May 2007 - Channel Crossing: Radio

Testing the Radio Waves

By Joe Rashbaum

How do you properly test your direct response offer on radio? Well, first be forewarned: there are many ways to screw it up! With more means of testing than ever, the clutter can get confusing.

However, if your offer is compelling and your patience reasonable, there’s a successful formula for you. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of testing both local stations and network radio.

There are about 11,000 radio stations in the United States, about two-thirds of which accept advertising. Each features one of around 40 formats, specifically programmed to reach a demographic target.

Pros: You can test many stations relatively inexpensively, while building frequency, either through rotators or keying in on one daypart. If a station tests well, you likely can duplicate its success on stations with similar formats across the country. A good local station rep also can be a key marketing partner-they often have 24/7 of broadcast time and can offer bonuses of extra spots or help you secure added promotional value.

Finally, listeners spend much of their time between only two or three stations. If you buy the three most cost-efficient stations in your target demo, you virtually can own the radio audience for an entire market!

Cons: If you test a station that does not work, or a schedule that isn’t favorable, that certainly doesn’t mean radio failed. It does, however, mean you need to start over from scratch. You also may have tested the wrong daypart, or not purchased enough frequency to get a true read on the station’s audience. Also, if your test is market-specific, the market you need may be heavily oversold at the time you want to test, compromising your ability to make a DR-friendly media buy.

A radio network is a cluster of stations, all contracted to run your spot. Most spots are run on a “wired” network, i.e., simultaneously on affiliates carrying a specific program, such as Dr. Laura. Some networks are “unwired,” which means they are not unified by programming; they are merely a cluster of stations that agree to run spots during a specified time period.

Pros: The ultimate means of leveraging reach to target an audience, networks can offer you hundreds of thousands-if not millions-of simultaneous listeners nationwide. Accordingly, CPMs are generally lower than those in local radio. You also can look at results from a network buy, see which markets generated the most leads, and then narrow your next buy to target those successful areas.

Cons: Most networks only offer the chance to buy two or three hours per day, so you may not get the frequency you need to make an impression. Network spots are usually much more expensive than local, so there can be budget limitations as to what you can buy. Most networks are talk-based. Accordingly, if your product is best suited to a non-talk format, the pickings may be slim for testing on the network level-rolling out a campaign with a non-talk format can be a challenge.

Joe Rashbaum is president of The Radio Solution Company, a direct response radio agency and consulting firm celebrating 11 years of success. He can be reached at (856) 797-5715, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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