The BS About Radio Advertising

Radio Listening

I spent a lot of years working in the radio biz, and my last job was in marketing and promotions.  During that time, I learned a few things about effective advertising and what it takes for a message to finally penetrate someone’s brain and get them to act on a message.  Short answer is about six weeks.   That’s the amount of time it takes for people to finally “hear” your message.  Sounds weird, huh.  Your commercial is effectively “white noise” for six weeks and then (poof!) people finally start to pay attention to what’s being said.

However, it takes more than just time.  It takes frequency.  How often that ad plays every day determines how effective it is in reaching the listeners.  Short answer is about 30 times a week — though mileage may vary.

So here’s the formula that every radio salesperson I know tells their clients:

Time + Frequency = Results


Jello Radio Ad

That’s not the BS part about advertising.  The BS part is an article that I read on All Access — a radio industry website.  The article was titled: “Is TV Advertising Less Effective Than Radio?  The RAB Says Yes.” Overall, they are correct, if you advertise on the radio, with the time and frequency schedule outlined above, your message will be heard and you’ll see more customers coming through the door than you will running a TV ad campaign.  What’s BS is the way the RAB framed their so-called “study.”  The, ahem, study was based on brand recall during the Super Bowl… and guess what?  Most viewers of the Super Bowl couldn’t connect an ad with the brand (it was below 10%) when asked.


The study also found that only 15% of game viewers said they later looked for the ads or related content online; only 9% posted, tweeted, or shared links about the ads; and as few as 7% claimed that they actually looked for more information online about the advertised products or brands.

Why this study is so bogus and full of BS is that the RAB (Radio Advertising Bureau) doesn’t even take into account their own formula for a successful ad campaign. Here let me repeat it just to really bludgeon this point home:

Time + Frequency = Results


Most Super Bowl ads only play once, and they are played during an event where people are in a social environment, eating, mostly likely drinking heavily, and caught up in the drama of the game.  How the hell are they going to remember the ads when asked by some survey.  When was the survey conducted?  Immediately after the game?  The next day when people are hung over and pissed off because they lost money?  A week later?  They don’t say.

Sloppy.  Really damned sloppy.

For anyone to remember ads, they are going to have to be repeated more than once to make an impression.  But the RAB doesn’t mention that in their study.  Instead, they jump to a poorly constructed conclusion that radio advertising works and TV ads don’t. Clearly, they didn’t take into account the elements mentioned above.  But more importantly, most people hear radio messages (commercials) in a captive environment:  their cars.  If you commute to work, listen to the radio for music, traffic reports, news, and DJ talk, then you’re probably doing it at a set time every day. And if a commercial plays at a set time, the chances you’re going to hear it while participating in predictable behavior (i.e., driving to and from work) is pretty high.  But the Super Bowl?  It happens once a year, and as far as I know, no one throws a Super Bowl party in their car with a bunch of friends listening to the radio.

Super Bowl Party

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