Four States Small Business Blog

Pros and Cons of Radio Advertising

Posted by Mark Zimmer on March 23, 2017 at 8:30 AM
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LG2_ZimmerJoplin_RadioAdvertising (1).jpgRadio is a remarkably powerful tool which regularly reaches 67% of consumers in the U.S. on a daily basis. Because Americans 12 years of age or older also spend three hours per day listening to radio, there’s also extensive room for marketers to leverage the medium to their benefit. That means it’s worth fully understanding the pros and cons of radio advertising in order to judge when and how to use it in your marketing campaigns.

At Zimmer, we believe in the value of all advertising formats because we’ve seen the success these platforms can offer. That’s why we want to provide perspective through valuable research to help you make the best choices to meet each of your marketing goals. Today’s post is part one in a series focusing on the pros and cons of each of the additional platforms: TV, Billboard, Newspaper, Direct Mail, and Yellow Page Advertising.

Radio Advertising Pros


Radio doesn’t just reach a large number of consumers specifically, it reaches 93% of Americans, and AM/FM radio is actually the number one in mass reach for adults 18 to 34. In fact, AM/FM radio is up between 5% and 6% across all age groups. It also reaches people throughout the day, even when they’re at work, reaching 41% of listeners between 3 and 7 p.m.


If you imagine radio listeners are always spinning the dial and skipping commercials, you’re simply wrong. Nearly two-thirds of all radio listening occasions involve staying on the same station, and that jumps to a hearty 90% when looking at listeners who are loyal to the station. Coupled with the amount of time regularly spent with radio, that means listeners are sure to hear your ad sets. That also means it’s easy to build frequency and help lift brand and ad recall.


Radio is actually considered to be very trustworthy. About 63% consider radio to be as trustworthy as a casual or close friend, while another 7% compare it to extended family and another 4% to a significant other. More than half (52%) say that their favorite radio personality influences their opinion, while a similar number (51%) either considered or actually purchased a product that was advertised during their favorite show.

Loyal Listeners

Those same personalities that help inspire trust also inspire loyalty. Three-quarters of listeners will specifically turn on the radio to tune in to their favorite DJ or host, and nearly that many (72%) will go on to talk to friends about that personality and what happened on the show. Listeners can also be loyal to their genre of choice, and thus the station as a whole, bringing passion to that loyalty. This enhances the frequency of your advertising, since they’re more likely to be exposed.


Radio tends to be less expensive than some other forms of marketing, both in terms of the cost per spot and in the cost of creating creative. More importantly, however, radio is affordable because it also presents significant returns. On average, businesses of any size see $6 for every dollar spent.


There’s a lot of geographic, demographic and psychographic data out there to help brands reach the right audience, especially thanks to their loyalty. This means you can not only select the right station, you can select the right daypart based on the genres and shows they love most.

Close to Purchase Decision

Consumers also trust radio specifically when they want to buy: 71% say they trust radio most when they want to make a purchase decision. What’s more, 26% say radio tells them why to buy, while 41% say it helps them learn about local businesses. Because people are exposed to radio in their cars and while at work, it provides critical touchpoints that allow you to influence their ultimate decision.

Theater of the Mind

Believe it or not, people remember what they hear twice as well as what they read. This is thanks in part to the fact that sound drives emotion in humans, enough so that radio is capable of helping listeners encode key brand messages to memory better than mediums like TV, perhaps by as much as 220%. It also helps build impressions through engaging the listener’s imagination.


About 78% of people use radio away from home during their commuting hours, and we’ve already mentioned that people listen during other tasks where they wouldn’t be exposed to other media, like while they’re working. Traditional AM/FM radio is extremely mobile already, but 87% of smartphone owners aged 18 to 29 years have listened to radio through their mobile device. Apps like NextRadio also allow people to tune into 16 thousand FM stations through their smartphone, as well. What’s more, people are exposed to radio in various stores and restaurants, as well.

Radio Advertising Cons

Lack of Visuals

Humans are incredibly visual creatures, and that can help strengthen the impact advertising has on consumer recall. It can be easier to express certain complex ideas — for instance, how to use a new kind of product — by literally showing the audience. That being said, the theater of the mind is still incredibly powerful, and the right creative can paint a vivid picture in a listener’s mind.

Abundance of Choices

There are more than 50 Joplin radio stations alone, which means that not only do you have a lot of options for who to advertise with, but listeners have a lot of options to switch between. Taking everything into consideration to tap exactly what you need for a successful campaign can be overwhelming. Remember that working with media partners can be beneficial for reducing this burden.

Variable Price

We mentioned just how affordable radio advertising can be, but depending on the choices you make and when you buy your radio spots, it can also be quite expensive. Plus, if you don’t have a strong strategy or solid creative, the spots could have little impact, making it an expenditure with little return.

Abundance of Noise

Unfortunately, many radio stations will air too many commercials during each stopset. That means listeners are exposed to too many ads at once, and your marketing might get lost in the mix. Working with the right radio partners can help choose the best stations — for instance, at Zimmer, we limit the number of spots per break, thus making each spot more powerful.

Ephemeral Nature

Radio is similar to television in this respect. The commercial only lasts for the length of time that it’s on the air, with no permanent, tangible reminders for reference. That’s why you need to develop creative with an eye to its frequency to maximize impact.

Key Takeaways

Whether you’re trying to build awareness about your brand or products and services or trying to get listeners to take a specific action, radio can be an excellent too. We believe that the pros of radio advertising outweigh the cons, and the cons represent why you need to create a careful strategy for using radio in your marketing mix. As a portable medium that can target key audiences, radio’s reach and frequency can build trust at touchpoints that are very influential in the purchase decision. However, the lack of visuals needs to be carefully balanced by the theater of the mind, especially because radio is an impermanent platform. The number of station choices and the marketing noise can also impact the success of a radio campaign, but planning in advance can ensure your ad is on the right station at the best time for the right price. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Make your plan in advance, and take advantage of a marketing calendar. This opens up the choices you’ll have and provide better spots for better prices. It also gives you room to fully develop your creative.
  • Always target your creative for the audience you’re trying to reach. This will enhance your targeting efforts that affect your choice of channel and daypart.
  • Take advantage of your media partners. As experts, their guidance is based on knowledge and experience that can help ensure you’re making the best advertising investment possible.

With a proper understanding of what radio advertising has to offer, you can make the best decisions about your marketing mix and how to get the best results. Check back soon for the second part of our Advertising Format Pros and Cons series focusing on TV. For a more in-depth look at Joplin radio and marketing techniques on any platform, contact Zimmer today to find out what we can offer you as a media partner.

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Topics: Small Business Resources, Radio Advertising, Marketing Strategy

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