Radio Vs. The Rest: How It Stacks Up


In the dark. It’s not a good place for any of us to be when it comes to understanding radio’s impact, role, and value it can bring to a media plan. With Nielsen’s Commspoint, we can avoid the dark and shed light on exactly how radio stacks up against 70 other media options available to advertisers.

Last week, I worked with an agency that was interested in understanding how various media channels performed against their client’s media objectives. The advertiser was targeting 18-49 adults who frequented quick-service restaurants (QSR) across several markets in a single state.

The media objectives were to “build reach quickly” (get the word out), “control messaging by time of day and day of week” (breakfast and lunch specials), “generate heavy frequency” (share of voice), “target by MSA” (specific test markets), while enabling consumers to “visualize the product” (looks delicious).

It was also critical to communicate that the advertised item was a “good-tasting, high-quality” product with the ultimate media goal being to generate “awareness” and ultimately “trial.”

Take a few minutes to peruse the chart below and check out how the various media channels performed against the media tasks and tactics referenced above. Also take note as to how AM/FM radio performed against various digital and mobile media options.

To quickly refresh, Commspoint results are derived from an in-depth U.S. consumer survey that quantifies each media channel’s suitability to deliver against certain media tasks and a media expert panel that quantifies each media channel’s ability to execute against various media tactics. This tool is the backbone for the vast majority of channel planning done in the ad industry.

A few quick observations:

– AM/FM radio ranked #2 out of 71 media channels evaluated, and radio’s overall score was 83% of TV’s (62.6/75.8). Note, this doesn’t take into consideration each medium’s “pricing” but does take into consideration each medium’s reach potential. With “pricing” factored in, the gap between radio and TV would likely be even smaller.

– Radio contests/promotion, a channel which is often requested by agencies and clients in RFPs as added value, ranked as the 5th most effective channel in this analysis.

– AM/FM radio’s overall impact was 37% greater than digital online audio (Pandora, Spotify).

– AM/FM radio’s overall impact was 18% greater than YouTube desktop and mobile.

– AM/FM radio’s overall impact was 26% greater than Facebook mobile or desktop ads.

– AM/FM radio’s overall impact was 7% greater than mobile video.

Note bad for a medium that’s been around for a century.

The media channels highlighted in yellow are audio channels we offer. Those highlighted in blue are media channels that we can mobilize for any advertiser interested in a cross-platform campaign. It’s important that we effectively highlight more than our on-air assets, as we can provide advertisers with sampling opportunities, mobile advertising, event involvement, e-blasts, professional recommendations in the form of DJ endorsements, mobile texts, and participation in experiential events, all of which can enhance any marketing effort.


Keep in mind that each Commspoint analysis is unique as it is based on the designated target as well as the respective weighting assigned to the various tasks and tactics.

We have done dozens of similar analyses involving automotive, retail, and other categories, and in just about every instance, where the ultimate goal is “awareness,” “consideration,” or “trial,” AM/FM radio shines. And while some of the new media perform quite well, AM/FM radio’s star, more often than not, shines brighter.

The media landscape is in constant flux, requiring all of us in advertising, both on the sales and buying/planning side, to re-evaluate what we “think” we “know.” Commspoint can help with this effort.

Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Bob’s excitement over radio’s rank down the list, completely surrounded by dozens of on-line ways to advertise reminds me of when the RAB about 25 years ago suggested that we radio people tout the RAB research that “only” 75% of people read the Sunday paper.
    I didn’t use that research either.

  2. Assimilating more and better information might be worthwhile for anybody in business – including radio sales.
    That is, unless: “We’ve known each other for years. So, let’s get a campaign on the air.” is enough to maintain some momentum-of-a-kind.
    Sure, that works too. but it still don’t move the chains.

  3. Robinson,

    If you aren’t employed in radio sales, how do you know what’s a good thing for a salesperson to do? If plopping a chart full of numbers in front of prospects showing that radio exists was the answer, we could have the bookkeeper make the pitches.

  4. What Bob is suggesting is that local radio sales staff are better served if they assimilate this information, commit it to memory and aggressively apply it on the street.
    The ad agency producers out of Toronto (and elsewhere in Canada and in the U.S.A.) for whom I have worked over the last 10 years, and before, have shown no inclination to get involved to the degree where radio is shown to be such a surprisingly powerful ad medium.
    To the contrary, radio has always been considered as a tag-on – after the TV and online buys and production invoices have been submitted.
    For the next while, until applying “research” is no longer considered akin to petting a pit viper, radio reps may be having some difficulty in introducing even a little more corroborating evidence.
    Too bad, too, as this is good stuff.


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