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The Radio Success Formula

Dear Radio,
I’ve loved you all my life. In fact, I have more confidence in you than you have in yourself.
But you have a blind spot, and it’s killing you: radio advertisers are reaching 100% of the city and convincing them 10% of the way, when they should be reaching 10% of the city and convincing them 100% of the way.
You’re letting advertisers squander their money on reach without frequency.

Your spot rate is determined by your reach, your audience size.
The bigger your reach, the bigger your bank account.
This is why you dance when you have a good book. 1
You push reach.
“We’re #1” means “We offer the most reach.”

But your client’s success is determined by his frequency.
I am your client. Sell me a schedule that gives me big reach with small frequency and I’ll soon be singing, “I tried radio and it didn’t work” at the top of my lungs.
Sell me small reach with big frequency and I’ll take over your city, one station at a time. I’ll use relentless frequency to become a household word on a little station, then when that station’s weekly cume of many thousands of listeners 2 have grown my company into a bigger one, I’ll add another station, then another and another until I’m on every station in town.

This is not theoretical. I’ve been doing it for 38 years and it has never failed to work. In truth, our clients across the U.S., Canada, and Australia are seeing greater success through radio today than ever before.
Frequency should be non-negotiable. Why do you let people on the air without it?
And since I sell products and services that have a long selling cycle, I’ll also need consistency.
Consistency is the frequency of the frequency.
52-week consistency is essential when your client has a long selling cycle. Things like engagement rings, A/C repair, home appliances, drain opening, legal services, auto repair, and insurance have long selling cycles. The way I can win these categories is to become the provider the customer thinks of immediately – and feels best about – when they, or any of the people in their circle of influence, finally need what I sell.
The only clients who can succeed without consistency are sellers of food and entertainment – things with a short selling cycle – things we buy every day, or at least every week or two.

Reach and frequency are not interchangeable.
Who was it that decided we should multiply reach times frequency to calculate gross impressions, and then cast gross impressions as a percentage of the population to calculate gross rating points?
The hunger for gross impressions and gross rating points always leads to the purchase of too much reach without enough frequency. When you multiply reach times frequency, you blur the line between the two. Reach is easy to obtain in a media mix. Frequency is not.
Reach is not a substitution for frequency.

Frequency must be protected at all costs.
If I buy 100 gross rating points, I’ve reached the mathematical equivalent of 100% of the population of the trade area 1 time. It would take 1,000,000 gross impressions to give me 100 gross rating points in a city of 1,000,000 people. But does this mean I’ve reached 100% of the people 1 time? Or does it mean I’ve reached 50% of the people twice? Or does it mean I’ve reached 25% of the people 4 times? Or does it mean I’ve reached 10% of the people 10 times? Or does it mean I’ve reached 5% of the people 20 times? Or does it mean I’ve reached 1 sad bastard 1,000,000 times? Each of those scenarios is 100 gross rating points.
The only numbers that really matter are:
(1.) a weekly Frequency of at least 3.0 and
(2.) 7-day Net Reach (18+) 3

Sleep erases advertising. This is why you must always measure frequency within a window of 7 night’s sleep. It’s also why 52-week consistency is vital.
This is the question that really matters: How many people (18+) can I reach at least 3 times each within 7 night’s sleep, 52 weeks in a row?
If you sell me a 26-week buy spread out “on-a-week, off-a-week” over 52 weeks, you’re selling me a station that costs twice what I can afford. Soon I’ll join that other guy in singing “I tried radio and it didn’t work,” and a lot of people will hear us sing it.
According to Kleiner Perkins, the average American spends 4% of their media time with print, but print is getting 9% of our national ad spend. Print is punching 5 points above their weight.
The average American spends 13% of their media time listening to broadcast radio, but radio is getting only 9% of our national ad spend. If radio was punching 5 points above its weight, radio would enjoy 18% of the ad spend instead of just 9%.
Is this doable? Is it possible for radio to double it’s annual revenues? You bet it is.
Radio, to start winning 18% of the ad spend, all you need to do is:
(1.) focus your attention on advertisers with a long selling cycle.
(2.) make sure that every schedule achieves a 3-frequency (18+) each week, 52 weeks in a row.
(3.) learn how to write engaging copy.
This is the radio success formula that never fails.

Roy H. Williams
1 Nielsen Ratings
2 “Cume” is cumulative audience, the total number of different people who listen to a station
3 (18+) Adults 18 years of age and older
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