Radio Advertising Pros and Cons by Mike Brassil

280 million people own more than 300 million radios and, contrary to the predictions of doom, radio still fills a strategic advertising role for businesses both large and small. It is a relatively inexpensive way of reaching people, and it has often been called the “theater of the mind” because voices or sounds can be inexpensively used to create specific moods or images.

Radio offers information such as: news, weather reports, traffic conditions, advertising and music. Radio is the most selective of the media, with individual stations providing access to target audiences of almost every demographic description. Many stations have positioned themselves to reach specific audience segments instead of the total market. In one marketplace, one station may only play country-western music, another rock music, a third only religious music, while others feature 24-hour news broadcasts or talk shows.

To some degree, radio has become an integral part of American culture. Millions wake to the sound of clock radios, and for many, the radio is the last sound they hear before going to sleep. As a medium, it brings a sense of urgency that is second to none. It offers a form of entertainment that attracts listeners while they are working, traveling, relaxing or doing almost anything else.

Advantages of Radio Advertising.

  • Radio, like television, has the ability to quickly reach a large number of people. It efficiently targets narrowly defined segments of the market.
  • It is relatively inexpensive (both in terms of airtime and production costs) and because deadlines for placing radio advertising are relatively short, it provides advertisers with increased flexibility.
  • Advertising on a given station can help reach additional audience segments to help expand a firm’s total market capability.
  • The unlimited array of radio program formats allows an advertiser to focus on any target audience. By advertising in concentrated flights, an advertiser can appear to be much larger than he really is. After several days, listeners will think the company is advertising all of the time.
  • Station personalities have a good rapport with their listeners. If a radio personality announces your commercial, it is almost as effective as an implied endorsement.
  • Radio supports your printed advertising. Messages can be twice as effective by including phrases such as: “See our ad in the Sunday Times.”
  • Advertising can be purchased on stations whose listener characteristics most closely approximate the profile of your company’s current customers.
  • The advertising message need not be limited to a monologue. Vocal and instrumental music, as well as sound effects of every imaginable type can be inexpensively added, either individually or in combination.

Disadvantages of Radio Advertising.

Radio advertising is not without its disadvantages, such as:

  • Advertisers are limited to an audio message. There is no visual product or service identification to support it.
  • Listeners may switch stations to avoid listening to commercials.
  • Multiple exposures are usually required for retention and response. Listeners may have to hear the same commercial two, four or even six times or more before the message sinks in.
  • Ad clutter can be high.
  • Exposure to the message is short and fleeting.
  • Radio can effectively sell only one idea at a time.
  • It can’t be reviewed. Once it plays, it’s gone. If the listener didn’t catch all of the message, he can’t go back and listen to it again.
  • People only listen to radios during certain times of the day.

About the Author

Michael (Mike) Brassil is author of “The Only Business Start-Up Guide You Will Ever Need.” Download two chapters — Starting a New Business and The Home Working Revolution — at