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Web Exclusive: DR Radio Rocks the Reach

1 Dec, 2016 By: Doug McPherson Response

Sure, the sense of hearing rarely gets top billing in a world that has grown to love its visuals. But radio continues to prove to performance-based marketers that it’s worth a second listen.

The goal was pretty simple. HealthMarkets, a national health insurer, wanted the lowest cost-per-acquisition — who doesn’t? But it also wanted to keep radio in its media mix — despite watching recent campaigns tank from two different agencies.

“The other agencies had bought national media at non-direct response rates and the creative wasn’t anywhere near what we did for them on either of their tries,” says Kevin Mannix, president of Hybrid Media Services, a direct response radio firm in Armonk, N.Y.

HealthMarkets chose a full range of U.S. local spot, network, and satellite radio to hit the primary target of adults age 25 to 54 — and a secondary target of adults age 35 to 64 — in all dayparts, with 30-second, 60-second, and 120-second spots using unique 800 numbers.

“They wanted to go beyond local radio with remnant network, along with Sirius/XM satellite opportunities,” Mannix says. Hybrid also set up live interviews with popular national network hosts and used the content from the interviews in multiple commercials.

The result: Mannix says HealthMarkets had the lowest cost-per-acquisition of all media outlets in the first year of the campaign. “We’ve continued to grow the brand across the U.S. to become one of the leading healthcare companies on radio,” Mannix says. “We spent $1.1 million in the first year and $3 million in the second year creating a successful synergistic marketing campaign with their TV marketing efforts.”

Mannix adds that Hybrid has many major clients across several industries that are swearing by radio, including credit repair, passenger car ride services, and internet fraud protection. “Many have told us radio is their No. 1 performance channel,” he says.

Jeff Small, owner of Strategic Media Inc., an agency that works in multiple audio platforms specializing in direct response in Portland, Maine, echoes Mannix with the story of a web-based company servicing businesses and consumers (it requested anonymity).

The company had tapped mostly online channels with a good deal of success, but then opted to give endorsement radio and satellite a shot. The result: immediate and encouraging — so much so that it bought more audio channels: terrestrial radio, digital platforms, local stations, networks, and podcasts.

Small says, at first, the company had managed its campaign mostly via trial-and-error, using untested creative from an ad agency. Strategic Media conducted media tests on local radio station buys, network buys, satellite, and digital platforms. “The company saw immediately lower costs-per-lead,” Small says. “Then after rotating in new creative, the cost-per-lead dropped another 25 percent.”

Small adds that, combined with media testing that included all audio platforms — terrestrial and digital — and more sophisticated reporting, along with better creative, the company scaled its media spending to expand its audio footprint by 500 percent and reach the growth it wanted.

Rising Volume

Small says the fact that radio (and now digital audio) continues to attract a growing number of listeners surprises a lot of potential advertisers.

“They assume radio has been impacted much like print and even TV, but this is more of a perception issue than a reality,” Small says. “The numbers just don’t bear it out. I believe the blame for this lies with just how niche of an industry radio tends to be. The fact is, radio is seldom a priority because it’s so different from everything else and it requires a very specific toolset.”

Small says a world where visual mediums dominate is both a strength and weakness for radio. “It’s a weakness in that few people understand how to properly leverage radio — and therefore avoid it or, worse, falter in their strategy leading to the conclusion that radio doesn’t work. But it’s a strength in that radio has a uniquely different appeal that has proved timeless because people interact with radio and audio differently from how they interact with more visual mediums.”

He says that unlike every other marketing channel, the consumer doesn’t have to be fully engaged with radio for it to be effective.

“It can play in the background, be a companion — something that fills the void — yet it has an amazing power to connect with its audience in a very personal, intimate way,” Small says. “If anything, technology has allowed greater access to radio and audio — all of which makes radio and audio advertising increasingly more attractive.”

Whatever the reason, Nielsen’s latest comparable metrics report says radio continues to rock in reach. That report says radio’s weekly reach among adults leads all media platforms, clocking in at 93 percent, followed by TV (87 percent), smartphone (80 percent), PC (50 percent), TV-connected devices (43 percent), and tablet (37 percent).

Plus, radio’s reach is highest among 35-49-year-olds at 95 percent, followed by the smartphone at 93 percent, with TV in third place at 89 percent. Radio reaches 92 percent of 18-34-year-olds, more than the smartphone (89 percent), TV (77 percent), and all other platforms.

Getting Response

Of course, any medium is only attractive to performance-based marketers if it yields response. To do that, Peter Feinstein, president and CEO of Higher Power Marketing, a marketing and advertising firm in Phoenix and member of the Response Advisory Board, says for radio it always comes down to keeping it simple.

“Identify the consumer’s pain and fears, hammer home all the bad things pain and fears can bring, offer the solution with verification tools when possible with real customer testimonials, and then give the consumer a barrier-free a way to get the solution,” Feinstein says. “And repeat the phone number or URL at least three times in a 60-second commercial, but never mix the URL and phone number in the ad, unless they’re the same — something like”

Feinstein adds that during the past couple of years, he’s seen clients going back to preferring live-answered calls instead of form-fill leads. ”Clients say form-fills don’t convert at anywhere near the percentages of a live-answered calls,” he says. “Humans compelling humans is still the currency of direct response, and with mobile becoming a prevalent tool, click-to-call has returned to prominence.”

One company named #250 is working to make response easier for radio listeners by replacing long phone numbers with short speed dialing, so consumers dial #250 and simply say the brand name to connect.

Dave Robinett, chief marketing officer at #250, says good marketers know that phone calls convert to sales at much higher rates than click-throughs. ”That’s why it’s so important to use easy-to-remember phone numbers in direct response ads, but most 10-digit phone numbers fail in this regard,” Robinett adds.

Robinett says 800-toll-free vanity numbers can still perform well, but those starting with 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844 create confusion and perform successively worse, and local 10-digit numbers in metro areas with multiple area codes “are virtually impossible to remember unless they have a repeating numeric pattern” of some sort.

“Marketers often use multiple toll-free numbers with the goal of sourcing the inbound calls, or leads. For example, each media channel or creative execution might have its own phone number,” Robinett says.

But he adds that this approach is self-defeating for two reasons: one, there’s no doubt that non-vanity phone numbers inhibit response because consumers can’t remember them. And two, consumers might remember to Google the company later — which causes incorrect attribution to organic search vs. the radio or TV outlet that actually drove the response. “You see lower response and distorted attribution,” he says.

Robinett says #250 partnered with mass media company iHeartMedia to help home security company Security One in Los Angeles. ”The first few weeks on air with the call-to-action of ‘just dial #250 and say Security One’ began to yield 50 calls a day,” he says. “We were monitoring the calls and noticed that too many callers were being put on hold after connecting to their phone system. We alerted the owner, who immediately hired three additional people to staff the phone lines.”

Steve Howard, director of new business development and creative services at Hybrid Media Services, says there are many ways to measure radio response very quickly. “Along with unique 800 numbers only, and a blending of toll-free numbers combined with a URL, these days we’re seeing a lot more strictly drive-to-web offers as the call-to-action, and of course, good retail pull-through with brick-and-mortar businesses,” Howard says. “Some creatives incorporate a unique promo code, while others employ multiple URLs, and some are simply tracked back to the local station using geo-tracking.” ■


About the Author: Doug McPherson

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