RULE THE AIRWAVES

Reach your customers with creative radio ads

Like last issue’s Benchmarks on direct mail, this month’s column surveys another advertising form that is a lot healthier than you might think: radio.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, audio might be worth even more. In our visually oriented world, radio can work magic by allowing people to imagine themselves — not a supermodel or celebrity — using a product. And as radio writer and producer Rod Schwartz wrote on his blog Rodspots, “Here’s the thing: The spoken word remains humankind’s primary form of communication.” When messages are delivered with text, whether in print or online, they’re “just an imitation of human speech,” he adds.

Terrestrial radio — as opposed to satellite or streaming services — has lost audience share to the Internet in recent years. But it remains effective, especially to reach people behind the wheel. That’s particularly true during morning and evening commuting “drive time” periods, though that’s when radio spots cost the most, too.

Recent research by Ipsos for iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) shows AM/FM radio listening still dominates in-car listening, with 84 percent calling traditional broadcast radio their primary platform. But people like choices: Respondents also use CDs, 64 percent; Sirius/XM, 22 percent; Pandora, 18 percent; iHeartRadio, 8 percent; HD Radio and Spotify, 7 percent each.

Radio is versatile, too. You can tailor your spots and target your media buys to reach the demographic you want, whether it’s senior citizens for a eye health seminar; parents for back-to-school eye exams; or sports fans who might be interested in Lasik. (If you listen to any sports on the radio at all, you’ve heard a gazillion laser surgery ads.)

Public radio sponsorships are another option: They’re not ads per se, but they can work very well to attract the sort of educated, higher-end clients you may want. And as the survey results show, satellite radio and Pandora are capturing more ears. So listen up and have a look at some creative ways ECPs are putting radio — in whatever form — to work for their businesses.


TOP OF MIND

4 Your Eyes Only, Seattle, WA

Public radio is the perfect way for Seattle, WA, boutique 4 Your Eyes Only to reach the people who seek the upscale eyewear it carries, says owner Judy Ayers. For one thing, KUOW — the NPR affiliate from the University of Washington — is the most popular station among people near the business’s neighborhood, with serious news coverage that’s in line with her customers’ values. For another, the simple, 20-second messages can easily be altered to highlight an upcoming event or new line. Ayers says she typically invests in KUOW’s “Top of Mind Awareness” sponsorship package, which guarantees 14 to 17 weekly spots during drive-time and popular weekend programming.


DRIVEN TO BUY

Europtics, Denver, CO

With Johann Strauss’s familiar Blue Danube Waltz playing in the background and a golden-voiced announcer intoning typical ad-speak about the largest selection and best-trained staff anywhere in Colorado, this spot touting Europtics sounds like a pretty typical radio ad. Then you hear the bit about a free Mercedes. Clever, funny, memorable ... and as creator Daniel Feldman of dba designs and communications says, one of the business’s most popular ads ever.


TELL A STORY

ClearView Eye Clinic, Moscow, ID

Rod Schwartz doesn’t use scripts with most of his clients. “Instead of writing words to put into people’s mouths, I have a conversation with them, uncover their stories, distill the salient portions into sound bites, and then weave them into a story,” he explains. The approach works especially well for Dr. David Leach of ClearView Eye Clinic. A recent spot showcases the story of a Life Flight helicopter pilot whose Lasik surgery helps him do his job with less eye fatigue and crystal-clear vision. The spots do well during morning news shows.


NOW HEAR THIS

Fishkind Bakewell Maltzman Eye Care and Surgery Center, Tucson, AZ

“The possibility of blindness is one of our greatest fears” is an opening line that gets attention, and practice administrator Bev M. King says Fishkind Bakewell Maltzman Eye Care and Surgery Center finds radio is always the top way people say they hear about the group’s annual senior eye health seminars. A local ad agency, Dark Horse Media, has helped the practice with its ads for 20 year. Says King: “We prefer to support local businesses whenever possible, and they know us and get us.”


TAKE NOTE

Family Eye Clinic, Pullman, WA

Memorable jingles have long been a part of radio advertising. Dr. Dan David knows this, so he had a jingle created for his radio ads, which air daily on two stations. The ads begin with David imparting some sort of interesting facts about eye health or eyewear, with music playing subtly under his voiceover. At the end, as David gives the practice website address, the instrumental volume gradually grows and singers deliver the simple, upbeat musical phrase: “Family Eye Clinic ... when you want to see the best.”

 

 


BACK TO SCHOOL

Eye Candy Kids, Delafield, WI

Paula Hornbeck has used radio as part of her marketing since opening Eye Candy, in Delafield, WI, so she turned to the medium when she launched her children’s eyewear shop last year, too. Media buyer Cynthia Qualich places the shops’ ads on traditional stations as well as on Pandora. “The difference with Pandora is that we target the audience by demographics, no matter what kind of music they are listening to,” Qualich says. “So format isn’t really a consideration when we buy Pandora; it’s more about reaching our target within their preferred programming, whatever it may be.”


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