September 04, 2014

The Shiny Old Object

What if there was a medium that was almost three times as popular as the web?

What if this medium had none of the harrowing advertising fraud problems that the web has?

What if, unlike the web, you could specify exactly where and when your ads ran on this medium?

What if all the ads on this medium were actually noticeable?

What if this medium has suffered less from the growth of mobile than traditional web usage ?

What if advertising on this medium had been shown to be substantially more effective at creating sales than the web?

You'd think this medium would be killing it, right?

Well, it's not. The medium is radio. And this year, despite the facts, reality-impaired advertisers will spend more money on the web than on radio.

Here's a very unambiguous chart that shows how radio dominates time spent with all media except live tv among US adults.*

Radio is, by far, the second most popular medium in the US. And yet, like television, it has reacted timidly to the misinformation and fraud related to online advertising. It has allowed the online ad industry to pick its pocket.

Next week, I am "keynote" speaking to the radio industry at the annual conference of the Radio Advertising Bureau.

We're gonna have some fun.

*Source: Nielsen Cross-Platform Report, Q4, 2013.


Tom Hoad said...

Does the most spent mean you are most engaged with that medium?

Aren't some mediums much better at conveying advertising messages (likely TV, although I have no evidence to be fair)?

I could spent 100 hours a week listening to a crazy man on the corner telling me to buy Cheetos. Doesn't mean I'm more susceptible to his advertising because I spend more time listening to it than anything else.

I guess I'm just dubious that time spent is a true reflection of engagement with the medium, and therefore its advertising efficacy.

Sonny said...

AAHHH "engagement". The word few can agree on what it means. I may be engaged with Facebook but oblivious to the "classified" ads that surround the content.

Mark said...

I'm sure these are very carefully compiled stats. But just anecdotally, I simply can't buy them. I never, ever hear anyone say "I heard this or that on the radio." I never have anyone suggest that I listen to anything on radio. Compare that to the number of people talking about stuff they've read or seen online and I simply don't buy these numbers. I suspect if they are technically accurate, they're likely counting hours spent in offices with a radio droning on unnoticed in the background or hours spent lying half-asleep in bed hitting the snooze button every seven minutes or some such thing.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

Argh. I hate that word : engaged. It means, quite possibly, nothing. Let's talk sales and such.

I do agree that time spent may not be as important, but there is information supporting the effectiveness of the medium regardless. But who knows? There are lies, damned lies and statistics, after all.

julian_koenig said...

You do realize that radio streams online? In Boston, it costs more to run spots on some of the (very) highly-rated sports talk radio programs than it does to buy TV time on popular shows. I can hear more than one person listening to EEI and the Sports Hub right now in our office. No, people aren't listening to A radio. But they are listening to radio online. In big numbers.

Tom Hoad said...

Replace engagement with 'paying most attention to'.

Mark said...

Still, I have never ever hear any talk about anything they heard on radio, no matter where it comes from. Of course, sports bore me, so maybe that's a demographic missing from my experience.

brentwalker said...

I'm not certain that the purpose of any radio spot is to get people to talk about it. Maybe if we looked at the sales figures of businesses who advertise on radio, we'd have something a bit more solid. But decrying this article just because you haven't heard anyone talking about it is like I think Jaguars are extinct because I haven't seen one.

Stephen Eichenbaum said...

Wow. Beautiful. We love radio. Did a campaign over 20 years ago for the RAB (radio advertising bureau). They should be hitting this hard now.

Miguel said...

So... some facts, just for the fun of it:

1. You don't need to pay attention a stimulus to subconsciously process it. Therefore, ads do not need to be consciously attented to to be effective. (Source:

Measuring affective advertising: Implications of low attention processing on recall Measuring

2. Saliency trumps... nearly everything when it comes to brand picking for category purchases. (Source:

Conceptualizing and measuring brand salience

3. Radio and TV are WAY more effective than web and social media (Source: How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don't Know

Ad effectiveness is built around the concept of ease to recall a brand when purchasing. That ease of recall is saliency, not engagement. And engagement does not build saliency, familiarity, consistency and distinctiveness in brand comms do.

Matt B said...

Been using Radio in my entertainment category for years. Cheap, good strong frequency for a launch week. Get a nice sonic hook that ties in with other media you are running and you're golden. There's a good reason why movie studios still use a lot of it.

LeShann said...

The Nielsen data is really odd - it only reports time spent for radio, and unless I'm missing something it never appears in any other tab. Impossible to look at coverage for example.

I wonder if this goes to show how little f*** people give about radio, if they don't even bother to report properly on it.

julian_koenig said...

I believe it was Newton who said that for every graph, there is an equal and opposite graph.

Tina said...

This graph actually supports his point... Radio reaches a wider audience, but advertisers are spending more money on web.

Primary Games Anywho said...

Excellent article. I've observed people still listen to the radio as much as ever. But the point was brought home last week when my brother to a sale and brought home a FM radio!