View Full Version : Money Saving Tips On Buying Radio & More

01-10-2008, 07:36 AM
Before becoming an independent producer, I had a full service ad agency. Prior to hiring an actual “media buyer”, I did most of the media-buying myself.

I’ll focus on radio but some of this applies to TV & Cable as well. I’m not suggesting to be an expert but I have indeed purchased millions of $$ of airtime for clients throughout the yrs.

Once I began meeting radio “AE’s”, I was fascinated on how each station was able to bend the the ARBITRON ratings to be the #1 station in the market! They may have been #1 in adults, 18-49, from 2-3 AM, Sunday Mornings but all of their “media kits” would splash “We’re #1!” Look beyond the "self” printed read-outs, to see the REAL #'s!

The key rating company for radio is Arbitron. Basically, they send out questionnaires called “diaries” where listeners are requested to provide listening habits, throughout the day. The completed ‘diaries’ are returned and Arbitron compiles a “book” of results. Millions of $$ of Ad Money, especially national $$, ride on those #'s, as well as careers, and I’ve seen many a GM or GSM lose sleep, hair and much more waiting for, the “book.”

Bottom line for you though, is a basic understanding of what the #s represent. The two key categories are Average Quarter Hour and Cume ratings.

Simply stated, AVERAGE QUARTER HOUR means: The average number of persons listening to a particular station for at least five minutes during a 15-minute period.

CUME represents: The unduplicated audience (the number of people who will be reached at least once) for a schedule, over a specific time period. Therefore, the higher the CUME, the larger the audience.

With that said, I’ve always looked at ratings as INDICATORS and not gospel. Arbitron will send out these diaries, (and you’d be surprised at how few) throughout each market area but they’re counting on folks to respond from memory.

Radio stations know when the ‘diaries’ are being sent and that’s when you’ll see them on TV, Print, Billboards etc & having contests to win cash, trips or cars.

So I say, a person may be a loyal 98.7 listener for example but may switch to 101.3 for the chance to win a car. Soon as the contest’s over, they return to
98.7. Ah but when asked in a ‘diary’ what station(s) they listen to, they may just say 101.3. See what I mean?

A new, hi-tech system called the Portable People Meter is being tested, which will change the way ratings are achieved. Should be implemented fully by 2010.

So yes, ratings can give you an indication but the above and other variables leave room for misinterpretation. Look for other indicators too!

I used to call the service depts. at car dealers I knew, who in turn would keep track of what stations their customers’ car radios were tuned to. (A lot of dealers who advertise on radio still do this)

Just by asking around, be it of your son, daughter, niece, nephew, their friends or whomever that represent your “core” audience, can give you further info. Heck, call some retailers who use radio for "your demos" and ask them what stations they’re using with success. After research, you might be surprised by a "sleeper" station that’s on the rise but their rates & ratings don’t indicate same. THAT’s a station worth buying cost effectively!

Some stations may show you Arbitrends, which are mini-reports, between the key rating periods, that show “trends” of station listener-ship. These can also help.

I hear it everyday from Print, TV or Cable TV, AE’s:

“Nobody listens to broadcast radio anymore because of Sirius or XM!”

I shouldn’t say this, since my horror tales called, Twisted Rhymes, aired on XM for 2 yrs. but here it is. I asked some VERY respected radio execs, I’ve known for years, about Satellite’s impact on broadcast. Here’s what their companies’ intensive research indicated:

Overall, Sat Radio’s taken no more than a 3 share from most markets but what’s interesting, is that when they report how many listeners (subscribers) they have, they also count every person who bought a new car with a FREE trial period AND every UNSOLD CAR, (sitting on dealers’ lots) that’s equipped for Sat! Fascinating!

Beyond that, the MAJORITY of listeners DON'T pay up to renew, after the free trial period. The studies also revealed that people still like the “local-ness” of broadcast radio for local news, traffic, events, weather, happenings etc. and the local DJ's “know & talk” about THEIR towns. Interesting note: If Sirius & XM were REALLY doing that well, why consider merging?

10’s 15’s 30’s 60’s

A powerhouse station in your town, reaching the exact demos your after, ain’t gonna be cheap! They got the #'s and they know it! What to do?

