Insider's Advice for Radio Advertising, Part 3

Old Time Radio 3

When a radio was a RADIO!
When a radio was a RADIO!

Best Business Tips for Radio Advertising, Part 3

(4) All Time slots on the Radio are not Created Equal

There is 'PRIME REAL ESTATE' in all forms of advertising. You want to advertise your business on the first page, second page, near the obituaries (true - believe it or not) or on the last page of a newspaper section - and you expect to pay the same amount as if your display ad is buried back by the classifieds or next to the soccer statistics? Ha! You want to advertise your business during the televised Super Bowl, that sexy new cops-and-robbers show or adjacent to the hottest new reality series on television - and you expect to pay the same amount as if your ad spot is broadcast adjacent to the the early-morning The Amish Gardener show or during the Midnight Horror Movie Marathon? Ha! You want to advertise your business on that big, well-lit billboard next to the I-2 Freeway near downtown or out on Route 66 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas - and you expect to pay the same amount as if your billboard advertisement was located out between the pine trees on County Road ZZ between Porkville and Land's End? Ha! You want to advertise your business before the kick-off of your state's Division I college football teams' game radio broadcast, or adjacent to the obituary report (true - believe it or not), or at the start of your area's radio station's drive-time news report at 7:00 a.m. - and you expect to pay the same as if your radio ad spot was being broadcast at 3:00 a.m. during the Insomniac's Beautiful Music Radio Show or Grandpa Greeley's Old-Time Country Hoe-Down on Sunday afternoon? Ha!

Whether we're talking prime (maximum) advertising readership in newspapers, prime (maximum) advertising viewership on television, prime (maximum) traffic / readership of highway billboards, or prime (maximum) listenership on radio ... a business advertiser will generally reach the maximum number of potential customers by paying the maximum amount per reader / viewer / traffic count / listener. It's true for all major advertising mediums: YOU PAY THE MOST TO REACH THE MOST POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS. And why not? Do car buyers walk into a Lexus or Mercedes-Benz car dealer and realistically expect to pay the same as they would for a small Chevy or Ford compact car? Of course not! Higher value always requires a higher price, right? Well, mostly ... but maybe not always.

As a rule of thumb for situations where you have no time - or no information - for an in-depth analysis, then I think you can most often assume that this maxim is true: Higher value (almost) always requires a higher price. But, there are many exceptions to this 'rule of thumb' and advertising can (sometimes) be one of those exceptions!

Using my car example from above, what if Dad wants a second family car to simply drive your two children to and from school, while Mom wants to take the primary family vehicle to her workplace? Unless Dad is in a hell of a high-society competition to impress his neighbors, does Dad really need a Mercedes-Benz to take the couple's two children back and forth to school? I guess what I'm trying to say, is that some goals are worth paying the maximum dollars for, and some goals can be nicely accomplished for many fewer dollars - if you're sensible and informed.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since you have been reading my business tips for radio advertising, I will assume that you do NOT have infinite sums of money available to you and that you prefer to make advertising purchases that are affordable, sensible and informed. Am I correct in this assumption?)

Now, focusing on radio advertising again, let me show you how a 'smart advertising shopper' might view their investment in radio advertising. (Although you will see that this 'smart shopper' concept also holds true for most other kinds of advertising.)

Every radio station has a different number of listeners at different time of the broadcast day ... and different days of the broadcast week. No two radio stations have the exact number of listeners or the exact same demographics (male vs. female listeners, old vs. young listeners, black vs. white vs. Hispanic listeners, etc., etc.) - not even stations in the same city or market area. But I will use some national statistics I read a few months ago, regarding listeners to country music stations, which should be fairly similar to other radio formats in America:

