Advertisers hit the mark with Internet and radio spots

A recent poll suggests online ads are poised to outpace on-air ads this year, but the Internet hasn’t killed the radio yet, according to several industry experts.

With its ever-growing arsenal of interactive social media tools, the Web-based world actually presents numerous cross-marketing opportunities for radio, television and print.

“There are many synergies between radio and the Internet . . . for the most part, they complement rather than compete with each other,” according to Ben Macklin, senior analyst for eMarketer Inc., an online marketing research firm based in New York.

A survey by eMarketer indicated that in 2006, U.S. companies purchased an estimated US$16.9 billion worth of online advertising and spent about US$20.1 billion in radio ads. The research firm predicted that by the end of 2007, the tables will be turned on radio as online ad spending reach US$21.7 billion and on-air ads remain at US$20.4 billion

By 2011 online ad spending will surpass US$44 billion while radio ads linger around US$22.6 billion, the eMarketer survey said.

Although he doesn’t find the development surprising, one Canadian online marketing expert says the speed with which the Internet gobbled up radio revenues is “remarkable.”

“This is very significant when you take into account that radio has been around for more than 100 years and online advertising has been with use for a little over 15,” said Bill Sweetman, general manager of domain portfolio for Tucows, a Toronto-based wholesale domain name registrar and service provider for Web hosting companies and ISPs.

However, in a report titled: Radio Trends-One Air and Online, Macklin said advertisers should not abandon radio in favour of the Web but use both media “to take advantage of the unique attributes of both.”

He said a snapshot of listeners aged 12 and above show that traditional radio, also called terrestrial radio, still commands a weekly cumulative audience of 283 million. Internet radio has more than 29 million listeners and satellite radio subscribers number about 13.6 million.

Macklin said other surveys indicate that Internet users, across all age groups, simultaneously surf the Web and consume other media

Marketers can harness this propensity for multi-tasking by advertising on radio or Internet radio to drive traffic to a site or vice-versa. Audio ads also enhance online visual ads and increase the factor of audience engagement.

Terrestrial radio is popular throughout the day, especially when people are in their cars and commuting to and from work. But capturing attention need not stop once the consumer leaves the automobile, said Macklin. Internet radio provides a valuable way to target an at-work audience.

Radio markets can also tap into the user generated and social network marketing strategies that are being employed in the growing number of online communities.

“Radio is perhaps one of the first social networks,” Macklin said pointing out listeners of classical music programs or Howard Stern can be every bit as passionate as members of an online community.

“By providing sticky content on the radio’s site, content providers and marketers can engage more deeply with their audience,” he said.

Consumers want to consume their media on demand.

Just as digital video recorders and video on demand has transformed the TV sector, Macklin said the radio world can use podcasting to provide on-demand functionality to audio.

Sweetman of Tucows agrees that the various media can co-exist to enhance each other’s offerings. “Radio can begin the dialogue with the consumer and then drive them online to further explore a product or service.”

He said while radio is limited to a mere 15 to 30 minute ad time, advertisers can buy an “almost limitless” number of pages online.

The same strategy can be applied to print and TV ads which due to the high cost of advertisement limits companies to “one ad-one message” scenario.

“If viewers and readers can be driven to the Web, marketers can use the interactive environment to hit them with more targeted offerings,” Sweetman said.

While surveys indicate that the Internet is eating away at radio ad revenue, the Tucows executive noted the environment seems to be giving way to a “different kind” of on air advertiser.

Sweetman said that Google Inc. has been offering smaller companies a chance to place ads on TV, print and radio.

“Strange, but it seems the Internet is enabling smaller advertisers to access this area that was once off limits.”

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