Making Direct Response Radio Work In Today’s Unsure Marketplace

As a native New Yorker, the events of September 11th changed my life forever. If you are like most radio listeners, you spent your post-September 11th days listening to more Talk Radio and News stations. Like me and millions of other Americans, you listened – and still continue to listen – for new updates and information, and hoped that the act of doing so would help you find answers to the World Trade Center horror. In doing so, you spent less time listening to music, Hot FM talk and maybe even less sports. Face it, they just weren’t as important as they had been on September 10th.

However, as a direct response radio marketer, I was not surprised when a client told me that one of his best sales periods EVER was in the days of (and following) the attacks. Like many DR radio advertisers, my client had been airing spots on NewsTalk stations. The shocking, though not unpredictable, affect of listeners staying glued for information, is that they paid more attention to what they were hearing, and called (800) #s as result. Don’t get me wrong, my client wishes he could have succeeded under ANY other circumstances. His example, however, teaches us a lot about how to make Direct Response radio work in these very confusing economic times.

The chief affect of the economy it that is now more cost-efficient than ever to buy radio. Direct Response radio marketers buy News and NewsTalk stations because they deliver loyal audiences who pay more attention to what they are hearing. Moreover, NewsTalk and News stations are amongst the lowest-priced radio formats  — regardless of audience size! I know of three Mid-West Talk stations which are amongst the most powerful, far-reaching AM radio signals in the nation. These three stations are also the number one-rated stations in their respective markets in most adult demos. These stations have been the pulse of their communities for many years, and their broadcasters are long-time hosts with great credibility and audience loyalty. Amazingly, you can buy a drive time, host-read spots for as little $150.00 (and not more than $3-400.00 for top-rated shows) on most of these stations. Now, try to buy that time on a number-one rated, Top 20 market, TV newscast (where, unlike radio, the anchors will NOT read your copy).

Conversely, there are more bargains than ever on Top-rated Music stations. The economy has forced more Music stations than ever to cut advertiser deals they normally would never have done. Music stations are still enjoying healthy ratings, despite many listeners defecting to talk radio. However, since ad buyers know that audiences are tuning to Talk radio, they are spending less on Music. This leaves you, the Direct Marketers, with many Top-Rated Country, Rock, Jazz and Oldies audiences available at the lowest rates we’ve seen in some time. Example – I recently priced a Top-Three-rated Washington,DC area music station is offering Two-Minute spots (a rare find in radio) for $500.00.

As our listening habits have shifted, so too, have the personalities whom listeners have come to trust. We are turning to new hosts and broadcasters for information and comfort, and we are still turning to music DJs for escape. Thus, the time is more ripe than ever to take advantage of the reduced costs of having hosts and DJ’s ready our copy. They lend an inherent credibility and endorsement to your offers, while injecting into your copy the very personality which attracts their listeners. Plus, when they speak, a listener is far more likely to pay attention to what is being said. I have seen many recent cases where Top-rated announcers are doing reads for literally a couple hundred extra dollars – small risk considering the huge upside.

Joe Rashbaum is President of The Radio Solution Company, a radio direct response agency and consulting firm. Reach him at (805) 279-3391 or inquire below.

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