11 Important Tips About Radio Advertising

1. The place of radio in the campaign plan

One day a well-known conductor of radio orchestras was rehearsing his men in a studio. Suddenly he rapped for silence, stopped the rehearsal, and pointing his baton at a cellist who was not following the printed score, exclaimed, “Don’t compose!” That is sound advice, also, for anyone taking up radio advertising for the first time. Because this medium, the first new one in many years, is the youngest of the lot, we do not know as much about it as we do about the others. That is true enough, yet radio is being used by a multitude of advertisers practically twelve hours out of every twenty-four, and their experiences and findings are being passed along to the rest of us. The time has passed when radio need be used in the haphazard, hit-or-miss manner of its early days.

In 1923, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company created this new advertising medium by offering advertisers the privilege of broadcasting for ten minutes over its radio station, WEAF, in New York City. The cost was $100.

That started it. In 1929, one hundred and fifty advertisers used the national radio “net-works” or systems, and, in addition, several thousands of “lo cal” broadcasts were on the air. The revenue was $19,000,000 to the “networks,” and several millions more to the local stations.

All this money spent by advertisers to entertain the American public! It was Dr. Walter Damrosch who explained, in opening a well-known series of radio programs, that it is most appropriate for great business institutions to sponsor radio programs. He pointed out that, in medieval days, the impecunious musician and composer found shelter and sustenance at the courts of the lordly princes. In return for this generous patronage, many of the early masterpieces of music were composed. Today, many of our modern musicians, writers, and actors are buying country homes and sending their children to college with the money earned h furnishing the entertainment background for this new form of spoken advertising—advertising that reaches the mind through the ear instead of the eye.

Since radio advertising is an accepted medium, the pertinent questions for our consideration are, who should use it, how should they use it, and when? One member of a large agency which has worked with radio almost from the beginning gives the following answer:

Except in rare cases, only those advertisers who are doing a good job in the more basic forms of advertising are ready to consider radio. Radio is a supplementary form of advertising. Some have used it successfully as a basic form, but not many. That is because radio does its best job when it has been asked to register a name, put over a simple idea or two, create interest in a new product, or arouse new interest in an old one with some news about it. Hard selling via radio is seldom consistently successful. Radio is purely a supplementary advertising medium and should be considered as such.

An advertiser whose product is of wide popular interest has a much greater chance of radio success than does the advertiser whose wares appeal only to a limited group. Radio is the least selective of all advertising media. That is why manufacturers of food products, clothing, automobiles, beauty products, gasoline, etc., have more success with radio than makers of fishing tackle, scientific books, engineering instruments, or parachutes. There is too much waste circulation to make radio profitable for the latter groups.

2. First steps in radio advertising

The establishment of a budget that does not cripple other basic forms of advertising that have proved successful in the past, and the selection of a network that parallels distribution, are the first steps in “going on the air.” Some advertisers have been known to turn to radio because someone furnished them with a good idea for a program. That is like a manufacturer who decides to advertise because he is shown a piece of copy and a layout that look interesting. No program idea, alone, should ever tempt an advertiser to use radio. His whole advertising and sales structure must be ready for it, and his radio program must be made to fit in its proper place in the complete picture.

If possible, the advertiser’s selling theme should carry a reflection in his broadcasting. The same people who prepare copy for other forms of advertising should have a hand in the preparation of scripts that are read by the announcer. It is often wise to have the program itself reflect, in a measure, the nature of the advertiser’s business and the policies which he wishes to emphasize or omit. In fact, his radio program should be conceived as thoughtfully, be pre pared as expertly, and merchandised as thoroughly, as any other advertising effort.

To summarize, broadcast advertising should win for the product a good measure of that invaluable commodity known as “consumer acceptance.” Radio should stimulate goodwill for such a product, arouse new interest in it. promote dealer cooperation, and help insure a cordial reception for salesmen. It should increase the value of publication advertising by drawing friendly attention to it. It should bolster the morale of a manufacturer’s personnel be cause it is still new and exciting.

3. Approximate circulation of a broadcast advertisement

An advertising broadcaster should secure as definite an idea as possible of the size of his audience. Let us note some factors which enter into this computation.

It is claimed that there are over twelve million radio receiving sets in the United States but, it is better, for conservative estimating, to put the figure at nine million sets, ready and capable of good reception. The average owner of a radio set, it is estimated, uses it 2½ hours a day, or a total of 850 hours a year, although this number has been considered by some as being too conservative. One survey indicated that there are 4.4 listeners to a set, but it is felt that any figure in excess of three listeners to a set is high. The day has passed when the whole family, and its non-set-owning relatives and neighbors, gathered about the radio. Assuming 9,000,000 active receiving sets as a basis, and three listeners to a set, we get a gross total audience of 27,000,000 persons.

The field of radio is really dominated by a small number of stations. For example, in the New York area, there are thirty-four stations selling time, yet four large stations control 99% of the attention.

Interference is a factor that reduces the effective ness of a station. The Federal Radio Commission has done a great deal to clear up the channels. Since its appointment, the number of stations operating simultaneously on the air, during the night hours, has been reduced from 750 to 165.

