Can radio come back – Again?


Radio has a great comeback history. We proved gurus who once predicted the growth of TV would kill radio were wrong. Today’s gurus are making the same kind of predictions about radio because of the rapid rise of digital media as well as the economy. But radio seems to be floundering.
My observations are as a marketing guy who was President/CEO of RAB when TV looked like a tsunami coming straight at us.. With a strong RAB team, we developed new selling approaches and helped get radio prospering while talented programmers recreated the medium..

Since RAB days I have been vice chairman of a trade marketing ad agency and now represent a Columbus consumer intelligence company called BIGresearch in New York. But I still follow radio with the help of RBR and by seeing radio through the eyes of my advertiser clients.  

Enough time has passed since I was in radio that I feel free to pass on some behind-the-scenes anecdotes. For example, when Radio was reinvented after TV’s big growth spurt, we also almost took control of audience measurement. Group heads of that time were seriously considering a system to both control costs of audience research and improve quality. The concept was to have research firms submit bids to provide ratings under an industry contract. The idea died when a research company hinted at anti-trust. Ironically, it took just a two-paragraph letter to scare off a few of the group leaders and kill the concept.

That was a too quickly discarded idea but there was another missed audience measurement opportunity – building research around consumers instead of age/sex demographics. If we had measured consumers, radio would be healthy today in an era when advertisers demand ROI proof that marketing delivers consumers. ROI requirements should benefit radio, the medium which actually gets in the last word with consumers minutes before they shop, the most important time in the shopping cycle. Instead, radio’s lack of documentation about consumer categories within its audience is a weakness in the ROI era.

On the positive side, radio retains audience strength. BIGresearch conducts a multi-media study called Simultaneous Media Usage Study (SIMM), covering over 30 categories of media from broadcast and print through to the new and emerging media forms now multiplying constantly.  Among them all, our SIMM multi-media studies find radio remains a vibrant force and because SIMM also captures what products its respondents buy, it shows each medium’s strengths among consumers of the most significant products and services.

To help advertisers determine how to best reach their specific consumers, BIGresearch offers MediaPlanIQ, a SIMM application to optimize media choice. It was developed by Prosper Technologies and two marketing professors at Northwestern University, Dr. Don Schultz, who is well known and regarded as the father of Integrated Marketing, and Dr. Martin Block, a talented marketing-oriented mathematician.

 And advertisers care deeply about understanding media and the consumer. The Portland Radio Council recently drew 300 advertisers and agencies — a remarkable turnout — when Dr. Schultz demonstrated MediaPlanIQ, showing that automotives, for example, under spend in radio by $1.6 billion while the not too successful auto makers are over spending in other media with less impact than radio.

A book written by Dr. Block and Dr. Schultz explains how MediaPlanIQ was developed using data from SIMM. Called “Media Generations: Media Allocation in a Consumer-Controlled Marketplace”, it’s easy reading and fascinating because it classifies radio listeners as varying by both stage of life and stage of adaptation to today’s media. And by the way, it’s available to RBR readers at a discount.

From the perspective of one who has been on both the buying and selling side, if radio used the media-optimizing approach developed by Drs. Schultz and Block, it could overcome both today’s tough economy and the rapid growth of digital media. Radio is far stronger than it’s ever given credit for when looked at in terms of its ability to deliver and influence consumer groups.

If radio learns how to document its strength with consumer targets, It would be equipped to not only survive but to create that second comeback many now see as unlikely.

RBR/TVBR note: Join BIGresearch and RBR/TVBR for our 1st joint monthly webinar that highlights fresh consumer insights from BIGresearch August ’09 Consumer Intentions & Actions™ Survey. Thursday, August 20th at Noon EDT,
Register Here and prepare to listen, learn, and make money period! Know what retailers know when they make decisions.
(Source: Miles David former President/CEO of Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) from 1965 to 1985.  After RAB he went into the ad agency business as Vice Chairman of an agency called Pinpoint Marketing. He now serves BIGresearch LLC, as its representative and Marketing Solutions Officer in New York)

RBR/TVBR Note: The book ‘Media Generations’ by Martin Block, Don Schultz and BIGresearch, is a GREAT aid to all Radio and TV organizations. The book is filled with consumer media patterns have shifted more dramatically in the last 5 years than the prior 50! Read how insights from BIGresearch’s SIMM™ Survey of over 190,000 consumers have yielded a new approach to media planning.

Recommendation – Order your personal copy of Media Generations at a special RBR/TVBR discount of 20% off the cover price of $18.95, click and enter the following discount code: FH2T4Q5J.