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Social’s Limitations Mean Fresh Opportunity for Radio

You should only air commercials that deliver results; the keys are appropriate frequency and great creativity

A top agency gave me a recommendation recently to run six-second ads on Facebook and Instagram. I was informed that the short attention span of mobile phone users is continuing to drop, as click-happy fingers seek the next most interesting thing as quickly as you can blink an eye.

Have you ever tried to communicate a marketing benefit in six seconds? Sure, it can be done for some products, but for others, six seconds is merely the warmup before the pitch.

I optimistically view this as a fresh opportunity for radio to offer advertisers something they can’t get locally on social media: greater, focused attention. What does it take for radio stations to deliver? Excellent creative and frequency of message. These fundamentals are nothing new — and yet, they are too often left on the back burner.


Let’s start with frequency and see if anyone on your sales staff has the courage to adjust an advertising schedule to deliver a meaningful result.

Industry wisdom and common sense tell us that it takes multiple exposures to an advertisement for that message to be heard, understood and remembered. Advertising and research professionals typically agree that the magic number for radio is a minimum frequency of three times, generally heard within one week.

Depending on your audience, this might mean that to be effective, the same advertisement needs to air at least three times a day for seven days, or 21 total spots. To be certain, run more. Do not, however, run fewer.

I’ve heard other opinions that advise running more spots over fewer days, and this is fine for some situations. For example, if the big sales day for Jerry’s Trucks is Saturday, start Thursday and run those same 21 spots within three days to increase the likelihood of action.

The best sales managers I’ve worked with check schedules to ensure proper frequency before signing an order.


What is excellent creative? When you receive a horrible spot from an advertiser, do you air it anyway? These are tough questions that require multiple people to get involved in a solution-based process.

The reality is that you must be both proactive and reactive.

To be proactive means that you have an in-house writer/producer who knows how to create entertaining and compelling informative commercials consistently. This person must also be empowered to work directly with clients to create spots that will make them excited to work with your station. Can’t afford a full-time person? Next-best step is to outsource this function. There are many freelance talents and agencies who will perform this work for you on a project basis — but even so, you must of course make an investment in quality work.

Also, take note that even when you are blessed with excellent copywriting, at least half the outcome depends on the voice-over and the production. When the same three people voice all of your commercials, regardless of station size, you are in trouble.

As the Nielsen PPM proves, it’s hard to keep listeners through spot breaks, so mediocre commercials are a double whammy: They ruin ratings and don’t benefit your advertisers.

While a program director would not dream of airing a song she never previewed, few PDs or sales managers think twice about airing a commercial they’ve never heard. Even after hearing a spot on-air that is terrible, it’s likely that nobody will even think of pulling that commercial before the schedule is over. I get it — money is at risk. Unfortunately, so are results.

A bit of diplomatic outreach to your client could convince them that you’re there to help. Bad spots — you know one when you hear it — will likely bring an advertiser to voice that phrase we all dread: “Radio doesn’t work.”

Even if only once a week, it’s a smart move for program directors and general sales managers to get together to discuss commercials. We all make time for what we feel is important. And if you are focused on ratings or revenue, now is a great time to reevaluate your priorities.

The author is president of Lapidus Media. He can be reached at [email protected].