Reach Now, Recall Later: Factors Impacting Your Radio Advertising Over Time

radio advertising

Even in today’s environment of seemingly unlimited media and entertainment options, radio’s reach is unmatched across all age segments. Nielsen reports that 93% of adults listen to the radio at least weekly. When you combine this unparalleled reach with radio’s impact on recall — or your target audience’s ability to remember an ad after it’s heard — it’s easy to understand why radio advertising can be a powerful tool for a long-term advertising strategy.

In this post, we’ll take a look at a number of factors that contribute to better recall for your radio ads.

Factors That Impact Radio Advertising Recall

  • Format. According to Radio Recall Research, LLC, the “slice of life” format, in which a real-life problem is presented in a dramatic way, with the advertised product providing the solution, showed the greatest recall in both 60-second ads (22.4% recall) and 30-second ads (18.9% recall). Coming in as a close second is the interview/testimonial format — such as an expert interview or “man on the street” testimonial — with 20.6% and 17.3% for 60-second and 30-second spots, respectively. Announcer-only or “sing and sell” commercials ranked lowest for recall, with scores of 16% for 60-second ads and 14% for 30-second ads.

  • Number of brand mentions. Commercials with the “typical” number of brand mentions — 5 to 7 for a 60-second ad, and 4 to 5 for a 30-second ad — showed strong recall scores, 18.6% and 17.3% respectively. For 60-second commercials with 8 to 10 brand mentions, the score was slightly higher, 19.4%, while recall for 30-second spots dropped slightly with an increase in brand mentions, to 15.8%. The interview/testimonial ad format with 6 to 10 brand mentions delivered an average of 19% for 60-second spots and nearly 16% for 30-second spots.

  • Number of ideas. Data also shows a correlation between the number of ideas presented in an advertisement and the level of recall among listeners. Ads where the number of ideas is limited to between 3 and 5 showed the best recall scores — 19.9% for 60-second spots and 16.6% for 30-second spots. Ads that contained 6 to 10 ideas performed the poorest. It’s important to note, however, that a greater number of words in a radio spot is correlated with greater recall. A 60-second ad with many words scored 22.3% for recall, compared with a 30-second ad with few words, which scored only 13%.

  • Humor and music. Recall results for commercials using humor were inconclusive. In general, however, it’s a good idea to pre-test such ads with a sample audience of your target market to determine if the audience finds the ad funny. Using music in ads showed no impact on the level of recall, so it’s best to use music only in the background and use your airtime to present your message. Alternatively, using brand jingles or intro music to capture the listener’s attention can be effective.

In terms of impact on recall, 60-second ads score better than 30-second ads, and “slice of life” ads perform better than interview/testimonial or announcer-only/”sing and sell” commercials. There is generally greater positive impact on recall for spots with more brand mentions, although recall scores dip slightly for 30-second spots containing more than 6 brand mentions. And while more words generally result in better recall, data indicates that it’s better to limit the number of ideas presented in your spots. In addition, it’s a good idea to tread carefully when using humor in your ads, and don’t take up valuable airtime with music other than a quick intro or a brand jingle.

Keep these tips in mind when developing your ad creative to increase recall and better leverage the superior reach of radio.



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