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Are Brand Dollars Returning To Radio? That’s The Buzz At NAB Show.

One of the most talked about topics among radio execs at NAB Show 2024 was the belief that brand advertising dollars are returning to radio. It was a hot topic at a recent Radio Advertising Board meeting and it spilled over into the session rooms and hallways this week at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Red Apple Media President Chad Lopez said they are noticing the trend at talk WABC Radio New York (770). “We’re definitely seeing that,” he said during a session entitled “Maximizing Radio Revenue: Monetizing Everything You Create.” “We’re finding that there are a lot of advertisers that want to become part of the fabric and the content of the station.” Brand advertisers are looking to “have ownership” of key WABC benchmarks on a long-term basis, Lopez said. That can range from time checks and sports updates to station features. “It makes them feel part of that radio station,” Lopez said.

That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges faced by sales reps in a world where the vast majority of ad dollars go to digital media, where performance marketing rules. Salem Media trains its reps to reinforce the role played by brand building in the success of long-term marketing campaigns. “What we run up against is that digital is a performance-based media. It’s pay per click, and that’s exactly what you’re paying for. You’re paying for a specific action to take place,” Salem President & CEO David Santrella said. “And brand building doesn’t have a specific action that takes place. You can’t feel it.”

Yet according to Digiday, a trade publication devoted to the digital ad business, there is a renewed focus on brand building and awareness marketing tactics, as advertisers aim to better balance their performance and brand marketing to differentiate themselves from competitors. “That’s exactly why the brand stuff is getting more money,” Nik Sharma, CEO at a branding strategy agency Sharma Brands, tells Digiday. “Because the challenge now is: How do you become interested in buying? And you can’t do that by just running Facebook ads.”

The trends are also being felt at the network level. “I do feel the pendulum is swinging back to brand building,” said Cumulus Media/Westwood One Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard.

In today’s instant gratification ad world, radio needs to train salespeople about the value of long-term brand building. “Most things in life that are meaningful take a sustained effort over a long period of time,” Bouvard noted.

Too often, an account exec will conduct a thorough client needs analysis, only to have the advertiser cut corners to save a few bucks. Santrella said sellers should just say no when that occurs. “I would actually rather not take your business than do what you’re asking me to do, because that’s not going to work,” Santrella said.

Les Binet, known as the godfather of marketing effectiveness, has espoused the philosophy that advertising works best when it makes the retailer easy to think of and easy to buy. In other words, the product is already known by the consumer before it’s needed. That is accomplished with “broad reach ads that are interesting and enjoyable,” Bouvard said, as opposed to just advertising a weekend sale that brings a “sugar rush” of business to the retailer. “You have to do both,” Bouvard told NAB Show attendees. That’s because marketing research has shown that only 5% of people are in the market at any point in time for a specific product, such as home improvement, a car, furniture, or a health care need, etc. The other 95% are not. “Every retailer has to have two very different strategies,” Bouvard said. One tries to convert those in the market for a product or service with a deal or an offer. The other goes after the 95% that aren’t paying attention to sales events because they’re not in the market. One is short term and very specific with a call to action; the other is broad reach with a long-term view that creates a memory with positive emotions.

“To really grow long term, you need creative and strategies that create future demand,” Bouvard said. “In the short term, a sale will always drive more revenue. But it is in the long term that all of that retailer’s sales and profit will come from brand building, being known before you’re needed, creating awareness and interest,” Bouvard explained. “And when people come to the market, they think of that store. It’s not just one or the other, you have to do both.”

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