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Have You Considered a Radio Ad?

by Jim Martin

While the world seems totally focused on digital media, there’s an old analog monster out there that might be useful for you. Radio is affordable, easy to use, capable of tight focus, and usually extremely effective. Here are a few ideas about to do and what to avoid if you venture into the ether.

The first step is setting a budget. How much can you afford to spend on a radio push? You might end up having to revise a budget up or down as you finalize your plans, but you don’t want to leave budgeting until later. Establishing your budget in advance allows you to decide whether radio meets your needs fairly quickly without investing in a lot of additional work.

Next, choose where you will advertise. There are hundreds of possibilities on both the AM and FM spectrum. Consider your target customers and which station they would like listen to. If your target market is people over fifty, you’d probably want an oldies station or talk radio. For sports fans, you want sports talk. Most radio stations have advertising kits that outline their format and provide listener demographics. Approach several stations you think might reach your target and ask for that information. You probably want to work with a minimum number of stations so that you don’t dilute your effort.

Based on the demographics, you need to decide when you want your ads to air. Essentially, that means deciding when your targets will be most likely to listen. If you’re trying to reach other businesses, they will often listen during “drive time,” when they’re commuting to and from their businesses. If you want to catch teenagers, afternoons are probably your prime time. You can place ads with the programs having the largest listenership. In the early rock & roll era, everybody wanted to advertise on the Alan Freed show. One catch: a station’s most popular show will usually be the one with the highest ad rates.

Next, you have to decide how frequently to advertise. One incontrovertible fact of adver-tising is that nothing registers until someone has seen or heard it five times. Have you ever seen an ad repeated sixty seconds after you first heard it. Your comment that you just saw it proves that you remember it more because of the close timing of the repeat. Repetition is critical. Most stations offer rates that decline as the frequency increases, so you can afford the frequency you need.

Once you’ve made those decisions, you have to prepare the ad (or ads). You must consider two issues: the content and how it is produced. Let’s look at content first. You don’t want to move any further until you have at least a good outline of the ad. The ad should be kept simple. I’ve heard ads that say, “We’ve got this for 99 cents and that for $1.59 and the other for a ridiculous $2.00… and… and… and…” By the time they reach the third item, I’m thinking about last night’s Warriors game. Simplicity supports reinforcement. This is why a 15-second ad may prove more effective than a 60-second one. Decide exactly what you want to communicate to your customers, and then stay with that. Don’t forget to include your address and your web address. I wouldn’t recommend including a phone number unless you have a service business in which most of your customer contact comes by phone. Providing your phone number sometimes attracts pranksters.

Finally, you have to decide who’s going to produce the ad. If you plan to make your own ad, you could consider doing it yourself, but only if you have a quiet room available and good recording equipment. Unless you have a great voice and some experience at public speaking, I wouldn’t recommend that you do your own ad. Whoever speaks in the ad has to come over as polished. Monotone ads can be deadly. If the ad sounds amateurish, it won’t convince listeners that your business is professional. You might want to consider talking to the station you plan to use. Most are willing to prepare ads using some of their “on the air” stars. People are more willing to listen to them than to you.

If you don’t want to use the station’s personnel, you’re better off with professional prepar-ation. But bring your outline of the ad. Professionals can do a great job, but they sometimes tend to prepare what makes them look good, rather than what makes you and your product shine. Listen to their recommendations, but don’t accept them until you’re convinced they will improve your message. At the bottom line, they are only employees and you’re the boss.

You should also test whether your ad is doing any good. Have a special sale only for those who say (at the cash register) “I heard it on KXXX.” This can be a particularly effective tool if you’re using several stations. If you get 100 responses from one station and four from the other, it makes your decision easy.

Radio isn’t for everyone, but you can’t decide if it’s for you unless you at least investigate it.