The Future of Radio Is Synergy


(By Bob McCurdy) Our digital offerings are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the more effective we are in communicating the immense synergy that exists between on-air and online, the more prosperous our, and our clients’, future will be. What follows recaps various research findings that highlight this synergy.

Too often, we shy away from discussing/presenting research that might have been conducted several years back. We absolutely should not. The passage of time doesn’t necessarily negate a study’s relevance, so long as consumer behavior fundamentals that were at play during the study are at play today. This is surely the case with the studies referenced below as they are measuring behaviors that are much more intrinsic and constitutional than measuring monthly radio ratings. It’s not unusual for even the Advertising Research Foundation to reference studies in their various white papers that go back several years.

Today’s media landscape is fragmented to the point where no single media option can reach all prospects, as every medium has coverage gaps. This will likely not change, and it’s why the complementary one-two punch of radio and online is so effective.

Online and on-air offer the user vastly different experiences. Online operates more within people’s immediate social network, allowing users to stay in touch with friends, family, and highly defined communities (My World). Radio connects people with their wider network e.g. their local community and the broader outside world (My Wider World). Radio also tends to be more of a “lean back” medium, meaning users tune to it to relax, whereas much Web usage tends to be more of a “lean forward,” task-focused experience.

Media mix-wise radio and online deliver multiple benefits:

– Reinforcing a commercial message to those who’ve been reached by the other medium, often referred to as “priming,” as the same number of exposures in multiple media are more effective than the same number of exposures in a single medium.

– Extending the total reach of a campaign by reaching lighter users of each, while delivering tremendous media value on their own.

Let’s now quantify the synergistic relationship that exists between radio and online that various studies have highlighted.

Can radio drive listeners online? Absolutely.

Jupiter Research has indicated that as much as two-thirds of online search queries are driven by offline advertising.

Research conducted by Ipsos/OTX for the Katz Radio Group analyzed 50+ radio commercials and found that there was a +51% greater likelihood to go online and search for information discussed in the commercial after exposure to radio commercials.

In 2013, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America found that radio advertising stimulated considerable online search and when we factored in pricing, radio generated 3x more search activity per ad dollar than TV, and twice as much as print.

In 2015, Nielsen conducted a study funded by the Katz Radio Group for American Family Insurance that found that those exposed to radio had a 300% better response to online ads, and 200% better response to mobile ads.

Cumulus Media/Westwood One and Ipsos partnered on another 2015 study that concluded that of the people who bought from Amazon on Amazon Prime Day, more were exposed to radio prior to purchase than any other medium.

American Express conducted a radio-effectiveness test in Q4 2013 showing a +23% lift in online registrations from radio commercials and a +38% jump in Web searches.

Research conducted by Ipsos via the Katz Radio Group found that the TeenDrive365 radio commercials were hitting their mark. After hearing the ads, 75% of parents polled said they wanted to visit Toyota’s safe driving portal to access resources to help them talk to their teens about safe driving.

And the most recent research just conducted by Nielsen found that people who were exposed to a radio ad three or more times had a higher likelihood of doing online research and taking action, when compared to those not exposed to any radio advertising. They were +20% more likely to visit the store, +75% more likely to visit the store’s website, +160% more likely to have clicked on an online ad for the store, +40% more likely to seek out more info on the product featured in the ad, 100% more likely to have purchased from the store, and 300% more likely to have ordered product from the store’s website.



The synergy between online and radio is also evident in the chart below:

The heavy radio listener spends 3x as much time with radio as they do with the Internet, while heavy Internet user spends 2x as much time with the Internet as they do with radio. They also complement each other in terms of overall qualitative profile.

It’s also clear from the Tampa example below, whose data mirrors other markets we’ve analyzed, that radio can reach the light online user, as one-third of the population goes online for less than 20 minutes/day while tuning to radio over 90 minutes daily:


GfK MRI data has consistently shown a similar story to the Tampa Scarborough data above.

USA TouchPoint 2016.1 data also confirms the synergy between on-air and online, highlighting that when radio is added to an Internet campaign, the combined daily reach increases +49%.

Now for a Golden Oldie. Guess who said this:

–         Radio promotes online conversion such as search and online purchases.

–         Radio advertising is a great complement to Internet campaigns.

–         Radio reaches your customers.

–         Radio increases the impact of your online campaigns.

None other than Google in 2006 when they were attempting to break into the radio ad sales business.

Like Frank Sinatra sings, “You can’t have one without the other” in the song “Love and Marriage.” In 2016, the same holds true for radio and online as it’s in our clients’ and our best interest to never pitch “one without the other.”


  1. Bob continues to make his regular plea for media-mix which has always been a tip-off that we hearing radio people who don’t believe in radio…in fact Bob says as much when he claims that no single media can get the job done anymore with all the media choices out there.
    Only now, the pitch is for using on-line ads to compliment radio ads, or vice-versa. It used to be use newspaper ads and buttress them with radio ads. The newspaper industry heartily agreed with that radio pitch-it made them rich. Didn’t do much for radio, however.
    When merchants hear a radio sales rep advocating using medium other than radio, they wonder why this is happening. Can’t radio alone get the job done? Not according to Bob McCurdy.
    Not much new under the sun.


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