Is Radio Advertising Relevant?

Bob Leighton
Last updated by Bob Leighton

I've heard that before. Several times over, in fact. I can't say yes enough on this topic.

One of the age-old mainstays of advertising, radio has controlled a significant portion of the market in the United States since 1922. In the near-century since the start of paid radio ads, the industry has maintained a stronghold in the world of media, connecting listeners around the world with music, talk shows, marketing messages, and more. But with the rise of digital tactics, some might claim radio is too old school to appeal to modern consumers. 

My answer, of course, is no, there's nothing old school about radio. While radio has evolved over the years, from traditional FM programming to digital alternatives such as Pandora or Spotify, listening to music and news is still a central part of American life. For small businesses seeking affordable paths to advertising, radio still has plenty of potential.


The Value in Radio

Image of a record player

If you've ever asked yourself "do a lot of people listen to the radio still?" you may be surprised to find that the answer is almost everyone. Over 90 percent of Americans above the age of 12 turns on the radio at least once a week, and an average listener spends 13 hours tuning in on a weekly basis. 61 percent of Americans have turned to online radio, listening to online AM/FM stations or streamed content service at least once a month.

As far as advertising is concerned, radio promises big gains in exchange for a small investment. In fact, a Nielsen survey in 2014 determined that average radio advertisers can count on an ROI of $6 for every $1 spent, conversion rates of 16 percent, and increases in retailer retention as high as 11 percent.


Radio as a Visual Medium

One of the main critiques of radio as a medium is its lack of originality. Historically relying on a single format – audio – some advertisers believe that radio limits marketing messages to something basic and predictable. In reality, however, radio is quite visual, both figuratively and literally.

In a figurative sense, a creative use of sound effects, voices, music, and commentary can paint a mental picture much in the same way a great piece of writing can trigger vivid imagery with nothing more than words on a page. With the right approach, radio advertisers can show, not tell, utilizing similar narrative techniques to influence consumers.

More literally, radio's evolution into a digital experience provides plenty of opportunities for colors, pictures, and video. On apps like Spotify and Pandora, when ads play, images or film clips pop up, providing a balance between audio and visuals. This opens up new avenues to advertisers, combining all of the power of radio with the added benefits of visual content marketing, such as increased retention of information.


The Right Target Audience = Relevancy 

Radio marketing strategy has its important place in digital applications, but a strong branding strategy can pack a punch in traditional radio too. Due to the targeting potential in radio, from access to the local community to the ability to address very specific sub markets using individual stations, a well-crafted radio message can provide the insight necessary to reach the right listeners - the individuals who likely will become customers.

Due to the long-standing function of radio as an information source – thinking play-by-play during tumultuous weather – an expert voice makes a big impact. A targeted audience help tap into this, allowing marketers to determine what matters most to listeners by asking questions like:

  • Where do our clients come from?
  • Who are our best clients?
  • What media habits, lifestyles, and interests influence what we have to offer?

Once you know who you're talking to, it becomes much easier to determine an authoritative, trustworthy way to communicate.


Radio Will Always Matter

You might have heard some people say that radio might be outdated, but listening patterns and consumer trends show that to be anything but true. Consistency in radio advertising strategy is still relevant and relatable. From traditional radio spots to ads on streaming radio services, radio advertising is one of the best ways to move your business forward while staying connected to your community.

Here's a customer success story of a travel agency that has stayed relevant in radio: Bursch Travel.


Get Your Business on the Radio Advertise with Us