I just did a campaign in Boston, where the client wanted me to buy the #1 powerhouse, WBZ News/Talk. Rather than doing 60 sec. ads, we did 10’s and
15's that were considerably cheaper. We aired 1 an hour. We were also doing print & cable to describe the highlights of the event. In 10s/15s, you have enough time to say your name a couple times and a line or two about what’s happening and that’s all.

I could see doing so with haunts and perhaps by, “rotating” a few “different” ads in order to mention different "elements" of the attraction. If nothing else, you’ get your name and "element" in front of the highest “cume” audience in town, for far less than 60s, in most cases.

Some of you are great negotiators but if you're not very familiar with buying airtime, you may just be "thinking" you’re getting the best deal. I don’t have time to go into all the nuances but a few essential things to know are as follows:

GROSS/NET RATES: This has always been a gray area with stations but here’s the deal. “Supposedly”, only ad agencies are entitled to get the NET rate (15% Less) at radio stations.

Whereas, the station’s “normal” or “Gross” rate, for you, is say a $100. If I bought the time, as your agency, I’d only have to pay the station, the “Net” rate of $85. In theory, it doesn’t cost you any more but the station discounts it for me, because their people don’t have to do creative work or repetitive sales calls, just take the order & check!

After you negotiate your deal with a station, ask if it’s a gross or net rate. If it’s gross and they really want the buy, you might get the net if you hold out. If you already have a fully produced ad, you have even more bargaining power to get that NET rate. Oftentimes, a business will form what’s called an in-house agency. (Nothing more than a piece of stationary saying "Your Haunt" Advertising) Not all stations will honor same but some do, especially if you have ads pre-produced.

ROS BUYS (Run of Station or Schedule)
This is a reduced price ad format whereas your ads will fall between 6am to Midnight or the full 24 hours. The low $$ are nice but be careful, especially with powerhouse stations, because most of your ads will rarely see the light of day and not reach many people. Sometimes, a station will guarantee a certain (%) of ads will air in good day-parts & if it looks good to you, that’s a better deal.

A nice feature of a haunt's demos is that a lot of them are listening at night or on weekends. Those day parts are always cheaper than Drive times. Larger haunts’ budgets can handle drive time $$ but for those on a budget, buy-around drive time (as close as possible) or consider the 10/15 promo mentioned.

Unless you’re an established haunt with approved credit, you’re going to pay up front. The mere fact that you are, actually gives you another LEVER to use in negotiations. AE’s at stations often have to wait 30, 60 or even 120 days to get paid and cash up front is most welcome! Use it in your negotiation! They’ll work with you, believe me! If they can’t cut the $$ at least push 'em to get you some great “time slots”. There’s a big difference, say in Morning Drive, between ads airing from 6am to 7am versus 7am to 8am!

MP3s/CDs etc
If you have your ads pre-produced, make sure they’re done at a studio with good equipment and that the copies (dubs) are distributed at the highest quality possible. Also, if your ads are in stereo, be sure their transferred into the station systems' that way and not in mono by mistake. Every now and then I encounter this and usually a stereo ad will suffer dramatically. Things like phase-out can happen, which will greatly affect the sound. If you’re going to air on a Mono AM station, get your producer to create a specific MONO mix for it. It’ll cost a few $$ but worth it!

You may have read that Google’s getting into the radio airtime buying biz and merchants throughout the US will be able to buy airtime, online, through their marketplace. I competed against a bunch of producers and learned I’ll be one of their Authorized Ad Producers, once they’re out of BETA testing. I don’t know enough about the "buying" side yet but if I find there's a big advantage doing so, I’ll pass it along here.

Just because your budgets may be tight, don’t dismiss radio. With some of the techniques mentioned here and in my previous post regarding strong techniques for attention-getting ads, you might just be able to do it with maximum awareness and cost effectiveness. Your call.

Well, that’s all for now. Just wanted to pass along some things, learned through the years, in a gesture for the additional business I’ve derived from the horror community at large. I’d also like to thank Larry for providing such a venue as these forums. Thanks to all!

Bob Harper

01-10-2008, 08:08 AM
Fantastic post.....thanks for the detail. You need to get with Larry a write an article in the next Hauntworld.

This was great info.

01-10-2008, 01:33 PM
gregsalyers is right you sound like you know what your talking about, you should write a article. A article about buying ads would be great, not just radio but print and TV too.