Why Big Pharma is One of Radio’s Fastest Growing Ad Categories

Written By

Liz Iversen

Published On

Wednesday, Jun 22
Medical bottles and medication pills spilling out on to pastel blue background. Top view with copy space. Healthcare, pharmacy, medicine concept

Until recently, there were few pharmaceutical ads on radio. But pharma ad spending in 2021 reached $126 million, a 2.5X increase over 2018’s $49 million. Why the sudden surge in pharma brands turning to network radio?

As explained by Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer of the Cumulus Media | Westwood One Audio Active Group, it has to do with the light TV viewership problem in the U.S. According to Nielsen, 49% of Americans are light TV viewers. These light viewers receive only 9% of total TV commercial impressions. “It is virtually impossible to reach light TV viewers on linear TV,” says Bouvard. 


So how can TV advertisers reach light TV viewers? The answer may surprise you: Advertise on AM/FM radio. AM/FM radio reaches a staggering 90% of light TV viewers.

According to Nielsen Media Impact, pharmaceutical/OTC brands experience a +38% average incremental reach increase when including AM/FM radio with TV.

Adding AM/FM radio to a TV campaign increased the reach among all age demos, and the younger the demo, the larger the reach gains. For example, reach for adults 18-24 increased by +149% by adding AM/FM radio, reach for adults 25-34 increased by +107% with AM/FM radio, and reach for adults 34-44 increased by +60% with AM/FM radio. 

Shifting 20% of the media budget to AM/FM radio has positive effects for pharma brands, according to Nielsen Media Impact. For example, in March 2021, an arthritis medication’s reach soared from 68.1% to 87.7% by shifting 20% of their budget to AM/FM radio, and the brand’s share of voice among adults 35-64 nearly doubled.

“That is the superpower of radio: its incremental reach. It’s reaching the light TV viewers, and the younger the demographic, the higher the lift in incremental reach,” said Bouvard. He believes that there’s a reason why pharma brands are putting their money into AM/FM radio: Because that’s where the ad-supported audience is.


Are you ready to improve your brand awareness with AM/FM radio’s large ad-supported audience? Contact Strategic Media, Inc. today.

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