Customer Experience

How to create a hit radio advertisement

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

A captive (car bound) audience and a reach of millions across many demographics – but is radio in reach of a small business budget?

Radio as an advertising medium will allow you to reach a wider audience than most would expect, says Sue Hetherington, media adviser at Radio Results:

“Radio advertising has a reach of around 80% of the Australian population, and Aussies spend an average of two hours and 28 minutes per day listening to the radio.”  

But before we go any further, let’s look at the questions everyone wants answered:

radio with music notes floating out of it

How much does it cost?

Hetherington says a 30 second pre-recorded commercial can range from $400 to $900 depending on which station and the time of day or program the commercial appears in. 

“Radio campaigns work with frequency of the message directed to your target market with the right message. Most radio stations will recommend starting with a least 30 to 40 commercials to get the required frequency for a response. This figure will vary depending on the adverting strategy,” Hetherington explains.

She says costs for the production of the commercial will also vary from $200 - $650 for studio hire, script writing, professional voiceover (one voice) and production. Getting your commercial produced at a creative agency will usually cost more.

Why radio?

Research suggests commercial radio reaches over 55.5% of buyers during weekday mornings and afternoons, through supermarkets, grocery, and coffee shops. 

“Commuters account for a sizable chunk of radio listeners, with breakfast drive shows accounting for the majority of this audience - approximately 7.5 million people in metropolitan areas,” says Hetherington.

For Gold Coast Mazda, radio advertising proved a successful medium for attracting additional customers. Their one-month direct response radio campaign with 90.9 Sea FM, Gold Coast involved a contest calling on listeners to guess the five mystery celebrities driving the new Mazda 2.

Additional clue incentives were on offer for listeners taking their car in to be serviced or fronting up for a test drive, with the ultimate prize being a new Mazda 2. Multimedia support included website clues on both station and client websites and social media pages. In terms of results, the campaign saw 14 additional Mazda sales during the promotion, a 60% increase in service bookings.

How to produce your radio ad

Going with an agency
The risks you take doing it alone are mostly around choosing the radio station that will best reach your target market. An agent can research data independently and advise you of the right radio station to reach your target market and mostly likely produce the best return on your investment.

“The number one radio station doesn’t necessarily reach your target market. I’ve often come across emotional decisions being made without correct research ending in failed campaigns,” says Hetherington. 

An accredited agency will organise everything for you, including buying the space, managing the account, and creating your commercial. Unless you have a larger advertising budget, SMEs don’t generally use accredited agencies as they tend to deal mostly with larger corporate accounts. 

“SMEs tend to prefer working directly with the radio station direct or source the services of an agent. An agent’s services include researching the best media options, buying the airtime, managing the account and organising the commercial,” Hetherington says.  An agent is independent and has the expertise to advise the client on the campaign most likely to produce the best results for them.

On your own
If you wish to create your commercial independently, then smaller creative agencies are an option. 

“A creative agency generally doesn’t get involved with the buying of the space or airtime but often can be linked to an accredited agency or agent to whom they will refer you,” says Hetherington.

If you do decide to DIY as much as possible, Nimic Productions has some great tips for creating a good script (spoiler: keeping it simple and offering a benefit to customers are key), and you can find some great general advice about getting your ad underway at Commercial Radio Australia, including a full list of stations by local area for those that would like to talk directly to stations about their processes and costs.

Things to remember

Hetherington says you need to understand your target market (age, gender, income, even suburb) to create the right message and to help choose the right station and programme.

Commercial Radio Australia suggests you also give the following factors thought when planning your radio campaign:

  1. What style of campaign will best get your message across? You can go with a “spot schedule” for total control over the message, and no loss of focus on key message. Another option is promotional support or sponsorship, which offers added campaign effectiveness, interest and frequency. The third option is live reads, which offer additional station personality credibility through endorsement.
  2. How frequently do you need your message to run? Does your target audience need to hear the campaign several or many times for the message to register and for action to be taken?
  3. Choose your station carefully - consider whether you want high or lower listener involvement (music vs. talk) depending on your message. A good rule of thumb is to choose stations with similar advertising content.
  4. Select an appropriate number of stations to maximise reach of target audience, choosing the most cost effective stations within budget to generate maximum reach.
  5. Consider the cost efficiency of programmes versus the audience it delivers – is the incremental audience worth the extra investment?
  • What style of campaign will best get your message across? You can go with a “spot schedule” for total control over the message, and no loss of focus on key message. Another option is promotional support or sponsorship, which offers added campaign effectiveness, interest and frequency. The third option is live reads, which offer additional station personality credibility through endorsement.
  • How frequently do you need your message to run? Does your target audience need to hear the campaign several or many times for the message to register and for action to be taken?
  • Choose your station carefully - consider whether you want high or lower listener involvement (music vs. talk) depending on your message. A good rule of thumb is to choose stations with similar advertising content.
  • Select an appropriate number of stations to maximise reach of target audience, choosing the most cost effective stations within budget to generate maximum reach.
  • Consider the cost efficiency of programmes versus the audience it delivers – is the incremental audience worth the extra investment?

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