(By Charlie Sislen) It is to an advertiser’s advantage to treat all advertising outlets the same. The more they can homogenize advertising outlets, the more they can treat advertising as a commodity and drive down prices. Merriam-Webster defines a commodity as “a good or service whose wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors (such as brand name) other than price.”
In other words, pork bellies (a common commodity) are all the same. Gold, while a very nice commodity, is all the same. The only variable to financial markets for these and many other commodities is price. The seller who offers the lowest price will make the sale.
Advertising is not a commodity and cannot be successfully sold that way. It is imperative that the radio industry explain this to potential advertisers on two fronts.
Not All Advertising Outlets Are Created Equal
Radio commercials (still the core revenue for just about all radio stations) are different to other advertising options. The power of an audio message, as opposed to a visual message, cannot be overstated. Typically, a person’s ears can only focus on a single audio message at a time, while their eyes can be bombarded with numerous visual messages at the same time. Not all of these visual messages may be commercials, but they all demand, and therefore attract, the consumer’s attention. With a radio commercial, advertisers can be confident that their target consumer is focused only on their message.
This is just one of many ways to differentiate radio from other advertising outlets.
Every Radio Station Delivers A Different Consumer Group
Once you have differentiated radio from other advertising options, the next step is differentiating your station from the others in your market. Why is your station particularly suitable for this particular advertiser? As one who has a background in radio research, I lean on Nielsen Audio and qualitative data. Just about every radio station can find a unique story and frame it as a benefit to the advertiser. With Nielsen Audio data, this can include, but is not limited to:
– Geographic appeal
– Ethnic appeal
– Audience loyalty (I wrote about this at length a short while back – here, here, and here)
– Rank (yes, rank is still important).
The options to prove that your station delivers the right consumer group with qualitative data (Scarborough, The Media Audit, etc.) are almost limitless:
– Do your listeners or your format consume the advertiser’s product?
– Do your listeners or your format consume the advertiser’s competitor’s product?
– Does the lifestyle of your listeners or your format match the lifestyle of the advertiser’s target consumer?
Note that you should not only look at how your station performs, but also how your format performs.
However, this differentiation is not limited to just research. How is your station different in a way that is beneficial to a particular advertiser? Like qualitative data, these options are numerous, but could include:
– Promotions that appeal to this advertiser’s clients
– Special community service events
– On-air events that are focused on the advertiser’s clients.
Regardless of whether you choose Nielsen Audio data, qualitative data, or non-research-based strategies, the secret is differentiation. Give the potential advertiser a beneficial reason why radio and your station are different from other advertising options. Only then will you get the premium rate that you deserve.
Charlie Sislen is a partner at Research Director, Inc. He can be reached at 410-956-0363 or by e-mail at [email protected]. This essay is part of a series titled “Growing the Radio Pie.” To view past articles, visit The Ratings Experts at Research Director, Inc. online here.