The range of some radio stations and the size of the audience are sometimes exaggerated. Occasionally, a small station claims a daylight range of 500 miles, and national coverage during the evening hours. There are, of course, the “freaks” in broad-casting. Sometimes a low-powered station is picked up clear across the continent or in a foreign country, but this is due to temporary conditions in the ether.

At one time, the effective range of a station was thought to be circular in shape. Enough information is now available to prove that the range is very irregular. It often extends out in lanes, some of which are many times longer than others. “Fan” mail from listeners furnishes the evidence for this statement.

Power is also a guide to range. Stations vary in power from 5 watts to 50,000 watts. Only 63 of the 626 licensed broadcasting stations (about 10%) use 5,000 watts or more. Edgar Felix, an authority on radio broadcasting. calculates that the 5-watt station has a minimum effective range of one mile, over urban areas, with a normal effective range of three miles; a minimum effective range, in rural areas, of five miles, with a normal effective range (without competition from nearer stations) of ten miles. The 50,000-watt station increases these ranges to 90 miles, 135 miles, 225 miles, and 360 miles, respectively.

Other factors, of even greater importance than power, must be considered when ascertaining the size of the audience of any station, including its popularity, the attractiveness of its programs, blind spots, fading, efficiency of transmitters, and absorption. Static and bad weather conditions greatly cut into the size of audiences, so that the broadcaster, depending on clear weather, frequently finds his program carrying only to city and suburbs. An average of good and bad conditions is needed for circulation estimates.

4. When do people listen-in?

The scheduling of time is one of the broadcaster’s greatest problems. Surveys relative to seasonal differences have not been extensive enough to give even approximate figures. There is less advertising broadcasting in summer than in winter, and it is quite possible that the summer audience is slightly decreased, although conclusive evidence on this point is lacking.

Between the hours of eight and ten in the evening, the larger proportion of the audience listens in. Mid- evening programs in an Eastern studio are after noon programs on the Pacific Coast, particularly with daylight-saving time. It is obvious that few country-wide “hook-ups” can achieve the maximum circulation.

Farmers listen in during the day in fairly large numbers, especially between noon and two in the afternoon, but are not at their sets late in the evening. Very few farm families listen to the radio before noon, and not much interest exists in the afternoon. The largest farm audience is on the air at 8:30 p.m. Housewives prefer the hours from 10 to 11 a.m., and from 1 to 4 p.m., to listen to day time programs. The early morning hours have been used with great success in connection with setting-up exercises. Department stores have made a paying feature of broadcasting their news about special sales at 9 a.m.

5. Flexibility of broadcasting advertising

Broad cast advertising is a medium of unusual flexibility with respect to physical coverage, control of the time element, and selection of the audience. It is possible to broadcast a program for the North Eastern industrial states alone, or for the Middle West and South alone, or for the Pacific Coast alone. The advertiser can thus reach any particular section of the country desired.

Broadcasting makes it possible to advertise at the most auspicious time and under the most auspicious conditions. For example, when the housewife is in her kitchen, active in her household tasks, the radio brings to her attention a cake flour, or a laundry soap; – or a labor-saving device. The sales message could not come at a more opportune time.

Broadcast advertising provides both a class and a mass medium, depending on the time of day it is used. Many people regard broadcasting as a living physical culture magazine. The busy housewife regards it as an oral housekeeping magazine. During his mid-day rest period, the farmer relaxes and hears the crop reports. On week-day afternoons the radio again becomes a woman’s magazine, depicting fashion. In the late afternoon, when the children come home from school, broadcasting has its juvenile audience, which stays with it until early evening. Then follows the true “family” audience. Sunday afternoon, except in the hot summer months, is representative of the entire family group.

Independent of the time element, it is possible to select an audience, within certain broad limits, by a skillful choice of programs.

6. Local and national broadcasting

Department stores and other enterprises, the appeal of whose service is purely local, find that a program of broadcast advertising, which utilizes the local station, is a logical and effective method of advertising.

‘When a product or service becomes national or semi-national in its distribution, a different problem arises. The purchase of the time of several stations necessitates several groups of entertainers. “Net work” broadcasting has become an opportune factor in relieving national broadcasting of this complication. The “networks” are groups of individual stations operating together, though not under centralized ownership and executive management. The program is enacted or played by artists and musicians in a central studio, and is transmitted by telephone wires to broadcasting stations in various parts of the country.

One method of surmounting the difficulties of national broadcast advertising is to make phonograph records of a broadcast advertising program, and send copies of the record to broadcasting stations in the territories to be reached. The possible advantages of this new form are receiving serious attention.

7. Rates

The radio-advertising rate book gives data on rates, “coverage,” and listener appeal of the two leading broadcasting chains, and of some 300 of tile broadcasting stations. The advertising rate of the National Broadcasting Company’s “Red” net work, comprising 21 basic stations, is $4,890 an hour during the evening hours. The rate of the entire “Red” network on a nation-wide service basis, covering 49 cities, is $10,560 an hour. The “Blue” basic network of the National Broadcasting Company, with 13 stations, sells time for $3,540 an hour, and the entire “Blue” on a nation-wide basis, covering 41 cities, charges $9,210 an hour.

