The Cost of Radio Advertising

By: First Union


The Cost of Radio Advertising

While many small businesses turn to digital and online advertising as far as their primary marketing efforts, radio advertising is still a channel that could be used to any business's advantage. The question is, is radio advertising cost-prohibitive? Given that there are numerous marketing strategies you can implement on social media for virtually nothing, spending hundreds or even thousands on the radio might, for some, seem a misstep. However, there is still value in this particular form of marketing—as long as you know how to leverage it optimally. In this article, we look at the cost of radio advertising in tandem with the potential ROI it can bring you.

Perhaps more so than many other marketing tactics, radio can be ultra-targeted. You are going after a certain demographic that listens to a certain type of station. If you look at the bigger picture when it comes to more traditional forms of advertising, i.e. TV, billboards, and print, radio is on the less expensive side and to this end could be a benefit to a small business trying to generate greater exposure in a local market.

Keep in mind that when it comes to the cost of radio advertising, we're dealing largely with listener size; in other words, the larger the market, the more the ad will likely cost. You can figure an average of anywhere between $300 per week up to $5k per week depending on the market, length of the spot, and the actual station that you are advertising on. The time of day that the spot plays can also affect how much your radio ad could cost. An ad, for instance, run during the rush hour period will cost more than one run during an "off" time of day. Because of course, during rush hour is when, theoretically, people are in their cars listening to the radio as they drive home from work.

When you go to buy radio advertising for your business, you will most likely have a choice between a 15, 30, or 60-second spot. You want to create an ad and edit it down to one of the above lengths. If you can produce your radio ad, this will save you money as having the station produce the spot can get costly.

The next step is to choose the appropriate station for your radio ad. Purchasing the airtime during which your ad will air is a relatively quick and easy process. Again, you want to ensure that the station you choose and come to work with is the right one for your ad; in other words, it needs to appeal to your specific audience. This will require some research on your end. Listen to the various stations dominant in your market. See what types of ads are already being played on them. Check out data on the listeners for each of the stations you're considering.

Once you've chosen a station or possibly two, depending on budget, you also want to narrow down the time of day during which you'd like to have your ad played. Air time slots are incredibly important. Yes, the budget will play into what you can afford by way of time slot, but you do want to try and maximize exposure for your radio ad as much as you possibly can.

Optimal Radio Advertising Time Slots

As noted, rush hour is going to be among the more expensive time slots as this is when the largest number of listeners are usually tuned in. That said, perhaps for your specific niche/brand, there is a better time slot during which to run your radio ad. While time slots for radio advertising can vary from station to station, the most common slots are as follows:

  • Morning rush hour: 6 am to 10 am
  • Evening rush hour: 3 pm to 7 pm
  • Evening: 7 pm to 12 am
  • Late night: 12 am to 6 am

In trying to navigate the cost of radio advertising, you can get creative. For instance, you might do two versions of your ad. You could do a 15-second version to be run at more expensive times and a sixty-second one that you can run when the ad spots cost less. Whichever station you choose to work with, you can have them track the analytics (most will do this anyway/); this way you can see how well the spots are doing and consequently see if they require tweaking.

Choosing a Radio Station

Certain stations, depending on the genre of music they play or the type of talk radio they represent, are going to attract certain audiences. As a business owner, you are probably aware of what your core demographic is. You've done the research and tracked the data. You know to whom you need to be directing your marketing efforts. Use this information in evaluating radio stations. Think about your customers' interests, age range, likes/dislikes, income levels, you name it. The more you can take into account, the better your radio advertising efforts will be. The clearer picture you can paint of your ideal customer, the better idea of what type of station you should be advertising.

Creating Your Radio Ad

There is going to be a cost associated with making the actual spot. You can expect that this will range anywhere from $400 to $1000 or more, depending on how elaborate your production gets. Again, there is the option of letting the station create the ad for you, but this gives you less control and can end up costing more than what you could likely do on your own. You might also hire a professional radio ad production company, but this is probably going to be your most expensive option. However, the results will generally be of high quality.

If you do decide to make the radio ad on your own, keep in mind that you are responsible for all facets of that ad. From scripting to recording and editing, the ad is in your hands and the quality is going to be a direct result of how much time and effort you put into production. As far as the voice for your ad, if you are not confident in your on-air voice, you could hire a freelance voice actor for recording purposes. The parts of radio ad production include:

  • Scriptwriting
  • Selecting a voice artist
  • Choosing music if applicable
  • Add any sound effects
  • Record/produce the spot
  • Edit your ad down to the correct size

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