Radio is an old school but flexible channel – and make no mistake: one that’s still relevant in the modern world. It offers massive, consistent reach – especially during COVID-19, when everyone is at home and has the time to tune in. An RMS report on media consumption during COVID-19 revealed that one third of Germans are listening to radio more than they did before. More benefits? A radio campaign offers a great chance to increase brand awareness. It’s easily measurable. Oh, and there’s a ROI not to be sniffed at

So, why not set up a radio campaign? The question is how. Indeed, there’s no one right way to set one up…But there are definitely a few general guidelines to follow and key questions to think about that will help you decide on the right approach for running a successful radio campaign.

The three main factors to consider that will have a huge effect on the shape of your campaign are: 1) the campaign goals, 2) target area and 3) target group. The big three will help determine the channel mix and precise timings of your soon-to-be knockout campaign. Once you’ve done that, you need to focus on the creative side. What are you waiting for? Here we go!

We’ve got the offline expertise and the creative energy to make your campaign happen. Talk to us at hello@dcmn.com.

1. Deciding on your radio campaign goals

what type of radio campaign do you want to run?

Which campaign are you? Let’s take a look at the two types shown in the graphic above…

  • High net reach with limited opportunity to hear: If your main goal is to increase your brand awareness in a short period of time, you’ll want to shoot for a high level of coverage within your target group and target region, at least 40-50%. With this approach, assuming you have a limited budget, you’ll have to accept a lower opportunity to hear, meaning the airing frequency of the spots are lower. In short, your spots will be aired more broadly across networks to more people, but each individual will hear the spot fewer times. The good news is, if you’re focused on reach within a set region, radio can be pretty inexpensive – the CPM is generally significantly lower than on TV.
  • Lower net reach with high opportunity to hear: If you’re most concerned with using radio to drive conversions, try to focus your budget on maintaining a high frequency of spot airings. Keeping the pressure high will make sure that customers get multiple touchpoints with your brand – a tactic more effective in driving them to convert. The tradeoff here is reach, but in terms of performance, this is not a big problem. Reaching only 20% of your target group is fine – if that 20% is converting in a high number that is.

    Glossary of radio terms to remember


    Net Reach: This term refers to the total number of persons with at least one view of an ad, i.e., they have been exposed to the medium at least once.
    CPM: Cost per mille, also called cost per thousand (CPT) or Tausender-Kontakt-Preis (TKP) in German, is the cost an advertiser pays for one thousand views or clicks of an advertisement.
    Gross Ratings Points (GRP): In advertising, a gross rating point (GRP) is a measure of the size of an advertising campaign by a specific medium or schedule. Please note it measures the size of the audience reached. GRPs quantify impressions as a percentage of the target population, and this percentage may thus be greater than, or in fact much greater than, 100.
    Opportunity to Hear (OTH): OTH is the Opportunity to Hear – the number of chances a listener will get to hear an advertisement. OTS is a measurement determining the number of times someone is likely to see a marketing message.

2. Defining your target area

Radio is a regional beast. A big part of planning your radio campaign is defining the target area, or where your marketing activities should take place. If you have a specific activator or business case, like a brick-and-mortar store opening or a special regional deal, the answer is a bit more obvious. 

But what if you just want to test radio generally?

A sound approach, especially for startups or digital brands with limited budgets, is to focus on just one city to start, and expand to one or two more if you see it’s effective. Going straight for a national campaign is generally not recommended. To decide on which city you’ll begin with, try checking your site or app analytics to see which cities or regions conversions are coming from. If this doesn’t give you a clear direction, another option is to simply run the test in a city that has the best prices and conditions for radio media. 

Also: be aware of differences in the radio media landscape in different target markets. Germany, for example, is extremely fragmented, with over 400 radio stations that can be targeted to very specific interests and demographics. France, on the other hand, has just a handful of national stations that offer almost total coverage, making it vastly more affordable and accessible, but offers less opportunities for targeting. 

There are also differences in network ownership – some markets have more privately owned stations that are advertising-funded, and some markets have just a few private stations (and less ad inventory) because the landscape is dominated by bigger, public players. Law of supply and demand tells us that these few slots are bound to be more expensive. Budgets for test campaigns will not be the same everywhere.  

Familiarising yourself with the landscape is crucial. Research pricing, fragmentation, flexibility, network ownership and targeting possibilities before honing in on your target area. 

