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How Radio is Driving Leads and Brand Awareness in 2021



  • Radio listening has stayed relatively strong throughout the pandemic
  • As commuters return to the road they’re opting for individual cars vs. mass transit, meaning they’re tuning back into their favorite radio stations and relying on their favorite hosts for information
  • Radio advertising attribution can be measured through brand lift studies and Veritone Discovery

With many working from home, the common thought is that commuting is down which would negatively impact radio advertising. In fact, the opposite is true. Since last fall, traditional commutes and radio usage have started to recover and grow month over month. This trend is re-establishing radio as an incredibly strong advertising channel that outperforms when other channels flatline. 

What strong listenership means for radio advertising 

It would seem logical to think that radio usage is down because fewer people are in their cars. But when you look at the data, it tells another story. People are listening to radio at home on smart speakers and through their phones. According to Nielsen’s Portable People Meter in October 2020, by September radio listening had bounced back to 95% of March levels. In an average week in September last year, radio was still reaching 90 percent of Americans between the ages of 35 and 64 years old. Partially driving this trend was the aversion to public transportation and ride-sharing as people opted to use their own personal vehicles to reduce their potential exposure to the virus. 

While public transportation and ride-sharing will make a recovery, it may come back slower than you might think. More people bought cars last year because of low interest rates and to escape the cities. The desire to maintain social distance means that public transportation and ride-sharing services will be impacted as people opt to use their own vehicles vs. taking mass transit. 

Radio reach, quality buyers, and success stories 

What may surprise readers is that drive time is not the highest time for radio listening. It’s midday that serves as radio’s most-listened-to-daypart. This is part of what has helped radio listening to stay strong and bounce back so well despite a change in commuting behaviors.

In Q4 of 2020 Edison released their annual Share of Ear Report and found that 63% of American’s listen to AM/FM radio every day, and that 89% of Americans listen to radio every week

With such a large audience, advertisers should note that heavy radio listeners tend to spend more. Frequent radio listeners are 48 percent more to make a major purchase and 45 times more likely to visit a car dealership. They over-index for spending on vacations, gym and fitness, nail salons and barber visits, shopping for non-grocery items, order take out, dine out, and more.

We saw this firsthand in Q1 of 2021 as demonstrated by three different advertisers from the health, ecommerce, and diet and weight loss industries, as shown below.

Each of these advertisers saw huge jumps in their return on investment in just a few weeks when they added radio to the advertising mix during 2020. You may wonder, how did we validate the change radio made against digital, podcast, or other advertising channels. 

Verifying and Measuring Radio Advertising’s ROI

Without a direct click-through link from radio stations, attribution is typically measured through “how did you hear about us” surveys at checkout, a unique offer code, or unique URL. The direct attribution to radio can often “slip” as people hear the message while driving or working out, but don’t take action until they see a digital or a social platform ad on a connected device and then click through to take action. 

Other times, individuals who may have heard the radio ad may forget the offer code or neglect to use the full promotional web address, so they search the internet with the intent to purchase and skip the radio attribution link altogether. 

Veritone One uses Veritone Discovery to validate the time, date, and accuracy of radio ad reads and compares those with website traffic and order volumes to get a closer picture of just how effective your radio ads really are. Layered with brand lift studies, we see a very accurate picture of the impact radio advertising makes for our advertisers. 

As the world settles into new patterns, we are confident radio will continue as one of the most impactful advertising channels of 2021.

Learn more about radio advertising with Veritone One


Pedro Sanz on Unsplash