The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) claims radio is playing an ever-increasing role in people's lives. The number of stations has increased sharply in the past decade on both the FM and AM bands. People in general spend more time every year in their automobiles. For many, it's their second home. So car radio use is up by an estimated 63 percent. According to RAB, radio stations now reach 96 percent of men and 94 percent of women each week.
Many Diverse Prospects
Another national study on the role of radio in people's lives details how commercials can reach your primary prospects:
• Radio leads among big spenders. People with above average incomes spend more time listening to radio than reading newspapers or watching television.
• Radio is first in reach among the well-educated receiving more exposure among this group than magazines or other media.
• Radio leads among working women. It can be with them on the way to work, on their way to and from shopping and often at work and home.
• The cost of creating and preparing radio commercials usually is within reach of modest retail ad budgets.
Any radio time salesperson can list more reasons why radio in general or his or her station in particular should be in your advertising program.
Some Negatives, Too
Radio poses problems for advertisers, as does any medium. Most obvious, of course, is that radio has no pictures for demonstrating product features or decorating ideas. Another criticism is that listeners tune out commercials. The spots become only a background sound and not really heard, just there like a shadow. (The same criticism is often made about television commercials, even though television spots are more intrusive.)
But many retailers who run radio spots don't agree that these complaints are completely valid. They can show sales results to prove the effectiveness of their radio commercials.
Check Out Radio
Certainly, you should investigate radio. It may take some research because you may need more than one station to reach your desired audience. The trick is to match customers' profiles to the stations' listeners. You'll find rates for commercials are very reasonable when compared to costs for other media ads. As with any media, costs go up as audience numbers increase.
Stations sell spots in 60-, 30-, 15- and even 10-second units. Studies show that using 60- and 30-second spots is almost the same. Radio commercials are seldom one-shot announcements. Instead, spots are repeated at intervals over a period of weeks to assure maximum reach and impact. Your message will be fleeting. To be heard, it must be repeated, even when the spot is a grabber.
Rate cards, which list advertisement or commercial prices used by network television, radio and cable TV stations, are not etched in bronze. Especially in radio, the published rates for times and costs often are just asking prices. Many station salespeople will consider rate adjustments based on the frequency of spots and the schedule to be determined.
Small advertisers should bargain or even barter for best times and affordable local rates, assuming audience statistics are acceptable. The idea is to stretch your ad budget to reach the largest possible audience.
The ways in which radio can be used are many and varied: special announcements and offers, grand openings, unique services, support of local events, publicity and much more. Most retailers use radio as a backup for their newspaper ads and direct mail promotions. They mix and combine media to increase effectiveness.
By adding radio you can increase audience at minimum costs. Radio can build a reputation quickly and help solve marketing problems. Its uses and value can be as powerful as your budget permits.
• Suggestion: If you want to use radio on a small budget, do not buy one spot a day for 10 days. Instead, buy five one day, then five the next. Skip a week or more until you can afford another 5/5 spot buy as before. Your message will have more impact for the same money over the same time. It would be better to alternate two spots for less boredom and more impact.
Interior fashions retailers have had a guarded, off-and-on, love/hate affair with television advertising for years. How to use this most powerful marketing tool still is a big question for them. The video screen can be an ideal medium to demonstrate and sell products. Sight, color, convincing dialogue, beautiful settings; all contribute to the show-and-tell marketing of products and fashion ideas.
Many large retailers think television should be used primarily to stimulate store awareness and overall image. Other soft-goods merchants, primarily discounters, are using massive spot campaigns to sell their price-off merchandise.
Television- A Marketing Must? Americans of all ages and gender are reading less and watching TV more. Any retailer, large or small, must constantly evaluate the marketing potential of this all-powerful communications medium. Here's a recap of television advertising benefits and negatives as they exist today.
Cost a Big Factor
Most interior fashions dealers are disenchanted with television. Cost is the major reason. Commercial time and production costs, both network and local, have escalated rapidly over the years. The dollar outlay for a series of commercials can put a major dent in even the largest ad budgets. And for effective audience reach, or total impressions, most TV advertisers believe it is necessary to run a series of seven or more spots during a period of several weeks.
Another concern is the audience "waste" in a television ad campaign. It's more difficult to pinpoint a desired market with TV than it is with newspapers, radio or direct mail. Station representatives can give you much data on the makeup or demographics for each show and its time period. But the desired viewers are spread over the entire broadcast area, probably much greater than your immediate market.
The concern about the number of commercials on both regular and cable networks is valid. Each day, the average TV viewer, who now watches more than seven hours daily, is bombarded with hundreds of commercials and teasers for coming attractions.
Advertisers now use spots of 10-, 15-, 30- and 60-second duration on most shows. Some cable networks even carry infomercials, which are lengthy (up to 30 minutes) commercials for the advertiser's products and their uses.
No wonder television advertisers question the impact and retention value of their commercials in the midst of all this clutter. The only positive note for advertisers are studies reporting that many viewers enjoy the commercials as much or more than the actual shows. At least one cable network now carries only commercials and infomercials.
