Tracy Call isn’t a trend chaser. While most marketers are concerned with what the next popular social media site or augmented reality game will be, Call thinks she has already found the best way to connect with consumers, and it has been around for the past century.
Good old-fashioned radio.
With a couple new digital analytical tools that have recently been developed to help place and monitor radio spots, Call says it has become even more efficient to ride the airwaves.
Call, founder and chief executive of Minneapolis-based firm Media Bridge Advertising, has grown many businesses with advertisements that have played only on the radio, which often people listen to as they drive.
“Everyone is talking about digital as being sort of the be-all and end-all of marketing,” Call said. “Radio continues to be that clean space where you know you are tuning in for music, you are tuning in for personality and if served up right, you are tuning in for commercials that are educating you on offers that are going on, new businesses that are coming up, and sales that are happening. I know people are still listening.”
Indeed, radio is not dead. According to Nielsen, the media ratings agency, more than 90 percent of Americans listen to AM/FM radio each week. That means a greater percentage of people listen to the radio than watch television or use a computer or smartphone. The major issue with radio hasn’t been its reach but how to measure its effectiveness, Call said.
“I think the biggest challenge of almost all traditional marketing is proving that it works. … With radio you are buying air so does it work, does radio really work?” Call said. “That’s one of the number one questions I get from clients.”
Until recently, it has been difficult for Call and other marketers to prove radio’s direct return on investment. But two of the largest radio networks in the United States developed tools to help marketers and their clients better place and analyze radio spots. Last summer, CBS Radio began to offer its CBS Analytics tool, which is powered by start-up data company AnalyticOwl.
The technology allows advertisers’ radio advertisement run-times to be matched to their online website analytics to visualize by the minute when a spot running corresponds to an increase in activity. The software creates a chart report after an ad campaign is complete that can show, for example, when a radio ad played a couple times during a morning show and visits to the advertiser’s website spiked at 9 a.m. with 1,000 sessions.
The insight is “invaluable information” that can help inform which types of ads are more effective, what is the best time of day to advertise, and what stations are the best activity drivers, Call said.
“In the past, the only real way to measure broadcast was really anecdotal; it was asking people ‘How did you hear about us?’ which is pretty much the least accurate form of data collection there is,” said David Schapira, general manager of Orlando, Fla.-based AnalyticOwl, in an interview. He added, “Our platform allows people to no longer sacrifice response or accuracy for trackability.”
iHeartMedia, owner of more than 850 broadcast stations, introduced its programmatic platform now called SoundPoint in the spring of 2015. Powered by cloud-based technology innovator Jelli, SoundPoint allows radio advertisers to buy spots similar to how they would place digital ads based on impressions.
Instead of just buying spots on, for instance, KDWB’s “The Dave Ryan Show” to market to women between the ages of 24 and 54, the advertiser will buy a certain number of impressions for that target demographic with a predetermined budget and time frame. The spots will run at different times of day and on different iHeart stations until that impressions quota is reached. Perhaps the best part of the tool is the platform that allows advertisers to track the spots, when they played on what stations, and even listen to the commercials to ensure the right ads are running.
With the data, companies are better able to assess what type of ad and at what time and on what station works to reach their target audience. It could end up saving advertisers a lot of money by helping them stretch their advertising dollars more by focusing on more effective spots.
“These tools are allowing us to make real-time moves and real-time decisions on behalf of our clients so that we can avoid a problem or an issue before it even comes up with them,” Call said.
Media Bridge has experimented with the iHeart and CBS tools, which are exclusive for their respective stations, with its clients. Renters Warehouse, which is headquartered in Eden Prairie, has been using both tools since January, and while it’s still early in their adoption, marketing executives say they are impressed.
“We always wanted this information,” said Pam Kosanke, chief marketing officer at Renters Warehouse. “To say I have this amount of SEM [search engine marketing] budget, I know what happens when a morning drive spot airs, hey, I’m going to be light on this day, maybe I take the pressure off SEM. You want to combine your efforts as much as possible and it’s extended our dollars for sure.”
About 60 percent of the company’s media spending is for radio ads, with most of the rest for digital. The company used to view radio and digital marketing as two separate battling priorities, Kosanke said.
“Digital was helping to capture and convert radio leads. … We had to figure out: Is radio still the thing?” Kosanke said. “Turns out, yes. Just make room for digital because it’s important because that’s how consumer behavior is changing.”
Another major radio innovation is the recently developed #250 speed dial, which instead of having to remember a long phone number or website address from a radio spot, enables listeners to just press #250 on their phones when advertised and say a keyword to connect to a business directly over the phone or get a replied text message. Twin Cities Realtor Kris Lindahl, a recent client of Media Bridge, has run radio ads with #250 as a tagline for the past two months. While he said it’s too early to tell if the plugs resulted in more contacts, Lindahl said he is hopeful that it will only add to brand awareness of his team.
“It’s a more simple call to action.”