With the imminent arrival of the March licence plate change, motor manufacturers have had to keep their products at the forefront of consumers' minds.
Over recent years, factors such as an over-capacity of vehicles and a growing consumer perception of a levelling out of competence within the industry have forced car firms to invest more heavily in ads to boost market share and achieve standout.
Radio budgets have been further boosted by the twice-a-year registration change, which has meant car manufacturers have had to develop a year-round advertising presence.
Marques such as Ford, Renault and Toyota are now radio regulars, capitalising on the medium's uniquely close listener relationships.
RAB figures show that among people who have bought cars over the past four years, there are more heavy commercial radio listeners than heavy ITV viewers or mid-market newspaper readers. Reaching them while they drive helps advertisers benefit from extra relevance and low advertising avoidance.
In joint fourth place with 35% recall, Ford is this month's best-performing motor brand, with radio playing a key role in its '2004 Drive For Value' campaign.
The February work, using the overall 'Designed for living, engineered to last' theme, promoted special offers on the Fiesta, Fusion and Mondeo models, with an ad featuring an auction in which bids are going down, rather than up.
Renault, in joint ninth place, used radio for tactical offers on its Megane and Scenic models, and to talk about its recent What Car? safety award.
Volvo, too, chose radio to spell out a competitive advantage, with a dealer-personalised campaign for the new S40, using the line 'Centre of attention' to highlight the car's unique central console.
Several years ago, Toyota became the first advertiser to qualify for the RAB's Creative Multiplier incentive, and it now maintains a consistent radio presence, focusing intensively on one model at a time and targeting specific audience profiles.
The company's most recent work, through the Guy Robertson Partnership, continues to promote the new-look Corolla as part of its multimedia 'A car to be proud of' campaign, which aims to attract younger drivers.
Similarly, Fiat is capitalising on its models' brand personalities by extending existing campaigns onto radio, with its February Punto work using the line 'Even more spirito' to promote a 0% finance deal.
Like many of its competitors, Fiat bought an end-of-the-week radio package to hit the prime weekend test-drive period. A wise strategy, it would seem, given that TGI data shows five million weekly commercial radio listeners have bought a car within the past five years.
Q: Which of the following radio commercials do you remember hearing
Prev Advertiser Agency/Media buyer %
1 (-) Specsavers In-house/Carat 46
2 (2) T-Mobile Saatchi & Saatchi/Universal McCann 41
3 (-) Nescafe McCann-Erickson/MindShare 40
4= (6) Sainsbury's Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/PHD 35
4= (8=) Ford Ogilvy & Mather/MindShare 35
6 (-) Tesco Lowe/Initiative Media 32
7 (-) Lunn Poly DDB London/Media Planning Group 26
8 (15=) Dixons M&C Saatchi/Walker Media 24
9= (-) COI Police M&C Saatchi/OMD UK 23
9= (18=) Camelot Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/OMD UK 23
9= (18=) Renault Publicis/Carat 23
12 (-) Nationwide Radioville/Mediaedge:cia 22
13 (11) Toyota Guy Robertson Partnership/ 21
14= (-) Batchelors Delaney Lund Knox Warren/ 17
Cup a Soup ZenithOptimedia
14= (-) Rover Cogent/ZenithOptimedia 17
14= (-) Volkswagen DDB London/MediaCom 17
17= (-) Fiat Leo Burnett/Starcom MediaVest 15
17= (-) Volvo The JJ Group/The JJ Group 15
19 (-) UKTV Karmarama, Mother/PHD 14
20 (-) Prudential WCRS/PHD 13
Radiowatch research was conducted from March 5 to 7 by NOP Research
Group (020 7890 9000) as part of a weekly telephone omnibus survey among
437 commercial radio listeners. The brands for Radiowatch are determined
by the top radio sales groups, which each put together a monthly list of
their 25 biggest brand advertisers. To listen to the featured
advertisements and for further information, go to RAB OnLine