Can Radio Build A Brand Mid-Pandemic? A Drug Company Shows The Answer Is Yes.


Radio has long been viewed as a promotional vehicle to turn the flashy brand-building spots on television or in print into actual sales at the register. But a pharmaceutical company has just offered fresh evidence that brands can also be built on radio. Not only does the medium offer massive reach for less money, but heavy radio listeners are more likely to take action based on being exposed to the ads than those who sit in front of the TV.


Details of the rollout of a new medication, including the name of the brand, were not disclosed in the case study made public by Westwood One. But it said the brand debuted in April with a four-week campaign targeting women 18 to 54 years old. Radio was a good media pick by the drug company for those who suffer from the problem their product addresses since roughly a third to half of them said they are heavy AM-FM listeners. And 58% said they were already taking prescription medication for the ailment.


To measure how well radio performed in building this new brand, Westwood One connected with MARU/Matchbox to survey the ad recall among the target consumers who suffered with the ailment during April and May. That survey found the more people listened to broadcast radio or were heavy podcast listeners, the more favorably they responded to the new brand. When they were exposed to the AM/FM radio ad, MARU/Matchbox said a majority said they found the commercials to be likeable, relevant, memorable, and informative. That included 85% who called the ads informative and seven-in-ten who said the ads were both relevant and memorable.


The scores for those metrics were much lower among heavy TV viewers, according to Westwood One Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard.


Feeling good about a product or its commercial is the first step. Getting the listener to take an action is where radio traditionally has shined, and that holds true even for a product launching in the middle of a pandemic. MARU/Matchbox found six in ten heavy radio listeners said they were more likely to search online for the brand or ask their doctor about it. And a majority (53%) said they were more likely to try the product.


The effect was even stronger among heavy podcast listeners, where three-quarters said they were more likely to search for the brand once hearing the ad on a show with nearly as many (70%) saying they were more likely to ask their healthcare provider about the product. And nearly two-thirds said they were more likely to try the brand. Across the board, heavy television viewers were far less likely to take any action based on being exposed to the commercial.


The analysis also found that among listeners exposed to the radio ad, there was a 31% increase in overall aided ad recall of the brand after one month. And there was a 36% increase in aided ad recall among heavy AM/FM radio listeners. “As heavy AM/FM radio listeners were more likely to hear the ad, this is a strong indication of positive effect of the AM/FM radio campaign,” said Bouvard in a blog post. There was significant growth in consumers saying they would recommend the brand to friends and family after exposure, according to MARU/Matchbox’s follow-up surveys.


Radio Makes TV Go Down Easier


The mystery brand’s rollout results build on evidence showing how well radio works for pharmaceutical companies. Bouvard points to work the creative testing company ABX conducted last November that showed radio ads performed at nearly on-par creative scores with the television commercials of drug brands – without the visuals and without the huge costs. He said it suggests that audio “does all the heavy lifting” for pharmaceutical ads while TV visuals “just fill time.” That might be a hard argument to refute when drug TV spots currently feature drug users playing softball or wandering olive fields.


A separate analysis concluded by Nielsen Media Impact, the company’s cross-media analysis tool, also showed how adding AM/FM radio can help improve the effectiveness of a pharmaceutical TV campaign by bringing incremental reach to the brand.


In April campaigns for three prescription drugs, Linzess, Eliquis, and Humira, each had different sized budgets and they resulted in a reach of between 56% and 70% of adults aged 18 and older. But when radio was added on top of the TV campaign, the reach level jumped as much as 42%. “The addition of AM/FM radio to any pharmaceutical TV campaign generates significant incremental reach,” concluded Bouvard.


In a Q&A with MM&M last year, iHeartMedia CMO Gayle Troberman pointed out that TV has been “eroding” – particularly with millennial audiences – for drug marketers. “What I hear consistently from the pharma space is that clients are having a hard time getting the scale and reach they need. You need scale for mass-market medications and radio can provide that,” she said


For the radio, Troberman believes that pharmaceutical is destined to become one of the industry’s bigger growth categories. “It’s starting to break for us,” she told MM&M. “I hope we’ll be talking about massive growth with healthcare clients in broadcast radio.”

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