Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Radio: Wave of the Future

You heard it here first: Radio is the wave of the future.

All the buzz in advertising is over Facebook, Twitter and social media. Yet Radio technology is burgeoning. The appointment audio of the podcast is catching on, and satellite Radio, HD Radio and streaming mobile Radio are all gaining interest and audience. So, too, is Internet Radio: according to research firm American Media Services, 38 percent of adults surveyed six months ago said they expected to listen to Radio on the Internet at some point in the future; more recently, the figure was 48 percent.

Listening to President Obama's inauguration speech again on YouTube recently got me thinking about stirring orations. Because I'm a Brit, naturally Winston Churchill's 1940 "Fight them on the Beaches" speech to the House of Commons came to mind. Even today, when I listen to it via a scratchy YouTube recording, I am struck by Radio's power as a storytelling medium. I can't help but wonder: In our visual age, have we lost the art of audio communication?

I've long been a believer in Radio.After nine years in this business (and 20-odd as an avid Radio listener), some of my favorite effective brand communication has come over the airwaves.

Radio still has a purpose, and a following. Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population tunes in once a day, and 94 percent of adults tune in every week. That's a cumulative audience of 283 million weekly listeners.

The good news in these tough economic times is that Radio is relatively cheap to create and produce. Moreover, its short and simple production times allow brands to be opportunistic and flexible in their media buys -- a noteworthy advantage over the more-than-four week production lead times of out-of-home, magazine and newsprint, and TV's eight-week minimum.

Most important, however, is that great Radio work can have a huge impact. Best-in-class examples: Bud Light's Real Men of Genius, or CDP's Hamlet cigars. A 2005 study by research firms Millward Brown and IRI found that Radio provided 49 percent better return-on-investment than TV. In recent years, numerous studies conducted by third parties prove that Radio is more personally relevant, more persuasive and just as emotionally engaging as TV. Some particularly thorough researchers have gone so far as to use facial electromyography to track emotional response!

Radio as a medium is tailor-made to the challenges of our multi-tasking, ADD age. Consumers might be working, driving or gaming, but they can still listen. Acceptance of Radio ads is higher than that of TV ads: 51 percent of the listeners queried by American Media Services claim they do not switch Radio channels when commercials come on. I recently worked on Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign. In qualitative groups, my colleagues and I were shocked at how many respondents recalled lines from the radio -- even more so than the TV.(Source: Caroline Krediet, Media Daily News, 02/18/09)

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