Does radio have a marketing problem?

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 22 March 2018

Media channel buyer bias must end and junior buyers need to be better educated, according to top radio execs.

The comments follow a Radiocentre and Ebiquity report out of the UK which looked at marketers’ perceptions vs realities.

The study showed that of the 10 major ad spend channels, radio was the sixth most effective. However, in actual fact the evidence proved it was the second most effective.

So does radio have a marketing problem?

Southern Cross Austereo's (SCA) chief sales officer Brian Gallagher says SCA's clients are always keen to hear about research like this and it's a useful tool to help it put forward strong fact-based arguments to support the effectiveness of its platforms. 

“Audio as a platform is in rude health but this study indicates that a number of media platforms fall victim to “buyer bias”, Gallagher says.

See: Advertisers and agencies overvalue online video, undervalue radio and print - Ebiquity study

“It is less about radio being down the list in the perception of agencies and more about why buyers are putting digital platforms toward the top, despite the evidence that TV and radio platforms actually drive awareness and sales - a substantial factor which is of considerable concern is the lack of transparency and robustness of measurement of the digital platforms.”

Australian Radio Network's (ARN) chief marketing officer Anthony Xydis says in this specific case, the perceptual gap between the evidence of certain media’s effectiveness and what advertisers and agencies think can definitely be applied locally.

“I wouldn’t agree that the findings show that the perceptions of radio are poorer, but rather the strength of radio across many metrics isn’t as front of mind as other media,” Xydis says.

“This varies between advertisers and agencies and this is often characterised by a desire to heavily skew to ‘digital’ spends versus aligning a clearly defined strategy with the most effective media channel.”

Gallagher says there is always an opportunity to market the power of audio more effectively and to more clients, especially now with the transition to integration on smart speakers, podcasting, and app-based listening.

The Ebiquity study looked at 10 major ad spend channels in 12 areas such as targeting, emotional response, return on investment and salience and then compiled them into one total overview.

Ebiquity interviewed 68 marketers that spent £2million or more on advertising last year, interviewed executives from 48 different advertising agencies, used secondary data from a wide variety of places such as 50 different sources and more than 75 published reports conducted since 2010. It combined this data with its own proprietary benchmarks from working with global clients and linked this information to third-party evidence such as the IPA’s influential touchpoints data. Marketing Week described it as “a huge effort and one that provides an up-to-date and highly detailed view of the current British media environment.”

Media buyers are gettimg younger

In Australia, radio demonstrated recorded growth in audience and metro ad revenue in 2017 up .36% to $79 million. The eighth consecutive year of ad growth.

CEO of industry body Commercial Radio Australia, Joan Warner, says Australian marketers and media buyers know the Australian radio market is different from the US and UK in terms of the type of offer and types of players in the market, but it’s important to keep abreast of international research and the perceptions of radio globally.

In terms of the survey and why radio was clearly hard done by in terms of perceptions vs reality, Warner says it doesn't help that media buyers are getting younger.

“We are working at reminding media buyers while there are new players in the audio space – as indicated in the UK study and our Australian research, if you want reach across Australia, at the point of purchase and in the right mood – radio out performs its competition,” Warner explains.

“Some publications still use a photo of an old box table top radio when they write a story about radio – when listeners in Australia are accessing radio via their car, on digital radio, apps, streaming, on their smart phones, via wireless speakers at home.

“Radio’s strength is its accessibility everywhere but we still see some putting us into that old media category.  We are building more and more opportunities to connect with our audiences.  We have continued to innovate and diversify our offering.”

Xydis agreed and says put simply, it’s an education and awareness issue, particularly “within the media bubble”

Warner argues that the radio industry has made a significant commitment and investment in tracking the evolution of the audio sector, to ensure it is focusing on content and product innovation where audiences are most active and most engaged. 

Gallagher says some of SCA's strategies include campaigning on the power of its scale, conducting regular campaign effectiveness studies, rebranding its regional networks, more measurement in regional markets and accumulating measurement of its metro FM and digital stations to offer more reach across the whole family of Hit Network and Triple M stations.

More need to tune in

Xydis says the industry as a whole continues to focus heavily on marketing radio, so marketing in itself is not the problem.

“The recent ‘Radio Alive’ repositioning, the diversification of audio content as well as the depth of research and insight and innovation delivered is an extremely positive set of initiatives. All media players need to continue to grow awareness for the strengths of radio as a whole,” he says.

Warner says it's more of a perception problem than a marketing issue.

“We’re an industry of fiercely competitive broadcasters, but since 2003 we have promoted the industry through a “brand campaign” – long before our TV, outdoor and newspaper counterparts.”

Last year CRA actioned a makeover and the “Radio Alive” brand was launched with a mantra of embracing change and investing in the four key pillars of engagement; insights, measurement and innovation.

In order to improve radio perceptions in the hearts and minds of advertisers Warner says it's undertaking more and more research every year to gain deeper insights into our audiences, the implementation of radio’s all of industry Automated Holdings System – which has more than 80 ad agencies and 260 radio stations now using it – and providing reliable and transparent audience measurement is critical to radio’s success in Australia. 

“Our core proposition is that there is no better place to build a brand than on radio,” Warner says.

“Whilst this may seem abundantly clear to all of us in the radio industry, and advertisers who have achieved strong results from advertising on radio, we really wanted to send a strong and clear message to our commercial and trade audiences – i.e. media agencies, the creative community, brand CEOs and CMOs, and other key decision makers.”

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