Radio Advertising Costs: How Much Should I Spend?
“How much should I spend on radio commercials?” “How do I know I’m getting the best radio advertising rates?” “Which radio station should I advertise for?” “How much do good and bad radio ads cost?” “How many places should I show on the radio station?”
To be honest, there’s so much confusion about radio advertising going around – I can’t blame you for asking these questions. Why are radio ads so mysterious? The answer is – radio advertising is not mysterious. It just helps to know how it works.
Effective radio advertising relies on two main components – the message (the radio advertisement itself), and the media (where the radio broadcast is broadcast).
Let’s first look at the radio ad itself. Before even thinking about which radio station to broadcast, or how much to spend on radio advertising rates, you should think about what you’re going to say in your radio advert. For this article, I’m assuming that all call centers, fulfillment, websites, etc. lead generation, and closing the sale process has been done by you, the advertiser. Creating radio ads that help drive traffic is very important to the advertising process.
The advertising industry is full of voice talent, radio personalities, DJs, and others, all claiming to be making radio commercials. Be careful here. When entering the arena of radio commercial production, look for a radio advertising agency that has experience and a track record of successful advertising campaigns. Anyone can create a radio ad, but not everyone can create a radio ad that attracts traffic.
Some radio stations provide free radio ads if you advertise on their station. Most of these free ads are never based on strategy and are just one of several dozen ads an overworked radio production person has to make in five to fifteen minutes. Remember, you usually get what you pay for.
The most effective radio advertising is built on a solid and proven strategy. The copy is written using a time-tested formula that maximizes response potential. Talent handpicked to best connect with end users and productions are based on clear, quality, and easy-to-absorb audio.
So… how much does a commercial radio production process cost? Most of the radio ads that work best are usually in the $500 to $1000 price range. There are always exceptions to the rule (many revisions to copy or audio, additional voice talent, celebrity endorsements, etc.) but these figures generally include solid strategy development, copy from experienced copywriters, performance by high-caliber voice talent, and production service from highest quality. .
For many with questions about radio advertising rates, and radio station prices, this is where the mystery begins. I will try to simplify the mystery of buying as much radio media as possible in this small space.
A good radio ad purchase focuses on a few different things:
* Find the best radio stations on the market according to your customer’s demographics (age, gender, income level, etc.) and psychographics (interests, beliefs, hobbies, personality traits, etc.).
* Find the parts of the day that best reach your target customers. Morning? Afternoon? Mid day?
* Choose the top radio station that most efficiently reaches the highest potential subscribers, the right amount of time (defined as frequency), for the least amount of money
Usually, when researching radio advertising costs, many would-be radio advertisers have a pretty good idea of the first two points. However, when searching for the best station (or stations) at the best price, the radio advertising process becomes a bit more challenging.
Here’s how to basically determine how much to spend on radio advertising costs. In the market where you want to advertise, find the radio station that has the best potential to reach your target customers. It is based on the radio station format. Urban Hip-hop stations will target a different demographic than News/Talk, or Soft Rock stations.
After selecting a group of radio stations, contact them to let them know that you are considering advertising on their radio station. Request specific data from radio stations called “ratings”. This is the rating data that most radio stations can provide based on the specific requirements requested. From this point on, you can get a good idea which stations are performing best within your target demographic.
Once you’ve narrowed down the radio stations to just a few that will effectively reach our target customers, ask for proposals based on certain criteria – part of the day, target frequency, etc. From this proposal, see who will most efficiently reach your target audience – using tools like Cost Per Point (ratio of spot rate to percentage of ranking), Cost Per Thousand (ratio of spot rate to total audience category), etc. If the radio station is not competitive, ask the station to resubmit a more competitive proposal.
Ask about added value. Yes…it’s quite time consuming…and yes it’s hard to say whether all the radio advertising rates on the station are too high. You really have to know the market and the prevailing rates. (This is where having an experienced agent comes in handy!) An agent can compare proposals against historical figures to determine if radio station prices match market averages … then negotiate, and help make purchases.
