How to Advertise Your Business or Web Site on Radio by Kevin Nunley

Learn how to make the most of radio advertising.

Recent trends show radio is rapidly becoming the advertising method of choice for thousands of businesses and web sites. Radio lets you focus your ad dollars on specific groups of customers. You can zero in on important towns and cities. Radio also offers lower prices than other broadcast media.

Radio has long been one of the best advertising choices for small businesses. Almost everyone listens to radio, with more than 500 million radios in the US alone. On average, people say they listen to radio at least two hours per day every day.

Choosing The Right Stations
Most medium-sized cities have one big newspaper, six TV stations, and dozens of radio stations. If a radio station puts out one-size-fits-all programming, they will wind up with very few listeners. Instead, stations specialize in entertaining specific age groups, lifestyles, and subject interests.

Radio’s ability to go after a very specific kind of listener is its greatest strength. More mass appeal media–like a newspaper that goes out to virtually everyone in town–can’t give you this tight targeting. With radio, you don’t waste ad budget sending your message to thousands of people who aren’t likely to be interested in what you sell.

It is important to advertise on a station that reaches your best group of customers. A pop or Top 40 station will mostly appeal to teenagers and 18 to 24 year-old women. Country stations usually pull in lots of 25 to 54 year-old men. A classic rock station would also attract 25 to 54 year-old men. A news/talk station would specialize in an affluent audience over 55 years old.

Radio programmers first look at an audience that isn’t being served, then they create a format to appeal to that audience. Think like a radio programmer and you will immediately see which stations your best prospects and customers are listening to.

You can get ratings information provided by Arbitron, the company that measures radio audiences. Advertising agencies have access to Arbitron ratings as do most radio station advertising departments. You can also find radio ratings for different cities announced at, the site for Radio and Records, the industry’s trade publication.

Arbitron gives you lots of different ways to look at the audience. If you are going after women 25-54 you can get ratings for women 18-34, 25-34, and so on.

All this can become a bit confusing when you’re talking to a radio sales representative. Their job is to sell ads by putting their station in the best light possible. Just about any station can show they are number one or two in at least one demographic, even though the age group may be quite narrow (the old joke among radio programmers is “even though we don’t have very good ratings, we’re number one in men 18-24 who have hair loss”.)

How To Buy Ads
Radio stations have been selling many more ads lately and their rates have been going up. Expect to pay more for Morning Drive times (5am to 10am) than for other less listened-to parts of the day.

A few years ago you could get 60 second spots in Morning Drive for $20 in a great many cities. Now it isn’t unusual to pay considerably more.

WOR, New York City’s famous news station, charges $200 to $600 per commercial. News station KRLD in Dallas charges $75 to $350 depending on what time of day you advertise, says Keli Carey of, a site that helps businesses buy radio advertising nationwide.

Leslie Speidel, a veteran media buyer in Raleigh, North Carolina, says Morning Drive spots in her market are $400 on a top station and $100 on lesser rated stations. “I can usually lessen the pain for the advertiser by combining Morning Drive with lower priced commercials in other parts of the day,” she says.

This points out a fundamental aspect of buying radio. You get a much better deal by buying advertising packages. Stations will sell you multiple commercials at different times of the day to run over weeks or months. The price of individual spots can drop significantly.

These days the radio industry is consolidating rapidly. It is not unusual for one large corporation to own hundreds of stations all over the country. It is not unusual for one owner to run five or six stations in your city. Sales people can arrange for you to have your commercial running on several different stations with different formats and individual audiences.

How To Produce Your Radio Commercial
Most radio stations will produce your radio commercial for you at no additional charge. In most cases, the sales person who places your spots will also write your ad copy. It will be recorded by one of the station’s DJ’s (or “air personalities” as they like to be called.)

Radio stations have to do a lot of work very quickly. Although some sales folks are excellent writers, most weren’t training for that part of their job. You may do better to enlist the help of a professional writer. Contact local writing clubs. Search for freelance writers online.

Sixty second ads are usually a better deal than 30 second ads. They only cost a few dollars more and double the time your message is on the air. Be sure to repeat your main benefit you offer customers at least three times in your commercial. End with your phone number, store address, or web site URL so listeners can remember it.

DJ’s are often in a rush to get through the day’s production chores. You can get better quality by insisting on meeting the air personality who will record your spot. DJ’s have big egos (I used to be one) and really appreciate it when an advertiser shows them respect, gratitude, maybe even brings along a sample of their product as a gift.

Reaching out a hand can greatly improve the quality of your spot. Not many advertisers go to this little bit of trouble, but those who do get far better results.

Live Ads And On-Location Remotes
The most effective radio ads are often the ones that are read live by the DJ. The audience regards the air personality as a familiar friend and puts more confidence in your advertising message when the personality reads your spot live.

Most DJ’s don’t keep an eye on the clock when they are reading a live ad. If you encourage the personality to ad-lib your spot in their own words, they will often spend more time on your commercial than your allotted 60 seconds. I’ve seen one minute spots regularly go 90 seconds to two minutes.

When you buy an advertising package, see if you can get a live remote included. The radio station will appear at your place of business for one, two, even three or more hours with a personality promoting your store live on-air. Stations often bring attention-getters like brightly painted vans, huge inflatable mascots, even free food for customers. Make sure you have plenty of staff on hand to convert visitors to buyers.

While we might figure that radio is an older media that may be getting left behind by the Internet, just the opposite is happening. The crush of web-based businesses have moved to radio to give them affordable, targeted advertising in specific markets. The great explosion of small businesses in the last few years is looking to radio to give them a promotional boost. Take time to consider using radio in your advertising mix.

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