Radio Advertising: The Best Kept Secret for Building a Brand on a Budget


Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

While many look at radio as an old-fashioned solution, it’s still an effective way of reaching an audience; particularly for brands with a smaller advertising budget.

Article 3 Minutes
Radio Advertising: The Best Kept Secret for Building a Brand on a Budget

Although the last few years have been marked by the rise in online advertising, that doesn’t mean pre-internet technologies should just be abandoned. While social media and search engine ads are definitely effective, they can be hard to get into and costly to implement. For startups and brands with limited budgets, there is a low-tech option that can be surprisingly successful: radio.

It might seem like an old-fashioned form of media - it has, after all, been around for roughly a century - but that doesn’t mean it's short on listeners. In addition, the fact that many advertisers have moved online has led to a drop in the cost of radio ads, making them more cost-effective.

Radio is estimated to account for roughly 6% of global ad spend, and this is forecast to remain at this level in the coming years.

The cost of radio advertising

How much does it cost to utilize radio ads? It’s not as much as you might expect. In fact, they’re a much more cost-effective option than other forms of advertisement. This has actually been helped by COVID-19, which caused radio ad spending to drop by 25%. Although it's now bouncing back, it's only predicted to rise by 16.8%, keeping spending lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Although the specific costs will change depending on the radio station, a good rule of thumb is around $2.82 per 1,000 listeners for a 30-second ad slot. This means a slot on a popular show with 50,000 listeners will cost roughly $141. While you can’t expect all those listeners to pay attention, they’ll at least hear your ad.

Compare that to more modern forms of advertising. It’s estimated that 1,000 impressions with a Facebook ad will cost you $7.19. And that’s just for the ad to be visible on a user’s feed; it’s entirely possible for them to scroll past without really seeing it. Other social networks are similar, with Instagram ads costing as much as $10 per 1,000 impressions.

How effective are radio ads?

Of course, in order for something to be cost-effective, it must be effective. While radio advertising is certainly a cheaper option - a major benefit for smaller businesses without the budget of large firms - it isn’t necessarily going to be the best way to reach every company’s target audience or encourage them to make a purchase.

Radio’s audience is huge. In the UK, almost 48.9 million people over the age of 15 - 89% of the population - are radio listeners, with an average listening time of 6.73 hours a month. In the US, 63% of adults listen to the radio daily, which works out at around 156 million people.

What’s even more important for small businesses is the fact these audiences are surprisingly receptive to ads. One study found that 47% of listeners are happy to listen to radio ads in return for the free content, and 46% have considered a new product or service after hearing an ad for it on the radio.

However, it’s important to make sure your ads are targeted towards the correct audience. For example, radio listeners tend to be older. In the UK, radio accounts for 70% of the audio that adults listen to overall, but this drops to just 18% for younger adults. Of course, this also varies wildly depending on the station your ad runs on.

If you can target the correct audience, radio ads can be extremely useful, especially for businesses on a budget. They’re a cost-effective way of reaching a wide audience and spreading awareness of your brand. However, they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution, and must be planned out carefully in order to avoid wasting the money put into them.

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