’re more benefit-oriented, so they’re likely to be listening for key benefits and attributes of a product or service and will make a phone call to get more information.”

Accordingly, Frankel asserts that you need to be direct in your creative, but also come from a little bit outside the box. “We always call it theater of the mind,” he says. For instance, rather than having a voiceover, Frankel will often employ creative where it sounds like the consumer is listening in on telephone conversation between two people.

“Radio uses voice and sound effects to engage the listener’s imagination. That can be a lot more powerful than any pre-developed image or photograph,” argues Small. In fact, many DR radio experts insist on testing various creatives for any given campaign right out of the gate.

“Production can be done inexpensively, and you can take chances with production, too. You can do testimonials; you can do a straight voiceover (VO) read; you can do an owner read; you can do conversational. We usually do a minimum of two to five spots when we’re testing a campaign,” says Frankel.

And it’s a good thing marketers are ripe with various creative directions. Because of radio’s quick turnarounds, they can easily test and eventually settle on the winning creative. However, a lot of tried-and-true DR tactics are obviously utilized regardless of slight tweaks to creative.

“Bearing in mind that you have five seconds to capture your subject’s attention, you’ve got to state the problem and the solution — and you’ve got to make it personal, intimate and one-on-one in the first five seconds,” says Rashbaum.

Conversely, at the end of your radio spot, he maintains that it’s imperative to mention the 800-number or URL a minimum of three times.

“As a buyer, you’ll know if you have any life to your offer after two weeks of testing with heavy, solid frequency,” Rashbaum says. “The majority of people who feel that radio doesn’t work didn’t run it for long enough for the message or results to grow. This is not a Super Bowl ad you’re buying. You’re buying to play into people’s listening habits. And you need to take advantage of the fact that your message is going to be heard around the same time each day. And the more familiar that those listeners become as that ad and that message becomes part of their habit, the results in week six are going to be a whole lot better than the results in week two.”

While it’s clear that there’s a lot of general marketing success with radio, given its diversifying entry points — terrestrial, satellite, online, etc. — it’s sometimes challenging to know what type of radio you should be placing your creative on.

Dial Decisions

“Satellite in my eyes/Like a diamond in the sky/How I wonder…”
— Dave Matthews Band

“Network radio absolutely offers the most bang for your buck,” says Rashbaum. “It’s the best opportunity of reaching cost-per-thousand and best opportunity of putting a shotgun approach out there to see which local markets are most responsive, so that you can then narrow in on a second step and target the affiliates that are working best on the networks you’re running.”

However, that’s not to say that he doesn’t see the value in satellite. “As much as I’m a radio purist, I can’t say enough good things about satellite radio. Just as radio gets you the most qualified leads you can get, satellite takes it a step further. These people are paying for radio! If you’re paying for radio, you’re definitely paying attention to the content of it. What better-qualified lead are you ever going to get than a radio listener who pays for the privilege of listening to radio?” Rashbaum questions.

According to research from Clear Channel, terrestrial still boasts roughly 238 million listeners per month. In comparison, satellite recently stood around 25 million subscribers.

“The overwhelming vast majority of radio listening still happens on FTC-licensed broadcast radio stations,” says Feinstein. “So, it’s hard to knock that because it’s works. However, for certain kinds of clients looking for certain kind of clientele, bringing satellite into the picture can help increase response rates or conversions.”

His experience finds that the satellite radio listener has a slightly higher education level and a slight edge in income. “In addition, since they’re already pre-disposed to paying for the entertainment, we’ve found them to be slightly more responsive than the broadcast radio consumer,” he says.

However, Feinstein cautions that in no ways does this mean to throw broadcast out the window in place of satellite, but to simply advise clients to consider putting SiriusXM into the mix, depending on their targeted demographic.

“One the best places I find for testing — if clients can afford it — is satellite. They won’t let you go in and test a couple thousand dollars anymore. They want minimums for taking advantage of their platform by getting enough frequency,” says Frankel.

Small contends that it all depends on the product and the intended audience. “There is no one-size-fits-all strategy. That’s why marketers need to have in-depth discussions with their agency regarding their goals,” he says. “The agency should then customize an ideal testing strategy that utilizes the most appropriate option — or options — between terrestrial, satellite, national radio, Pandora and more.”

Changing Stream…ing

So what does radio advertising’s future look like?

“Online radio spending has increased across the board. I think in the past year, online radio is approaching $1 billion in ad sales,” Frankel contends. “There’s some significant spending on these places. And if you’re going to do it from a DR perspective, one of the things we’ve learned the hard way is that when you advertise on online radio, you really need to get the benefit of the online banner ad to go along with audio. Otherwise it doesn’t mean as much.”

That’s ironic, because with this banner ad notion, it means that radio, too, is morphing into a multichannel, visual ad experience. “Whether through podcasts or online radio, across the board there are so many valuable targets you can hit. You can really accent the target of the qualitative audience online, but you’re not reaching as many people in critical mass as you are on terrestrial radio. It’s picking up a lot of steam, but still not close yet,” Frankel adds.

The overwhelming consensus is that radio, and more specifically online radio, is consistently evolving, growing and changing.

“Pandora definitely does have a DR specialty sales unit. I can tell you that iHeartRadio has really looked to favor direct response,” says Rashbaum. “By and large, they’re very cost-efficient mediums to test, but definitely still evolving. What I find interesting about it is that it’s definitely a younger demographic, so it’s a market that’s still being shaped as we speak. Just like we had transistor radios 30 years ago, today it’s an ideal way of taking advantage of new habits as they’re being formed as radio is shaping up to prepare itself for the next generation of listeners.”

Here’s hoping the next generation of listeners at least still have an ear for Van Morrison. ■

About the Author: Pat Cauley

Pat Cauley

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