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Radio Said to Be Key to Influencing SoCal Car Buyers

SCBA says new survey has national implications

Broadcasters in southern California know very well how the cultures of radio and automobiles have intertwined over the years. But they’re pointing to a new study as evidence of how important radio ads continue to be in 2017 in reaching and motivating auto buyers.

The study was released jointly by the Southern California Broadcasters Association and Nielsen Audio. Called The Automotive Path to Purchase Study, it focuses on L.A. and San Diego, but SCBA believes the data have national implications. The study also looks into the decision-making process that buyers go through, delineating undecided purchasers as compared with those who know what they want to buy.

Among its findings:

  • Radio’s weekly reach of automotive buyers, 94% in L.A. and 93% in San Diego, is the greatest among major media in Southern California
  • Radio delivers 1.8 million people who plan to buy a new auto in L.A. within the next year. This represents $52 billion in planned new auto purchases
  • In San Diego, radio delivers 206,500 consumers who plan to buy a new auto in the next 12 months. That represents $5.9 billion in planned new auto purchases

SCBA Pres. Thom Callahan hopes the survey will convince carmakers and local dealers to do a couple of things: first, allocate more advertising dollars towards radio; and second, spread radio campaigns out evenly over the entire month, rather than spending most of it on the last week. The survey indicates that this is a largely ineffective way to use the radio medium.

While 2016 was a good year for auto sales, he said, predictions for 2017 are less so, suggesting cars will sit on the lot longer. One of the leading reasons: consumer debt for autos, which is at an all-time high.

The survey was centered on those two cities in southern California but the results have implications beyond the state, Callahan said. “We’re seeing a trend where car manufacturers are controlling more of the way that advertising dollars are being spent, right down to the dealer level. This is being done largely through the allocation of co-cop dollars.” He said that this is true not just for SoCal but nationwide, so he hopes to take the message out more broadly.

“Our footprint has gotten bigger, and this is turning into a national project. We’re planning a trip to Detroit this summer, and plan on having a presence at other events where we can connect directly with the manufacturers,” Callahan said.