  1. The maximum number of listeners on any radio station will be tuned in when people are driving to and from their employment, school and/or home. These peak times (also known as 'Drive Times' or 'Prime Times') are typically between about 5:30 - 9:00 a.m. (called 'morning drive'), 11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. (called 'mid-day drive') and 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. (called 'afternoon drive'). Of course, 'drive times' can vary by station and community. Radio ad rates will typically be highest during a radio station's 'drive times'. (Morning Drive may even have a somewhat higher rate all it's own, to reflect the single highest-rated drive time and the fact that it morning drive is the start of consumers' business or shopping day.)
  2. There will be approximately 10 - 20% fewer listeners during "Non-Peak Day Times", which would be the time periods between 'Drive Times': 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 - 4:00 p.m.
  3. The entire daytime is usually considered to be 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. and advertising spots that can air at any random time between the 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. day times are often referred to as a 'Prime Time Schedule' or 'Total Daytime Schedule'.
  4. 'Evening Schedules' (or a dozen other names for this day part) are generally spots that air at any time between 7:00 p.m. through 12:00 midnight (Central Standard Time). Radio audience numbers decline slowly between 7:00 and 11:00 p.m., then decline more rapidly between 11:00 p.m. and about 4:00 p.m. 3:45 or 4:00 a.m. are most radio stations' lowest rating time, in the entire 24-hour day. Radio audience numbers then start growing slowly between 4:15 and 6:00 a.m.
  5. 'Overnight Schedules' include the six hours between midnight and 6:00 a.m. (CST). Both radio and television advertising rates are the lowest for these 'Night Owl' hours. The 'Night Owl' radio listening audience has about 70% fewer listeners than were tuning in during the daytime's peak 'Drive Times' (as described in paragraph #1, above).
  6. Perhaps the biggest surprise for my advertising clients is when they ask about our country music station's listenership on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday). It is interesting to note that our listening audience size is almost exactly the same as for the weekdays, Monday through Friday. Depending on the radio station and their broadcast format, it may be that the weekends have a higher number of listeners.

In a perfect world, a radio station's top advertising rates would be during the daytime 'Drive Times' (and they usually are). Then, there would be a 10 - 20% discounts for ad spots aired during 'Non-Peak Daytimes'. There would be a 30% discount for spots aired during the 'Evening Time Schedule'. There would be a 70% discount for spots aired between midnight and 6:00 a.m. And, finally, there would be no discount for radio ads airing during the different day parts on weekends. But customer demands and advertising space supply-and-demand have a big effect on all types of advertising, including commercial radio. Completely rational pricing of advertising is difficult - if not impossible - and this creates opportunities for bargain hunters! But you may have to do your homework and/or ask quite pointedly for these advertising cost savings.

Bargain Example #1: I know of several commercial radio stations (in our rural midwest area) that charge somewhere between $2 to $8 per 30-second spot, if the advertisement is broadcast at some time between 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m. Between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. (daytimes), the same radio stations would charge between $10 and $50 per spot, for the same 30-second radio ads. However, recall from above that the overnight listening audience for most types of music radio stations is approximately 70% smaller than during daytimes (i.e., 6:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.). So, you can reach 30% of a particular music radio station's daytime listening audience during the overnight hours, but for only 14% to 20% of the daytime schedule's cost! (As a bonus, there are usually far fewer advertising spots during the overnight hours, so your 30-second spots will stand out better and be even more memorable.)

Bargain Example #2: I also know of area radio stations that charge 10% to 25% less for advertising spots that air only on Saturdays and/or Sundays. However, recall from above that the weekend listening audience for most types of music stations is just as high - if not higher! - as the listenership during the Monday through Friday weekdays. (You can also reach some listeners on weekends that - for whatever reason - are unable to listen to a radio station during the weekdays.)

Bargain Example #3: There are radio stations that charge the rock-bottom overnight rates for ads that you schedule to air for just the hour between 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. However, weekday listenership begins to climb a little after 4:15 a.m. and climbs even more rapidly during the half-hour between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Let's see: increasing (but still relatively small) radio audience, few competing ads and rock-bottom overnight advertising rates ... can you say, "SWEET SPOT" ?!

Bargain Example #4: There a few radio stations that start charging low overnight advertising rates as early as 10:00 p.m., instead of requiring advertisers to wait until midnight for these rock bottom rates. Let's see: higher (but slowly declining, as the time advances toward midnight) radio audience, fewer competing ads and rock-bottom overnight advertising rates ... another "SWEET SPOT" ?!

Depending on your area's radio stations, you can find other ways to save significant money on your radio advertising. (For example, one of my competitors will grant a 5% discount on your radio advertising order, if you are willing to pay for it all up-front. But you must ask for this discount!) You will often not know what money-saving opportunities are available with you, unless you (sometimes very pointedly!) ask your radio sales representative for advertising bargains and discounts.

Now that you've learned a few ways to help you maximize your investment in radio advertising, why don't you jump over to my article collection on 'Copy-writing for Radio Advertisers'?


Commercial Radio precedes Commercial Television by 28 years

An old farmer - who probably lived through the American Civil War! - listens to one of America's first commercial radio stations on his primitive radio receiver.  (This photograph probably dates from the early to middle 1920s.)
An old farmer - who probably lived through the American Civil War! - listens to one of America's first commercial radio stations on his primitive radio receiver. (This photograph probably dates from the early to middle 1920s.) | Source

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