Traffic: Commuter’s Nightmare, Radio Advertisers Dream

Written By

SMI Staff

Published On

Wednesday, Jan 07

Spending a lot of time on the road these days? You’re not alone. American commuters are in their cars for 30% more time than they were just 10 years ago, and a whopping 38 hours a year of that is spent just sitting in traffic. According to the most recent Texas A&M urban mobility study, “It’s even worse in big cities. In D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the typical car commuter spends more than 60 hours – more than a week of work-time – sitting in his car, stuck in traffic.”

Yeah, it sucks.

But, here at Strategic Media we like to see the glass half full, and in this case, all that time spent burning up gas on the highway happens to be great for radio advertisers. (Can we say, “captive audience?”) In spite of all the new gadgets, iDids and doDads, radio remains king of in-car media. In fact, as CBS News Radio VP, Harvey Nagler said in Radio Ink recently: “The majority of radio listening now occurs in the car.” The bulk of those listeners are employed and prone to leave their radios tuned to one station – the perfect recipe for direct response marketers.

Why has terrestrial radio maintained its place on our dashboards? Much of it comes down to the fact that we like the company of our local DJs. We enjoy catching up on the latest sports scores and news stories. We like it so much that we’re doing even more of it than in the past. The total listenership for terrestrial radio was 244 million in 2014 – this, according to Nielsen Audio’s The State of Radio Today report, up from 230 million in 2005. In a world filled with audio technologies and options, people like the feeling of familiarity they get by listening to local radio.

At Strategic Media, we see companies testing other mediums, especially in the digital age. Meanwhile, direct response radio keeps sounding off its worth to advertisers in the form of efficiency, price and return on investment. While TV is assumed to have a 2-to-1 ROI, Nielsen and Media Monitors puts radio’s ROI at $6 for every $1 spent.

All of this to say: not only should we not count radio out, but we should embrace it even more. As Nagler puts it, “One should not draw the conclusion that an increase in social media works to the detriment of radio. To the contrary, radio stations are putting their content on different platforms, gaining a large audience for their product.” According to Arbitron, at over 50%, radio is reaching the most consumers right before they buy. That’s as much as TV, newspapers and magazines combined.

So the next time you’re stuck in your car, remember: there may be no quick solutions to fixing America’s traffic woes, but there are ways of taking advantage of it.

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