Production Costs High
Another problem for television advertisers can be the high costs for creating and producing good quality commercials. Most large retailers retain experienced ad agency personnel to produce their very expensive spots.
The actual production costs can vary tremendously depending on creative concepts, settings and cast.
Your local TV station can do commercials for you. The quality of such commercials may not be great, but the results, especially for special sales or announcements, usually are satisfactory.
Use Supplier Aids?
Some major suppliers in our fashion industries can provide ready-made 30-second commercials. These videotapes feature their products in various room settings. All you need do, as one of their dealers, is have your TV station insert your store logo and address at the end of the spot. Or, you and your local station can use supplier's slides and script to produce your own spots.
Some suppliers provide production materials as part of their cooperative advertising programs for their dealers. However, because these spots basically are one-product oriented, few retailers use them.
Most specialty retailers who do use television buy spots on a limited basis, seldom on a regular schedule. They may buy "fringe" time spots with no regard for show quality or specific markets.
There are few success stories about TV advertising results to report in our interior fashion areas. However, some large-volume discount merchandisers have had good results with special promotions to large national audiences. Major department stores have used TV spots primarily to feature special store-wide events and at the same time increase store awareness.
But as a small specialty retailer, you can't just assume that television advertising will always be too costly or wasteful for your consideration. If you desire to grow and strive to reach future customers, you should keep informed not only about TV changes, but also about the long-range potential of other electronic communications. Who knows what amazing communications advances are just ahead? Future changes certainly will be vital for successful in-store and in-home marketing of interior fashion concepts and products.
Cable Offers Diversity
Cable television now has become a major marketing and information medium. Today, viewers spend more time watching cable channels than movies and videos combined.
In many markets, overall cable ratings are equal to or greater than those for the major networks.
Cable TV channels now have more than 60 million subscribers reaching 60 percent of the U.S. homes with 85 percent of the buying power. The medium gives advertisers a diversity of specialized channels and viewers. An advertiser can select channels to reach general or target audiences. The accent for many cable channels is news, sports and old movies. But some channels specialize in decorating, home building items and entertaining. Each year additional channels catering to special viewers are added. The growth of cable TV has been another electronic communications phenomenon.
The individual ratings for cable channels are lower than network television ratings, but the comparative spot rates are lower, too. You can buy spots in various increments of seconds (usually 10, 15 or 30 seconds) and even minutes including 30-minute infomercials. Special direct mail channels provide two-way communications for sales of products and services.
Expectations of cable TV are for continued growth. With digital TV and fiber optics innovations offering more channels-up to 500 and maybe more-cable TV will become more fragmented much like radio is today. Every window coverings or home fashions retailer planning on advertising will need to keep abreast of these changes.
John J. Lichty is a
consultant and senior editor for Draperies & Window Coverings magazine. He has more than 30 years experience in the planning and administration of
various consumer, trade and retail advertising programs.
Editor's Note: The following is the third part in a series of articles covering the basics for retail advertising with an emphasis on the needs of home fashion retailers. The preceding two articles were: "Advertising by the Numbers," August 1998, and "Step-by-step Advertising," October 1998. This article includes information on the consumer media used by retailers beginning with radio.
Radio: The Support Medium
• Affordable time costs
• Inexpensive production costs
• Reach special listener groups
• Can target affluent, working women and income groups
• "Drive time" offers reach
• Ideal to support other media Negatives:
• Short message life
• Repetition needed
• No picture impact
• May need to use several stations for desired reach
• "Drive time" costs more
• "Attention" spots needed and special promotions
• Great for "show and tell." Beautiful full-color settings with action, sound and music can deliver a powerful sales boost for fashion products.
• Target local viewers. Network shows offer local spots. Your station rep can break out viewer stats and cost per thousand (CPM) figures for your market. Some spots for local shows (news, etc.) may be affordable for small budgets.
• Cable TV diversity. Cable stations will continue to increase in number. Special shows on interior fashions will be available.
• Public broadcasting stations (PBS).
Local sponsorship of portions of national
shows can add impact and prestige to
your store image; also reach top profile
audiences. No production costs; your logo
and mention are given at beginning and
end of show.
• Local non-network stations. Small area neighborhood stations, offering limited local news and shows, will increase in years to come. They should be able to reach audiences at lower rates. Negatives:
• Costs. Time and production costs for even local spots on network shows are out of reach for all but large national retailers.
• Waste viewers. For a small specialty store with a limited market, local spots may include few actual prospects.
• Clutter. Costly commercials can be lost in the maze of other spots on any show, especially locals. Clutter leads to zapping of commercials, a growing problem for any advertiser on TV.
• Frequency needed. To break through all the clutter, spots must be repeated again and again at least seven times, according to many surveys. This means extra costs and viewer boredom, even negative reaction to the commercial messages.
• Quality of shows.
Desired viewers may be turned off by the
excessive violence and trashy content of
so many national and local shows catering
to immature audiences. Negative
reactions to your ads on such shows may
harm your store image.
The idea is to stretch your ad budget to reach
the largest possible audience.