The Biggest Mistakes in Direct Response Radio Advertising

Updated for 2009

One of the most popular articles we've written is titled The Five Biggest Mistakes in Direct Response Radio Advertising. Here are the mistakes we listed in that article:

  1. A Faulty or Non-Existent Testing Process
  2. Inadequate Data Capture and Analysis
  3. Flying Blind (Proceeding before knowing what success is defined as in terms of your key campaign metrics)
  4. Using Vendors Who Don't Know Direct Response Radio (even though they claim to)
  5. A Corrupted Creative Process

Looking at this list today, we'd have to say that these five mistakes are still among the top mistakes we see people make. However, there are some new "top" mistakes, and some more refinement we'd make to those on the list.

The testing process remains a point of relatively low understanding. In general the conflict that seems to arise is where the client wants to test using a very low budget, but still wants to learn the answer to a large number of questions with a high degree of reliability. Those goals are conflicting.

The issue of "inadequate data capture" remains, however it has changed in a fairly dramatic way. Since we first wrote the "Five Biggest Mistakes" article, the web has catapulted to the top data tracking issue. Why? Because we've learned that radio advertising drives a boatload of online leads and orders. In our testing we've found that for every dollar we see coming through a phone center, there is between $.35 and $1.00 coming via the web. It's actually more complicated than that, because that assumes nobody is trying to pick off your customers with their own PPC and SEO efforts - which is a bad assumption that gets worse as your campaign gets more successful. Other companies will try to reap the benefit of your advertising, and they'll succeed if you don't do something about it. We now require all clients to meet minimum web tracking benchmarks before proceeding with testing.

For whatever reason, "Flying Blind" is not as big an issue. People seem to know their key metrics.

Using vendors that don't know direct response radio, particularly when it comes to the call center, remains a significant challenge. The good news on this front is that over the last few years some of the more well-known call centers have become much better at closing radio calls. In the past, they had become used to the layups that come in from TV infomercials and their sales skills were not as sharp.

The creative process remains under threat on a few different fronts. The most meaningful seems to be clients who perhaps don't have enough trust in the experts they've hired to create radio ads for their business. This is an understandable situation since the client is the one spending the money and it's their product so they know it best. But our recommendations are based on years of experience with what works and what doesn't in direct response radio. We combine that with what we learn from the campaign brief provided by the client to produce an a radio commercial (or commercials) that we believe will produce the best results. The best way for us to describe how to avoid this mistake is this: provide the agency a full and complete campaign brief up front. Then, when you're asked for feedback on copy or the final produced ad, do your best to restrict that feedback to a) customer insights that you feel were missed, b) incorrect facts in the ads, and c) legal requirements that need to be met.