Some Numbers On Radio’s Auto Ads


(By Bob McCurdy) Too often, when it comes to radio research, the latest and greatest study becomes the topic du jour, gets a lot of focus and attention for about a week, and then is quickly relegated to the dustbin of research past.

While there have been a number of studies of late that deserve our continued attention, there were a handful of them that focused on the automotive vertical that were particularly impressive.

The Currents:

The Southern California Broadcasters Association and Nielsen published a study titled The Value of Southern California Radio to the Auto Industry which surveyed 900 radio listeners in Los Angeles and San Diego. The radio campaigns evaluated aired June 29- August 9, 2018.

The study included an “auto intenders” group — defined as radio listeners who plan to buy an automobile in the next 12 months. Here are some of the results:

  • Auto Intenders who listened to campaign radio stations had a +47% higher favorability of the dealers than those unexposed.
  • Auto Intenders exposed to dealer radio ads were +64% more likely to recommend the dealership than those unexposed.
  • Auto intenders exposed to dealer ads were +82% more likely to consider a dealership than those unexposed.
  • Auto intenders who recalled hearing the dealer ad on the radio were 7x more likely to visit the dealer than those unexposed.

A recent Dial Report study by Nextradio focused on auto dealer summer clearance sales in New York and L.A. supports the finding above. One key takeaway was:

  • A lift in dealership visits 40% higher among listeners exposed to the radio campaigns compared to those who were not.

Another study titled Radio Drives Store Traffic, conducted by the RAB and the Dial Report across the top 100 U.S. markets, reinforced radio’s ability to generate foot traffic, concluding:

  • For the two auto dealerships involved, store traffic increased +18% and +45% respectively.

The Recurrents:

In May 2018, Cumulus, Westwood One, and Veritonic conducted a study that focused on the “disclaimer” issue.

How many times have we heard from auto dealerships that the disclaimer blunts commercial impact? This study concluded that disclaimer speed did not negatively impact creative, asserting that a “best practice” would be to speed them up.

The study also discovered that purchase intent among immediate auto intenders increases dramatically (2x) after hearing the ads and found that female voices in the ads performed very well, which could be in part be due to “contrast,” as few automotive commercials utilize female voice talent.

In January, there was additional insight coming from the RAB’s 2017 Radio Drives Search study which  detailed how a digital marketing agency analyzed the site traffic of an auto dealer, finding that radio grew dealer website traffic +18% (supports Analytic Owl data).

The Solid Gold:

A Nielsen study funded by the Utah Broadcasters Association (radio and TV) in 2016 focused on a six-week Ken Garff Automotive radio and TV campaign. When respondents were asked:

  • “If the points made in the ad were relevant to you?” radio was determined to be 90% as effective as TV.
  • “If the points made in the ad were believable?” radio was determined to be more effective than TV.
  • “If the commercial contained new information about Ken Garff Auto,” radio was determined to be about as effective as effective as TV.
  • “Did the commercial make me think Ken Garff Auto is really different from other automotive dealerships?” radio was determined to be about as effective as TV.
  • The study’s final finding was no surprise, concluding that radio and TV together work best, increasing purchase consideration +22% when exposed to both a TV and radio ad versus those exposed to one or the other.

Note, the above comparison was about impact and did not take into consideration radio’s pricing advantage.

Keep these automotive studies front and center when meeting with your dealerships. Collectively they tell a story that needs to be told. And let’s make a commitment to avoid letting powerful research disappear into the dustbin of research past.

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



  1. Anytime Bob provides significant and relevant information, I have moments where I can almost get re-invigorated about radio’s prospects.
    Doubly so when I realize that the research is based on the maudlin and shoddy creative that is still being supplied by local stations – almost without exception.
    The last thing I want to hear is Bob’s comment to radio: “Did you ever think of applying what I have been providing all along?”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here