Good… but at what price? It depends on the size of the market where you want to advertise as determined by Arbitron (radio rating service). Radio advertising rates can be as high as $800 per 60 spots in a top market like New York City, or as low as $3 per 60 spots in Kerrville, TX. How do you know what to spend?
This is a valuable system that we have used from our history of working with radio advertising rates. The system is based on a solid branding schedule that can run one place per day on morning trips, one place per day during the day, and one place per day on afternoon trips – Monday to Friday, and two places on Saturday and Sunday. That’s nineteen places a week at sticker prices.
This type of schedule is good for achieving the desired frequency level (meaning the average listener of a station will hear radio commercials several times). Based on these broad assumptions, you can use the following chart as a rough guide for budgeting your radio advertising campaign.*
*Note, these are gross rates and do not include production costs or agency discounts. This is the market average for the standard radio schedules mentioned above, actual costs may vary. Does not take into account added value, ROS schedule, bonus spots, etc. Combinations of different parts of the day at different stations may be cheaper.
* Markets 1 -5 (ex: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.)
Expect to pay anywhere from $4000 to $8000 per week/per station for the best performing stations.
* Markets 6 – 20 (ex: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, etc.)
Expect to pay from $2000 to $5000 per week/per station for the best performing stations.
* Markets 21 – 50 (ex: Denver, Cleveland, Kansas City, etc.)
Expect to pay from $1000 to $3000 per week/per station for the best performing stations.
* Market 51- 150 (ex: Akron, Syracuse, Baton Rouge, etc.)
Expect to pay from $800 to $2000 per week/per station for the best performing stations.
* 150+ Markets (ex: Myrtle Beach SC, Green Bay, Topeka, etc.)
Expect to pay from $500 to $1500 per week/per station for the best performing stations.
You might say, “Wow! That can be expensive.” In some cases it is! This is a standard schedule and radio commercials come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the schedule is smaller depending on the goals and objectives of the ad. However, it is recommended that you can commit to a minimum range.
Note nothing is mentioned about the rest of the radio ads here at all. Residual advertising is the practice of buying unused inventory at a heavy discount. The remaining advertising success is found more in theory than in practice. However, this does not mean that no advertiser is successful with the rest of the ad. If, and when, the rest of the ads fall into your lap, it is highly recommended that you check them out.
However, basing your entire radio ad campaign on the rest of the ads may be to your detriment. With the exception of a few times a year, most of the top-performing radio stations don’t have that much unsold inventory. Often, the biggest advertisers have contracts that guarantee lots of low-cost/no-cost places to run.
The reality is if a big advertiser (with a big dollar schedule) needs their place to run, or if another advertiser is paying just a penny more than you do for the remaining spots – bump! You just hit the air that day. You can pay for twenty spots and only get two of them.
The station will make up for it for you, but what if you rely on those ads to drive sales. Or better yet, in the era of consolidated radio groups, the rest of your ads can run on the third to last ranked stations in the market. The result is NO RESULT. I firmly believe that when it comes to radio advertising, YOU REALLY GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
Now that radio advertising rates are explained, you may ask, how long should I advertise? The type of radio advert helps determine the duration of the campaign. Advertising for an event? We recommend a shorter, tighter schedule to create buzz before the event or launch. Product brand? Often, a long-term schedule with little breathing room works best. Maybe even the flight could be successful (in two weeks, two weeks or some other timeframe).
Usually, the two things that will determine how long a radio ad campaign will run are the advertiser’s goals (the amount of traffic), and external factors such as the sales cycle. Oh yes, and usually the budget affects the length of the campaign. It’s not desirable, but it is the truth.
You may be thinking, “So if I want a spot on the top three radio stations in Houston, I have to pay $1000 for advertising, plus $3000 per week per station…that’s $10,000 for a week of advertising!” That’s true, and that’s probably what it takes to reach a few thousand targeted leads.
The real question is, “How much money can you make from a few thousand targeted prospects?” Is it over $10,000 a week? $40,000 a month? This is a question to ask yourself, because in the world of advertising, the traffic is pretty good.
This works best when you let a professional agent reduce those costs even further. Let the agency provide you with great radio advertising schedules by providing instant discounts ON the lowest negotiated radio station prices plus great value added.