The rate of the Columbia Broadcasting system is $4,715 an hour, for a network covering 20 cities. Use of its coast-to-coast network of 49 stations, covering 62 cities, is available for $13,130 an hour. Discounts for sustained contracts are given by both these broadcasting systems. The highest advertising rate for an independent station is charged by Station WLW, of Cincinnati, at $1,080 an hour.

These rates do not include talent, which may vary in cost from nothing to several 100% of the rate. Cost of talent is based on “appearance” rather than on time. It is reported that Paul White man receives $5,000 for an appearance of his dance orchestra. A well-known orchestra can be obtained for from $24 to $30 a man, which includes necessary rehearsals. Artists of national reputation, such as Will Rogers and Al Jolson, demand as much as $10,000 for one appearance, while stage celebrities of minor reputation may be had for as low as $250. Operatic stars receive from $750 to $6,000 per appearance.

While the normal percentage of money spent in radio advertising to total advertising has been estimated at about 3%, it has also been estimated that of those advertisers who use radio about 20% of their total appropriation is devoted to this form of advertising, with individual cases ranging all the way from 1-60%.

8. Who should direct the radio campaign?

Once the budget is set, the network chosen, and the program idea approved, the individual programs and all relating detail should be handled entirely by men and women who know how to direct them because they have had actual experience with them. Radio campaigns may be prepared and executed by a department of the advertising company, by a service bureau, by a broadcasting station, or by an advertising agency.

The company department, if it should be operating unaided, is unlikely to have expert help. It may lack sense of showmanship and technique, and may not know how to hire talent. In short, it may lack result-getting experience.

The service bureau may place too much emphasis on hiring talent. It may be ignorant of advertising problems. The broadcasting station having a program or continuity department, or a concert bureau, is admirably equipped to build a program, but it may lack understanding of the specific advertising problem, nor can it he expected to make detailed studies of specific advertising needs.

At the present time, an experienced advertising agency is less likely to suffer from any of these defects. It knows the ropes of broadcasting, under stands advertising and its client’s particular problems, and knows how to tie in the broadcasting with the rest of the sales and advertising plan. Since it may be indifferent as to whether its client’s appropriation be spent in radio or in other media, it has no inclination toward special pleading. It may even question the advisability of broadcasting. The advertising agency, therefore, providing it is equipped with a good radio bureau, as several of the larger ones now are, is generally considered to be best fitted to handle the advertiser’s radio program.

The actual services of the advertising agency, the concert or service bureau, or the broadcasting station, are much the same, regardless of which agency is chosen to conduct the radio campaign. Keeping in constant touch with the advertiser, they prepare the announcer’s script, hire the talent, rehearse the show, and put it on the air. They arrange for networks, deal with individual stations, watch rates and handle mail, check coverage and size of audiences, handle publicity releases to the newspapers, check billings, and see to it that the program is merchandised to the trade.

9. Making the program

In radio, the point of contact with the prospect is not a picture or a catch-line, but the performance itself. The first consideration is to please the particular audience which the advertiser seeks to reach. Careful studies of the preferences of listeners-at-large have developed conclusions as to the popular ranking of classical music, dramatics, travelogues, dance music, etc.

The second consideration is to fit the performance to the product being advertised—”snappy” dance music for ginger ale, dramatics for a fiction magazine, travel sketches for railroad transportation and gasoline, local history for a local distributor. Classical music is used to select high-income listeners; a report of a prize fight tends to select haberdashery prospects; business data tends to select investment prospects.

10. Results of advertising by radio

Barring exceptional instances of large direct sales made by broadcasting, the most self-evident check-ups on advertising by radio are “fan” mail and inquiries from listeners. “Fan” mail, or applause, may be a fair indication of approval of the performance, but its relation to advertising effectiveness is conjectural. Inquiries lured by gifts, prove little; unsolicited, they may have relation to sales; they bear no known relation to periodical advertising inquiries.

The field survey can reveal the significance of individual reactions. Broad comparisons of sales by periods, or by territories, are the most satisfactory measures of radio effectiveness.

The extent to which advertisers are satisfied with results is indicated by the extent to which they have tried radio and abandoned it, or tried radio and continued to use it. In this respect, radio seems to he on even terms with other media. Expressions of approval by advertisers are numerous, but not always accurate. The new medium has had to justify itself, and its users have apparently felt, in some instances, that they had to rationalize their use of it.

A questionnaire mailed to thirty-five prominent users of broadcast advertising brought twenty-one replies to the question, “Can you trace increased sales to radio advertising?” Sixteen answered, “yes”; two answered, “no”; three answered, “Don’t know.”

11. The future of advertising by radio

The rapidity of radio development implies rapid change. Exact knowledge of the medium is increasing. To the insider, innumerable current trends indicate the direction of many changes. Domestic broadcasting is now taken for granted. Foreign broadcasting has incalculable possibilities in store for foreign advertising and trade, and for foreign relations in general.

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