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Reach the Masses With Radio Advertising

In the car, at home, at the beach: Find customers wherever they are by advertising on the radio.

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Q: I read that in my county, some people listen to radio as much as five to seven hours a day. What's the best way to use radio to market my business?

A: If you're thinking about using radio advertising, you're in good company. Advertisers spent close to $20 billion on radio in 2000--and even during the 9/11 crisis last year, radio never fell victim to the slump experienced by print and other media. You can buy radio locally, regionally or nationally, depending on the audience you're trying to reach. And you can use radio quite effectively to target specific ethnic groups, select demographics (young men, age 18 to 34, for example), or people with interests in common, such as soccer fans.

The results you get from your radio campaign will depend on at least two factors: creating appealing and effective spots, and making an effective media buy. To accomplish both, stick to the following guidelines.

Hire Production Pros

Radio spot production is not a do-it-yourself job, so you'll need an agency or production company that has experience creating spots that motivate members of your target audience or expertise in marketing your type of product or service. Above all, the spots produced should be appropriate to the target audience and what's being sold.

Sixty-second spots are still the norm in radio, unlike TV, where :30s predominate. And whether you take a lighthearted or reverent tone, your spots must be evocative and engaging, using music, sound effects and dialogue to create "word pictures" that involve the listeners. If you're advertising in a small market or where the personality of the on-air talent on a particular station lends interest or credibility to your message, you may choose to use announcer-read spots and have the station do the copywriting for you.

How to Buy Time

Here are four steps to take when buying time for your radio campaign.

1. Identify a narrow demographic target audience and their important characteristics or habits. For example: women, 25 to 54, with children under age 6, who reside in a specific geographic market area.

2. Contact the stations you believe reach your target audience, and ask them to provide you with proposals that include a ratings breakdown for your target group and a signal coverage map.

3. Evaluate each station's proposal, looking for reach, frequency and cost per point. The "reach" is the number of individuals in your target group who will hear your marketing message. "Frequency" isn't the number of times that you run your spot; it's the number of times a member of your target audience will actually hear your message. And the "cost per rating point" (CPP) is the cost to reach 1 percent of your target audience population. Also, the bulk of your spots should run in dayparts that draw the largest percentage of your prospects, not run-of-station (ROS), which may include multiple, lower-cost spots that air in the middle of the night, when fewer of your prospects will be listening.

4. Select the best stations for your campaign, and negotiate your buys. Make frequency your top priority, and then include as much reach as you can afford. In other words, it takes multiple exposures for your message to be effective, so make sure a core prospect group will hear your spot multiple times, then buy as many additional prospect contacts as possible.

Tips for Getting Noticed

Consider buying sponsorships--such as news, weather or traffic--because you'll receive the first spot in the commercial break and often a five- to 10-second "billboard" to say something about your company. Participating in contests will also get you lots of on-air mentions. So contact each station's promotions director for upcoming events.

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