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Radio most relevant, says study


TORONTO - A recently released, industry-sponsored study on the effectiveness of local media says that radio is more relevant to consumers than TV and newspapers

It's radio's ability to make personal connection that is its key advantage, meaning broadcasters and advertisers can better position themselves against competitors by creating radio advertising that takes advantage of the medium's unique ability to reach listeners on a personal and emotional level, says the research results announced this month by the Radio Ad Effectiveness Lab (RAEL).

"We've always known that radio's ability to connect with listeners was different from newspapers and television because of the personal relationship that people develop with their favorite on-air personalities and the way that formats target listener preferences," said John Harding, president of Canada's Radio Marketing Bureau, a founding partner of RAEL. "So, while TV tunes consumers into the world, radio tunes consumers into their world. The RAEL research not only proves this, but also shows radio advertising can make a real connection by effectively targeting the right creative."

The large-scale project conducted by market research company Wirthlin Worldwide, called "Personal Relevance, Personal Connections: How Radio Ads Affect Consumers", demonstrates how radio advertising affects consumers in ways that are different from television and newspapers.

RAEL is a consortium of the largest radio station ownership groups in North America, along with ratings service Arbitron and the U.S. Radio Advertising Bureau. The RMB is the only Canadian representation

Among the key highlights of the study, a two-phase survey among American adults 18 to 54, are:

* Radio listening is a one-on-one and emotions-driven experience, and listeners believe that both the medium and its advertising are more relevant to them compared to television and newspapers.
* Consumers see television and newspapers as being designed to satisfy the masses, but radio is where they turn to get gratification of their personal wants and needs.
* Consumers believe that their radio programs carry ads which are appropriate for them as individuals, and listeners are therefore more ready to react at an emotional level if the advertisement is well suited for that program's context.
* The ability of radio advertising to make personal, emotions-driven connections with listeners helps explain why radio can be so effective when the advertising is done well and placed appropriately.

What that means for advertisers, says the study, is that the personal nature of radio is reflected in the expectation that its advertising is directed personally to the listener, and that radio advertisers are "trying to reach me personally," it reads.

Radio ads, more than for other media, need to be compatible with their surroundings. There is no one-size-fits-all ad for radio (at least not one that's effective) and format-specific advertising matters. Radio ads need to speak to people at a personal level, not as a group. Consumers expect television and newspaper ads to try reaching a large population, but radio ads need to speak to the individual.

While radio can be used to provide synergy with advertising on other media, that doesn't mean that those ads can simply duplicate the content or style of the other medium. Effective radio communication requires an approach that is more personal.

Given how strongly people identify with "their" stations (and "their ads"), radio's ability to be effective and to generate excellent return on investment shouldn't come as a surprise, says the study. The fact is, radio makes personal, emotional connections with listeners, and that's a very powerful environment for an advertiser.

And what does this mean for broadcasters?

Programming and advertising are part of the same experience for listeners. Some of radio's power as an ad medium comes from listeners believing that the ads will be relevant to them, and that sets the stage for personal, emotional connections. However, the flip side is that listeners expect ads to fit in with the programming, and when they don't, that dissonance can only hurt listener satisfaction.

Therefore, the process of selling - of seeking new advertisers - needs to consider environmental compatibility. Putting an incompatible advertiser on the air hurts both the advertiser and the programmer by clashing with listener expectations.

Similarly, broadcasters who create ads for their clients need to be equally careful about context. Being effective for each advertiser requires more than just running an ad - it requires harmonizing the campaign objectives with the consumer's listening experience. Radio ads can, and should try to, reach people at a personal and emotional level.

When creating ads for clients, broadcasters should heed the advice given to advertisers - ads need to reach people individually, not just as part of "the public." Generic ads are anathema to radio effectiveness, reads the study.

"Radio is a medium that listeners interact with on an emotional level," said Harding, in the release. "Advertisers must take advantage of this knowledge by directing messages personally to listeners in a way that is compatible with their surroundings. Broadcasters need to work with advertisers to achieve the right balance."

During 2004 and 2005, RAEL is funding several new large-scale studies about radio advertising effectiveness and how to maximize radio return on investment.

The full report on this study can be downloaded here.

The Radio Ad Effectiveness Lab (RAEL) is an independent organization established in 2001. RAEL is funded by radio industry companies and works with advertisers, agencies, and radio broadcasters to further the understanding of how radio advertising works, to measure radio's effectiveness and to increase advertiser and agency confidence.

The Radio Marketing Bureau is RAEL's main Canadian partner. It represents radio stations generating over 80% of all radio revenue in Canada. It incorporates a wide range of services for radio and advertising professionals to help increase advertising return on investment, including strategy formulation, media planning, research, creative and professional training.

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