The Numbers Don’t Lie


(By Bob McCurdy) We have long known that radio does a terrific job of getting listeners to act on the commercial messaging they have heard on-air. Nielsen has empirically quantified these listener actions, concluding that, on average, radio delivers a $10 return for every $1 invested. That’s a pretty good ROAS.

At the recent Radio Show, a study was unveiled that again reinforces and quantifies radio’s ability to get listeners to take action.

It has long been said that “offline” sets the table for “online,” and we saw another example of just how true that statement is when Jim Spaeth and Alice Sylvester of Sequent & Partners and Philippe Generali, CEO of Media Monitors, presented their findings.

The study was conducted June-July of this year and involved the top 31 PPM markets and analyzed 250,437 commercial instances from the jewelry, wireless communications, automotive, e-commerce, insurance, and auto aftermarket category verticals.

Google trend data, along with Media Monitors data, served to quantify actual minute-by-minute search volume for specific keywords across these markets. Every advertiser analyzed generated incremental search due to radio advertising. This fact in and of itself was not surprising, but some of the search lift generated by radio was quite extraordinary:
Jewelry: +370%
Insurance Company #2: +73%
Retailer #2: +65%
Retailer #1: +31%%
Insurance Company #1: +26%
Wireless Communications Company: +18%
E-commerce Company: +9%
Automotive OEM: +7%

Not surprisingly, the study also found that creative plays a big role in generating search, with ads in the top two performing quintiles out-performing the +29% average by more than 2x and 7x respectively.

And as would be expected, “price promotions” and “sales events” drove considerable incremental search but so did localization/calling out specific locations. The importance of localization also came to light in studies conducted by Katz/Ipsos in 2012 and 2015. Consumers clearly respond more favorably to messaging from advertisers who have made the effort to localize commercials, not airing one creative execution across multiple markets.

Another key fact of note was that the authors were able to tease out incremental radio and TV search impact for one advertiser in the study, an insurance company, determining that radio easily out-performed TV (+73% for radio vs +16% for TV), concluding that buck-for-buck radio drove +228% more incremental search than TV.

There have been other studies that support radio’s search impact over the years.

Earlier this year Westwood One published the results of a study conducted for a major motorcycle manufacturer demonstrating that those exposed to the advertiser’s commercial expressed a +33% increase in the likelihood of visiting the manufacturer’s website.

In 2013, Arbitron conducted a study titled “Project Rushmore” on behalf of the OAAA (Outdoor Advertising Association of America) and found that, dollar-for-dollar, radio stimulated 3x more search activity than TV and almost 2x that of newspapers/magazines.

Katz/Ipsos also found the same phenomenon in the research conducted for Macy’s, GEICO, Kohl’s, Toyota, Allstate, Staples, Burger King, Cracker Barrel, and others. After exposure to a radio commercial, respondents were asked if they agreed with the statement, “The radio ad made me want to search for more information about the product,” with 51%, on average, responding positively.

In 2011, Google/Ipsos conducted a study titled “The Mobile Movement Study,” finding that radio was the equal of TV in generating search (cost was not factored in) and greater than newspapers/magazines.

Finally, guess who said this way back in 2006: “Radio promotes online conversion such as search and online purchases.” Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Do radio listeners not only hear but act upon radio commercials? Evidently so, as you can’t “search” for what you have not heard.

We met with a number of cutting-edge companies at the NAB that are in the process of providing the radio industry with unprecedented performance data that will enable us to go toe-to-toe with any of the digital companies, audio or otherwise.

It is an extremely exciting time to be in radio and the best is yet to come.

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


  1. Bob, thank-you – we constantly need this type of validation in our daily battle to help advertisers grow their business.

    The best metrics, the best ratings, the best numbers that we can give national and local advertisers are 52 weeks of documented, measurable, attributable-to-radio sales results they can measure to the penny.

    If one person can help advertisers generate millions, our industry can generate billions.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here