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Radio Marketing: Everybody's Famous in a Small Town

Advertisers everywhere are tuning radio into their media plans. It offers a lot of advantages, including extensive audience reach, targeting by geographic area, genre, age and other demographics and a direct avenue to local consumers. Typically, it’s the larger radio markets that advertising professionals pay the most attention to, though. And it makes sense at first glance. Outside of the top five markets - New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas/Ft. Worth - radio still carries an impressive amount of influence in medium and small markets.

In these smaller markets, such as those dotting the flyover states, consumers still possess a great deal of buying power but are more difficult to reach through advertising. Radio is a constant companion for commuters all across the automotive-dependent US, but especially so in these markets where people rely on radio for entertainment, news, weather and other information. Radio binds communities together. As such, radio marketing in these small and medium markets can present a great opportunity for your brand, but first, you need to understand exactly what you’re getting into.

Radio’s Dominance in Small and Medium Markets

Radio is typically seen as having the greatest reach of any media channel, even more than television, while also wielding more efficient targeting capabilities. TV usually operates in larger geographic areas encompassing a larger, more general population, but radio stations have a smaller area of influence. With a little research, you’ll be able to find the best stations in the correct geographical areas to reach your desired consumers.

In small and medium markets, the reach of radio is enhanced. In such places where internet connectivity may be spotty and daily newspapers are a thing of the past, other media channels are less reliable than radio. For people in these communities, radio is one of the most dependable ways to stay up to date with their communities and find entertainment.

Smaller Markets, Averaged-Sized Listeners

The first thing you need to consider is exactly who is listening to the radio and who you need to target your ads towards. On a monthly basis, consumers of all ages tune into their favorite radio stations in medium and small markets. Nielsen’s report, Audio Today 2019: the Medium and Small Market Edition, breaks down listenership by age, gender, race and a host of other factors. It reports that 98% of adults 18 years or older in medium and small markets listen to the radio at least once a month, which aligns perfectly with the national average Nielsen reports in Audio Today 2019: How America Listens.

Older adults listen at a slightly higher rate. 99% of adults 25 to 54 years old count themselves as radio listeners, while that number falls to 94% for adults 18 to 34. Along gender lines, listeners are evenly split 50/50 between men and women. Working consumers, those with either a part-time or full-time job, make up a little more than three quarters of your audience in medium and small markets at 77%. Annually, consumers in these markets spend $7,000+ on groceries, $2,700 on home improvements and $1,100 on furniture.

For consumers who listen to audio in other ways through podcasts and smart speakers, radio remains a part of their media consumption. 90% of podcast consumers & 92% of smart speaker owners in these markets still listen to radio, also lining up with national averages.

The stations audiences are listening to in medium and small markets differs from national trends somewhat. Nationally, Country, News/Talk (commercial + non-commercial), Adult Contemporary, Pop Contemporary Hit Radio and Classic Rock comprise the top five most listened to formats. In the small markets, Country and News/Talk still reign supreme, but Pop Contemporary Hit radio outpaces Adult Contemporary and Classic Rock.

On the Road, Again

It’s also a vital part of any radio marketing strategy to figure out where and when your desired audience is likely to listen to the radio. In medium and small markets, 65% of listening happens away from home, putting listeners closer to the point of purchase. This is slightly lower than the national level where 69% of radio listening occurs away from home.

Of the away-from-home radio listening, most of it unsurprisingly happens in our cars. Commute times are increasing across all market sizes, whether it’s sitting in traffic in a large metro area or traveling long distances in rural areas. In small and medium markets, 66% of away-from-home listening happens while driving. Throughout the day, listening habits in these markets mirror those in the larger ones. Radio listening starts in earnest 6-7am, continues through the morning commute, then peaks again around the evening commute.

With all of this in mind, you’ll be able to create and schedule ad campaigns for small and medium markets that meet your audience optimally as they move about their daily journey.

Stiff Competition

Before you decide it’s time to take your big-fish brand to the small- and medium-sized ponds, there is something to keep in mind. Yes, as a media channel, radio has an outsized impact on consumers in these markets, and yes, these listeners are highly-desirable, engaged consumers with a great deal of buying power. However, other advertisers are aware of these truths, too.

Which radio market produces the most cost in radio ad sales per person? If you’re thinking it’s got to be one of the large markets such as New York or LA, you’d be wrong. Fargo, North Dakota is the winner at $91.54 per person, according to BIA/Kelsey. In fact, every city in BIA’s top ten billing markets based on revenue per population happens to be outside of Nielsen’s top 150 largest markets.

Radio marketing in small and medium markets can become an expensive endeavor as you compete with other advertisers for smaller audiences and a finite amount of ad inventory. To help you balance marketing costs with the tremendous opportunity radio presents in these markets, a dedicated team of media buyers will have the experience and connections needed to navigate the media landscape.

Make a Large Impact No Matter the Market

Radio is one of the best marketing investments you can make. It gives you a direct route into local markets without facing the same obstacles other advertising channels such as video, digital and print face. From small to large markets, radio marketing is incredibly effective at reaching and engaging audiences and moving them toward the point of purchase.

Successful radio ad campaigns take time to plan and execute correctly, though. Everything from user demographics to station ratings and costs should be taken into account while developing your creative message and planning your media budget allocation, and this is before you even buy a single spot. Negotiating radio ad placements with stations is its own art form. With The Ward Group, you’ll have a team of media planners and buyers on your side to steward the process from start to finish regardless of the markets you want to be in.

Get in touch with our media stewards now and start creating a media plan that’s just your size.

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