Does radio deserve more spend?

Radio is facing up well to new digital challengers, but budgets and listening figures don't tally, David Benady says.

Brands should increase their radio advertising spend to boost campaign effectiveness, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau. Radio listening accounts for more than a fifth of our daily media consumption, yet commands only 6 per cent of all marketing budgets.

At the launch of the RAB’s Audio Now research last week, the message came loud and clear: clients continue to underestimate the advertising power of radio, which should by rights be accounting for closer to 20 per cent of total media spend.

The research demonstrated that live radio listening is holding up well in the face of on-demand digital platforms such as Spotify and Deezer, as well as video and audio clips from YouTube. The RAB’s planning director, Mark Barber, told the audience of media buyers and radio executives that on-demand services have been taking listening share away from owned music, rather than live radio.

The push now is for agencies to consider "audio" in the round – encompassing live radio, on-demand services and owned music – to create more wide-ranging strategies than simply thinking about live radio listening.

The research identified a number of "need-states" that are satisfied by audio. Live radio is particularly effective at lifting people’s moods, providing social currency, broadening listeners’ horizons and keeping them in the loop. Meanwhile, on-demand services are good for helping people "escape" and to "amplify the moment".

Overall, audio listening is growing, with total hours rising from nearly 1.4 billion in autumn 2012 to almost 1.5 billion hours in spring 2014, according to Rajar MIDASplus figures. But live radio remains the dominant format, even for younger audiences.

For 15- to 24-year-olds, live commercial radio makes up 71 per cent of listening hours, rising to 93 per cent for the over-25s. Meanwhile, research by Holmes & Cook for the RAB in 2013 showed that, on average, advertisers get nearly £8 back for every £1 they spend on radio. And, as music is a strong way of creating emotional impact, there is the influence that sound can have in boosting advertising.

Take part in our poll below...

So, is audio underrated as a commercial channel?

YES Jo Lyall, chief planning officer, Mindshare UK

"It is probably the most complementary channel and can push people further along the journey towards action. With new opportunities in digital, the targeting ability and growth potential are there for a revitalised future.?"

YES Michael Williamson, head of radio, Carat

"The new larger ‘audio’ market offers advertisers increased targeting and data opportunities. Advertisers should look to integrate DAX (a single sales point for digital radio), Spotify, iRadio and InStream into their traditional radio plans."

YES Russell Ramsey, executive creative director, JWT London

"It has always surprised me radio isn’t used more for telling brand stories. All too often it’s used for promotions, special offers and shouty messages. Globally, consumers spend more time listening to the radio than they do on the internet."

YES Simon Kilby, head of marketplace, Bauer Media

"Radio’s role in a dynamically changing media landscape warrants a reappraisal of current advertising spend. Our strategy is to build and strengthen Absolute Radio, Kiss and Magic, plus extend local station engagement."