“Club of Knowledge Hunters”

Greeting waves in the air

Posted by retailigence on January 2, 2009

Greeting waves in the air

Radio has been a popular medium with retailers for a long time, but had lost its sheen and audiences in the 90s. Today, radio is being revived. The overwhelming response to the opening up of FM space, with everyone from BBC to local educational intuitions vying for frequency in the 330 licenses in 90 towns on offer is a significant indication. Retailers can now look forward to sharper targeting and lower cost options in this audio media.

With the advent of television on a national base in the year 1982, radio took a back seat till FM came in a few years ago. With the second phase of the roll out of FM radio on the anvil, retailers have plenty more advertising options. What is the future of FM radio, considering the potential invasion of satellite radio is anyone’s guess and we will have to wait for the future to unfold that.


Once a retailer has decided what he/she wants to achieve with advertising, having identified the target audience with advertising, having identified the target audience, the next step would be to make a media plan. When one is evaluating media vehicles three aspects must be considered. Coverage- does it reach the target audience? Frequency- how often during the stores, campaign can it advertise and impact – the ability to grab audience attention and communicate effectively or the ability to make an impression.

In retail Advertising & Sales Promotion, authors Charles M Edwards, Jr and Carl F Lebowitz have lited nine things retailers must consider while evaluating media. “When a retailer wishes to deliver a selling message to potential customers, the selection of media should be made after careful consideration of factors like clientele sought by the store, type of store, trading area of the store, location of the store, the message to be sent, the means of communication available and their appropriateness (acceptance among customers), the cost of available media, the money advertiser has to append and the competition to be met.

Radio can be used as the primary medium or as a top-up medium in addition to newspapers or outdoor. This will depend on a host of factors including what needs to be communicated – is it general offer?

Radio being a local medium and for the various characteristics and advantages it has, is usually part of most retailers’ promotion mix. The role it plays in the entire promotion mix depends on a varities of factors including the choice made by the retailer. It can be ‘Mirchi’ in the tadka or many hues in the ‘rainbow’.


  • Local: In the days of ‘Akashvani’ and ‘Radio Ceylon’ – radio was a national medium, one that was used by large FMCG brands and to create some regional brands. In recent years it is much more local in content/reach and cater to the small geographical area – much like a store. This makes radio affordable to retailers and can be used to communicate during local events/festivals.
  • Sharper targeting: There a number of programmes at different time of the day aimed at specific target audiences. As more channels will be added this year, the choice will be even greater! This will help the retailer choose specific channel /programme /time combination to reach selected audience. Apart from demographic based can be used effectively.
  • Stickiness: Many studies have found a relationship; almost a bond exists between radio jockeys/hosts and their audience. Some FM radio stations have websites where content is divided into pages for each host/RJ. Even middle-aged males listening to the radio while driving to and from work are known to rarely switch channels. In Retail Advertising & Sales Promotion, the chapter on radio advertising begins with “listeners have woven radio broadcasts into their lives in many different ways: an alarm clock in the morning, an up-to-the-minute news report at breakfast, a travel companion in the car, a day-long visitor for the housewife, a game of suspense for sports buffs, a record player for music lovers. A radio can serve such contradictory purposes as lulling insomniacs to sleep or keeping drowsy drivers awake”. One reason for stickiness may also be the interactivity that medium offer nowadays.
  • Flexibility: Radio offer many options in terms of time of day to advertise, type of advertising – announcements, jingles, sponsored programmers, time checks and spots of different duration. Most retailers can afford radio and it is a medium that one can use in varying amounts. You can have your advertisement aired once a day or many times to increase impact.
  • Mobility: Radio reaches it audience wherever they are, in the bathroom, in the car, kitchen, on a holiday, going to collage or at a restaurant.
  • Value for money: In the view of low production costs and relatively low cost per thousand-radio generally offers very good value for money. This also depends on similarity between the profile of the target audience and listenership.
  • Quick cycle: As I am typing out these lines, am listening to the advertising of a local mail- it is about a festival programme at the mall and winners of a contest held yesterday. Weather it is to take advantage of the sudden cold wave in the city or some event, it take much less to get an advertisement on the radio than other media vehicles.


Radio has its limitation and the primary one is that it is an audio – only medium and has no visual element at all. One cannot use it to slow the interiors of the store or demonstrate products. Like in television advertising, radio advertisements and fleeting. 10-20-30 seconds and they are gone forever. Listening may not be able to remember such fleeting messages. Unlike television where the viewer is sitting in front of the TV, radio is usually in the background. Selective attention is a problem. Radio also has limitations in terms of creative flexibility. Being audio-only there is nothing much other then voice and music to work with. Popular radio programmes also suffer from the problem of clutter. This offers the option to mentally switch off till the next song.


Radio can help retailers in many ways. It can be a good medium of brand building the store. You can use it tactically also to communicate about a sale. One can use it a single medium or can be part of multi – media campaign. There are benefits of a ‘multiplier’ effects when it is used in conjunction with other media. Radio is also excellent for co-operative advertising. The focus will be the product and the store is where it is available.


There are number of package/programmes and concessions for multiple advertisements. Each station has a variety of offers. It is important to compare the cast/audience of the programme with the potential number of the stores target audience reached to estimate the value of a package/programme. One buy slot of various spots of various durations. Rates depend on peak and off – peak listenership and sometimes based on specific programmes. Long-term contracts can be negotiated and it makes sense for retailers to have an annual plan.

Radio is the medium that all those who target young adults can ignore only at great risk. Thanks to the number of new station and competition, till some clear leaders emerge, retailer can get good rates from radio. The down side is the quality measurement of audiences will take time to be available. One has to judge a station/popularity of a programme mostly what one hears from costomers/community word-of-mouth. Radio stations usually have cost per thousand and profile of their audiences, which is a good starting point to evaluate a radio-advertising offer.

Music at low cost, mobility and local content will in my opinion keep audiences glued to their radios. Advertising on radio has already started to grow as a percentage of total advertising expenditure. It is a good time to use this medium after understanding the many variables involved.

The author is Assistant Professor at the Sir M Visvesvaraya institute of Technology, Bangalore. He can be contacted at


One Response to “Greeting waves in the air”

  1. Maggy said

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