March 2007 - Radio Dial

Connecting the Dots Between Radio and the Internet

By Ken Michelini

Being from Detroit, I recently found myself in the not-so-unusual conversation with a senior automotive brand manager discussing the fall of newspaper. Or, so you would think. “Sure circulation is down,” he said, “but they’ve found a way to move revenue to the Internet.”

“How is that possible,” I asked, “when radio and TV have had such a struggle?” Well, as it turns out, newspapers always have been a little closer to the consumer at the time of purchase. That doesn’t mean they are better at reaching their consumers; it just means they reach consumers differently.

When anyone buys anything, regardless if it is bubble gum or a Cadillac, they go through a process. First, they are made aware of the product, followed by comprehension of it (luxurious leather seats!). After comprehension comes conviction (I’m going to buy a Cadillac), and finally, there’s a call to action. The call to action can be your child asking for the gum or a neighbor coming home with that new car, but usually it’s direct mail or a print ad spelling out the details of the offer.

One of radio’s strengths always has been creating awareness and conviction. But it doesn’t command the same reach as TV. This makes DR radio extremely difficult to execute and explains why DR radio agencies are few and far between. But now, the Internet has leveled the playing field and radio stations are feeling the pressure to deliver.

Traditionally, media buyers hold an adversarial position with station reps, treating each “buy” as a commodity. In DR radio, media buyers look to partner with station groups so they can best solve both their problems and then duplicate the successes nationally. When radio falls short with reach, it more than makes it up with frequency, loyalty and local community ties. Radio has been cultivating loyalty clubs for years, and we’re just now starting to harvest their customers through permission marketing campaigns.

“Having come from newspaper, I can see the work ahead of us,” says Lisa Mabry, director of web services at Radio One. “But what sets us apart is our ability to deliver an integrated media strategy. Technology is evolving in our favor. We can run a DR campaign online like everyone else, but branding happens through the ears, and print just can’t compete.”

Ann O’Neil is CEO of imX Solutions, a stored value solutions provider specializing in two-factor security. “We see radio differently than other media,” she says. “They have a vested interest in protecting their listeners’ privacy, and that, we believe, is the future of the Internet.”

Another emerging and key component of DR radio success is the development of online training platforms. These platforms network stations and call centers in giving media buyers control of both the on-air and call center sales pitch.

As consumers find more choices, agencies are feeling pressured to deliver accountability. An integrated radio/Internet strategy will separate the marketers interested in growing their share from those simply seeking the sale.

Ken Michelini is with BTW Associates Inc. in Farmington Hills, Mich. He can be reached at (248) 471-1300, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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