The most common audio advertising media is FM radio. Placement of an advertisement on FM radio costs about as much as an advertisement placed in a metropolitan newspaper. However, radio is more dynamic than print alternatives because it allows the advertiser essentially to talk with the consumer. Indeed, many small business consultants believe that an entertaining and informative radio advertising campaign can be a major asset. Nonetheless, some analysts contend that small business owners should proceed cautiously before deciding to rely exclusively on radio advertising. Indeed, most businesses incorporate a media mix when attempting to sell their products or services, utilizing radio advertising in concert with print and other advertising media. The key for small business owners is to study what types of advertising best suits their products and services and to use that media to spearhead their advertising campaign.


Radio stations feature many different programming emphases. These range from music-oriented formats such as country, adult contemporary, classic rock, and alternative rock to news-or talk-oriented formats. Since these different formats attract different demographic segments of the total audience, business owners can take appreciable measures to reach their target audience simply by buying time on appropriate stations. Another major advantage of radio advertising is that it is inexpensive to place and to produce, allowing small business owners to place advertisements on more than one station in a given market. In addition, radio advertising content can be changed quickly to meet changes in the market or to reflect new business objectives. Finally, radio reaches large numbers of commuters, income-generating people who often pay more attention to radio advertising than to other advertising media, especially if they are driving alone.

The costs associated with purchasing radio advertising time reflect this emphasis on reaching the commuter audience. The four time slots, or "dayparts," offered for advertisers by most radio stations are the morning drive, daytime, afternoon drive, and evening. The two most expensive—but also most effective advertising slots—are the morning and afternoon drive times.

Although radio advertising is effective, there are drawbacks to consider when deciding whether to create and place a radio spot. Aspects to consider include competitor clutter, the cumulative costs associated with long-term radio spots, and the fleeting nature of a radio message. In addition to these drawbacks, several other legal and procedural guidelines need to be considered. Nation's Business writer Phil Hill provided a rundown of some of these concerns in his article "Make Listeners Your Customers":

  1. If celebrity soundalikes are used, make sure a clear disclaimer is included in the advertisement, saying that the soundalikes are not the actual celebrities.
  2. If working with a station to create an advertisement, always work with a contract.
  3. Treat the competition fairly. Federal law mandates that advertisers must accurately depict the competition.
  4. Be prepared to run a radio advertisement often. Industry analysts indicate that an advertisement needs to be heard by a consumer on several occasions before it is likely to generate a response.
  5. Be cautious about excessive reliance on one station. There may be some instances in which a business's products or services are compatible with only one station (i.e., a dealer in sports paraphernalia may want to limit his or her radio advertising to the lone sports-talk station in town), but small businesses that offer less niche-oriented services or products can dramatically expand the audience they reach if they use more than one station for their audio advertising.


AM radio is a curious anomaly for most young adults who grew up with FM radio, cassettes, and CDs. Yet AM radio still exists, has a folksy charm, and is listened to by a significant percentage of the population. AM offers alternative programing to the predominantly music formats broadcast on FM stations. AM stations, which suffered serious declines in the 1960s and 1970s, now broadcast talk shows, sporting events, news programs, and traffic and weather reports. In addition, AM radio broadcasts can reach remote locations, such as those found in many western states—places that truckers and summer vacationers traverse.


Drexler, Michael D. "Future for Media Requires Interaction; To Stay in Game, Old Media Must Involve Audience." Advertising Age. November 20, 2000.

Hill, Phil. "Make Listeners Your Customers." Nation's Business . June 1994.

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