3. Working out your target group

The channel mix again depends on the level of fragmentation in the market and what your campaign goals are – higher net reach with lower opportunity to hear, or lower net reach with a higher opportunity to hear? Finding stations that fit your target group, of course, goes without saying. 

To plan your channel mix, you’ll need to find out three things for each network: its fit to your target group (affinity), the reach and coverage in the market, and the prices. For this, you’ll need a media planning tool like RadioXprt or AdPerform. The alternatives are either calling each station individually to research and negotiate, or working with a marketing partner.

Because of the fragmentation question, it’s difficult to say exactly how many stations you’ll need to book. But just to get a very rough picture, a general rule of thumb to achieve 40-50% coverage within a target group in one urban area is two stations, minimum.

Planning your radio campaign timings

Timing is big in radio, and doesn’t follow the same rules as TV.

First of all, prime time on radio is not in the evening. In many, many markets, drive times are the prime times of radio, when people are listening in to their favourite stations during the commute. In these countries, the cost for 6-9am and 4-6pm will be highest. In the evening, usage tends to drop significantly, and so do prices.

For daytime, it depends on the market and target group, although costs are usually moderate across the board. In some countries and for some occupations and age groups, people do listen to the radio during the day at home or at work. Here you can catch people who consume radio similarly to TV – in a more passive setting, possibly with a second device close at hand.

costs and reach for radio campaigns in Germany

Strategy-wise, your timings are also based on your campaign goals. Want to maximise reach? Invest in drive times and accept the higher prices. But if net reach is not the most important factor, book less expensive times. Weekdays on radio also have a hierarchy – Monday-Friday plus Saturday morning is typically the most expensive, with the rest of Saturday, and finally Sunday being the most affordable. This is the case in countries where stores are closed Sundays, and traditional brick-and-mortar retailers tend to dominate radio ad spending. This makes weekends an attractive time for e-commerce players that are open 24-7 and can make use of less expensive slots. 

costs and reach of radio campaigns in Germany

At least in Germany, seasonality is not an issue for radio like it is for TV, where prices spike around holidays. Here you’re free to make the best decisions for your product, even if that means starting in November right in the middle of the pre-Christmas rush. 

On top of these three main timing considerations, radio is very flexible with where exactly your spots show up – in which contexts and around which programs. You can tailor this on a very detailed level, for example by sponsoring an individual program to be the only brand featured, or selecting the first or last spot in an ad block. This can squeeze the maximum impact out of a timeslot without investing huge amounts of cash.

4. Let’s get creative: how to make your radio campaign work

how to make a radio campaign work

Even more than with TV, your radio campaign lives and dies by its creative concept. After all, audio is all you have to grab the listener’s attention and communicate your brand and value proposition. Look out for the following aspects. 

Length: Especially if you’re introducing a new brand on radio, your spot needs to be long enough to explain the product and brand, but short enough to keep your costs in check. Those extra seconds of inventory add up, so a full 30 second spot could be too expensive. That said, spots that are longer than 20 seconds generally score higher in likability. The sweet spot is around 20 seconds, and when your brand is better-known, you could think about reducing to 15.

Structure: Listener attention is highest at the beginning of a spot, so frontload your most relevant content. Transport your key messages in a strong opening, and shift any secondary information to later in the spot. 

Content: For the spot to perform, you’ll need to make sure your brand name and CTA (or URL) are “visible”. Because you only have audio to work with, this comes down to pronouncing them very clearly and repeating them several times. Again, it may seem obvious, but if you’ve always been able to rely on your customers seeing your brand name printed, it’s an easy thing to miss. Make sure your product and value proposition are communicated clearly, but don’t skimp on the entertainment value – a good ad won’t make compromises on either. 

Acoustics: With the right audio tricks, you can make your ad really sparkle. Incorporate background sound effects to make your spot more “visual” and paint a picture of what’s happening in the ad’s storyline. Consider developing sound branding or a jingle to improve memorability – since you can’t use your brand colors or logo, it gives your users something to hang on to and recall later. Using the same voice actor in all ads has a similar effect. You can even increase the likability by using a local dialect in your voiceover. And contrary to popular belief – a louder ad does not necessarily perform better!

The upside to audio: It might feel like radio is limiting, but there are benefits too. Where TV is a very passive medium, radio actually activates people’s minds to create their own images. Use this consciously to spark your customers’ imaginations and bring your message across in a very focused way.

We’re not just experts in radio, but know the whole offline spectrum like the back of our hand. Get in touch with us to talk options: hello@dcmn.com.