Retailers, media managers: How they use radio

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At a 9/30 panel session at the 2010 NAB-RAB Radio Show, retailers and buyers for retailers discussed what they want from radio, how they use radio and how important it is in their media planning. Moderated by Greg Glenday, President, National Advertiser Development, Clear Channel Radio, panelists included Karen Agresti, SVP Director of Local Broadcast, Hill Holiday (buys radio for TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshalls and CVS Minute Clinic); Ronnie Mervis, Mervis Diamond Importers; Jeff Slaven, Media Director, Raymour & Flanigan (6th largest  furniture retailer in the US); and Sarah Stalnecker, Marketing Manager – Media, Luxottica Retail (who handles Pearle Vision and Lenscrafters).


Retail is indeed the lifeblood of radio—it’s double the size of the Automotive category, noted Glenday. And it’s strong, too – up some 22% in Q2 and looking to be up 61% in Q4. But the creative focus has changed since the recession hit so hard in 2009—the consumer mindset has been changed forever. The approach now has to be a quality, value and service message. “The free-spending days with money to burn are gone,” stressed Mervis. “Clearly, this is a very different world.”

Agresti says all of her clients who had switched to value messaging have had better success. Branding doesn’t work as well as it used to.

Slaven, while agreeing the quality and service message now has more traction, he concurred that his stores weren’t hit as hard as some retailers because instead of buying or upgrading to new homes, many folks just upgraded what was inside their homes, a la furniture.

Glenday then wanted to know from his panelists what things they’re using to measure ROI for radio. Most national advertisers hire analytics companies for ROI, marketing mix modeling. “We do marketing mix modeling for Lenscrafters two years ago, but what it’s all about now is did I meet my comp sales number for this week? We need to make adjustments on the fly. We want to know if traffic in the store converts to sales.”

Lenscrafters is primarily a spot radio buyer in some 15 markets.

Slaven uses ratings points data for each medium he uses and “we’re currently evaluating the impact of radio in some markets.”

Mervis, on the other hand, had attendees laughing a few times at how simplistic (yet effective) his means for measuring his radio campaign effectiveness really are: “We are as unsophisticated as we can be. After I start a campaign, I look out the window to see if the parking lot is full. If it is, the advertising is working. If I cut back on radio, I can look out the window and see less – we don’t need accountants or analytics.”

Mervis is DC-based and buys a ton of radio on almost all of the markets formats—especially news/talk.

Localism in radio
Yahoo and ESPN are trying harder and harder to target and brand locally to compete with radio’s best strength. Slaven stressed that it’s important to his buying criteria: “I travel to our 17-18 radio markets and I listen to the stations. It doesn’t seem syndicated morning drive stations have the same connection to the local market.”

“I love localism,” added Agresti. “It’s the greatest strength in radio. As a national buyer, I’ve got to advise you to clean up your websites. Most national advertisers go to your website—it’s a big reflection on your stations. If they don’t like what they see (like girls in bikinis), they will cut you from the buy.”

Mervis says because of talking about his family history and voicing his own spots, he’s all of a sudden a hero when people meet him – because he’s on the radio. “Localizing creates respect, familiarity and confidence in your community with what you are doing or selling.”

Creative advice
Stalnecker admitted it is often an afterthought for agencies to write radio spots and that many just do limited takeoffs from the TV spots in a campaign: “A lot of work has to be done—we can’t have DJs sounding like they’re reading from scripts, it has to sound like and endorsement. We also need :60’s to be customized by market. Flexibility with messaging will be big for us in this coming year.”

Agresti said radio creative is not so much an afterthought as agencies just need to hire good radio creatives.” On DJ endorsements and live reads, one of the things she battles is integration into the programming – it has to sound real. So for example, for CVS Minute Clinic, “we only use jocks with kids – for the CVS shots campaign. It sounds more convincing.”

Slaven complained that station reps have to work more closely with the agencies to make sure that the content matches the promotional event. It all has to work together. “It is disappointing the number of schedules that don’t run with a high level of integrity. Spots were specific for certain days, but they didn’t run when they should have. “Sure, the right number of spots ran, but not on the right days. It’s inexcusable in the new millennium.”

Mervis agreed, “Reps need to take care of the schedule. There are too many other things they are put in charge of selling the—website mobile, tweets, etc…”

Slaven said with the emerging platforms the reps often don’t know what to do with them in the pitch—it’s too new to them. “It can be distracting, especially in presentations.”

More wish lists
Most of the panelists did not use streaming audio campaigns, but Agresti noted when they do, the copy is different. She did stress, as so many buyers have in the past, that we have to work at the whole transaction process for radio—we need EDI for the invoices. “It’s too manpower-intensive. We only make 1%-2% on the buy as an agency, we don’t really make money doing buys in radio.”

As far as new media offerings paired with radio, such as mobile apps and texting, “We try to take an advertiser and connect them with content,” says Agesti. “If the station offers online, iHeartRadio, streaming, we want to be connected to that content no matter how you send it out. We have to change the way we talk to them on the different mediums stations offer.”

However, she is also getting “nervous” for radio: “It’s no longer a choice for new music among young listeners—it’s internet. As programmers you need to figure something out to keep young listeners or your value to me will be gone.”

RBR-TVBR observation: As we’ve often said, put some local youth on the air with their favorite songs/podcasts, let them shout out to their friends in the market…a different high school can be represented for 20 minutes and hour during numerous hours each week. There’s always a 7-second delay if needed.


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.