While theatrical motion picture advertising was once a mainstay of AM/FM radio, the medium currently accounts for just 2.2% of studio spending, with 58.3% going to television and 39.1% to digital media. Those figures from a Vivvix/Kantar analysis of marketing spend during 2022, as reported in Westwood One's weekly blog, suggest a missed opportunity for the industry, especially in this post-pandemic year with a larger slate of big-budget summer movie fare.
“Creating awareness and interest for movie releases is getting more challenging,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says. “Market research firms that track film title familiarity and interest report awareness of new titles is below historical norms. While movie marketing has diversified its media mix, it’s harder to create familiarity of theatrical releases.”
This is where radio and other ad-supported audio come in, the blog says. To show the importance of audio among theatergoers, Cumulus commissioned a Maru study of more than 1,000 consumers aged 18+ in November 2022. Westwood One's analysis shows that AM/FM radio, podcasts, and streaming together have the largest weekly reach, 93%, among heavy moviegoers, those who go to the movies once a week or more, or a few times a month, representing 15% of the U.S.
It's notable that right behind ad-supported audio's reach of this heavy-moviegoing segment, according to Maru, are streaming media platforms that do not accept ads, followed by social media at 78% and 75%-77% reach of video platforms such as linear TV, YouTube, TikTok, and ad-supported video streaming. “Audio is the dominant ad-supported platform among moviegoers,” Bouvard says, “[and] ad-supported audio reaches heavy moviegoers not reached on other media platforms.”
Westwood One's analysis also points out that heavy AM/FM listeners, along with heavy listeners of other ad-supported audio, are more likely to be heavy theatergoers, to see a movie for the first time in a theater on opening weekend, and to watch movies in IMAX, 3D and 4DX formats, while heavy TV viewers under-index when it comes to all of the above. Additionally, heavy audio listeners are more aware of upcoming film release titles, have a higher likelihood to watch these movies, and show strong fanship for major movie franchises, again significantly higher than heavy TV viewers.
Taking into account the actual proportion of media audiences who go to the movies, Maru's optimized media allocation pushes ad-supported audio up to 44% of ad dollars, with 39% still going to digital and linear TV knocked down to 18%. Breaking down the ad-supported audio plan based on share of time spent among adults 18-49 according to Edison Research's “Share of Ear” study, AM/FM would account for 64% of an ad-supported audio buy.
Where to place those ads on the radio? Maru's findings show a wide variety of AM/FM formats listened to “frequently” or “occasionally” by heavy in-theater movie watchers, with news/talk, oldies/classic hits, top 40, rock, and sports leading the pack.
Maru's study also determined what helps audio listeners decide to see particular motion pictures, in order to create the best audio ads. Although TV ads for movies tend to create a mood and show action scenes, Maru found that audio audiences prefer to understand the plot, story, and actors, suggesting that audio ad campaigns should focus on laying out the movie narrative and highlighting the actors.
“Given this finding, it is not recommended to use the audio track from a TV ad for the audio creative,” Bouvard says. “Most likely, the TV audio track is too noisy, confusing, and lacking the information that audio listeners seek about a title. Audio ads should be unique marketing assets that should not simply use the audio track of the TV ad. Repurposing the audio from TV ads will not be as successful as developing distinctive audio creative executions.”