Advantages & disadvantages of radio advertising

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Radio advertising has a lot of advantages. It's usually cheaper than other mass media, can be targeted to a narrow audience and can reach people within that audience wherever they go. But there are disadvantages, too. The fleeting, there-and-gone nature of radio ads can keep the message from sticking with listeners.

Too many ads on the radio can send listeners away.

Advantage: Affordability

Radio advertising is relatively inexpensive compared with print or television advertising, says marketing consultant Mike Brassil. Production costs are lower; you can rent a sound booth for a couple hours to make a passable radio ad. You'll also pay less for ad time to reach the same number of people as you would with a TV or print ad.

Advantage: Targetability

The diverse spectrum of radio offerings allows you to target your message to specific groups. Some stations go after the biggest audience possible, but many more cater to niche markets, such as teenagers, sports fans, news junkies, political conservatives, college students, highly educated people, or fans of any kind of music. Advertising on a smaller station could cost more per individual listener, but you have a much higher chance of hitting your target demographic.

Advantage: Portability

Media marketing consultant Gail Jordan points out that radio is the only mass medium that people use while driving, cleaning the house or mowing the lawn. TV advertising requires people to be sitting in front of their televisions; print and web ads require that attention be focused on the page or screen. But you can listen to radio while you do other things.

Disadvantage: Impermanence

If an ad in a newspaper or magazine catches your eye, you can cut it out and save it. With the advent of DVRs, even television advertising can be rewound and watched again if it attracts a viewer's interest. But radio ads are ephemeral: You hear them, and then they're gone. If you missed a phone number or some other detail mentioned during the ad, you're going to have to wait for it to come on again.

Disadvantage: Ad Clutter

If your ad comes on right after a hit song, good for you. But what if it gets buried in the middle of an extended block of ads--ads that drive listeners to change the station after a couple minutes? Stations that advertise 30 or 45 minutes of non-stop music make up for it with long strings of commercials, a barrage of messages that listeners soon tune out.

Disadvantage: Distraction

This is the flip side of portability. People can listen to the radio while they're driving, Because they're driving, they're not going to be able to act right away on the ad messages they hear. No one's going to pull over on the freeway, for example, to write down your number. Meanwhile, those who listen to radio while they work may be so focused on their tasks that the ads never even register.