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Direct Response Marketing

Heard It on the Radio

1 Jan, 2009 By: Bridget McCrea Response

A Good Mix

For marketers, DR radio continues to provide a viable sales channel to complement one or more other media. The biggest synergy, according to Robinson, can be found in the online world, which effectively provides a "visual counterpart" for the audio-oriented radio option. "For an online campaign, radio can create longevity through streaming audio, Web site banners and other tools," says Robinson, who points out that numerous studies have shown that listeners often go online to learn more about something they heard on the radio.

The Web also enables DR radio advertisers to gain more accountability and monitor Web sales, says Small, making the synergistic relationship that much more valuable for marketers. "Advertisers can use technology to capture that data and use it to monitor response and campaign performance," says Small.

Despite these distinct benefits, DR radio has its drawbacks. According to Greg Crosby, founder and CEO at NextGen Marketing Group in Iowa City, radio tends to work best for marketers attempting to generate awareness, drive a message out to an audience on a consistent basis, and create synergies with other media. "The marketer that picks the right stations and time slots can create a targeted campaign that's less expensive than TV," says Crosby.

Finding available DR inventory on the radio waves can also be a stumbling block. "The key is to get your requirements in early and to plan ahead," Crosby advises, "or else you will end up with remnants."

Finally, DR radio isn't applicable for every product, according to Peter Koeppel, president of Koeppel Direct in Dallas. "Radio doesn't work well for selling $19.99 products," says Koeppel, "but it's great for products and services that can be reinforced by TV and other media."

The Outlook

Last year the satellite radio waves were rocked slightly when Sirius and XM announced that they would merge. The integration was well underway — but not yet complete — at press time. Also uncertain at the time was just how this marriage would affect DR advertisers, as many had turned to highly targeted satellite radio as a sales channel for their products and services. "It's going to be interesting to watch," says Koeppel, "because now XM and Sirius will have a much larger combined audience for advertisers to tap."

Small says the pairing is positive for marketers in that it will serve to stabilize two companies that were challenged by revenue losses. However, once the coupling is complete, those prior losses could be addressed with rate increases that could negatively impact advertisers. Add in the fact that the world economy is in crisis, and the environment for DR radio marketers this year could be challenging.

"In the past, I've seen down economies turn out to be beneficial for DR advertisers in radio, where unsecured inventory is abundant, yet people still make impulse decisions that will improve their lifestyles," says Small. "So consumers still pick up the phone, yet rates are low and inventory is abundant."

Going forward, Robinson expects even more DR marketers to move past short-form radio and begin using long-form (28-minute, 30-second) radio infomercials as part of the advertising mix. At the same time, he says DR advertisers will also use more on-air personality endorsements in order to deliver messages. However, most radio personalities will only lend their name to a fixed number of campaigns per year.

Koeppel points to other options, such as the developing Google Radio Ads platform, as additional elements that could affect DR radio marketers this year. "Google has some great advertising rates, but their stations don't have much rating," he says. "However, I expect it will overcome whatever obstacles there are and eventually be successful."

Finally, Robinson sees big brands "gobbling up" time slots and leaving little behind for smaller firms to fight over. "Marketers are going to find out quickly that many DR campaigns are no longer going to have opportunities because the big brands have come in," says Robinson. "If DR advertisers don't lock that space up early, it may become unavailable."

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