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Research Suggests AM/FM Radio Is More Effective Than TV For Pharmaceuticals.

Results of seven brand-tracking studies conducted among adults 18+ with health insurance over the past four years by Signal Hill Insights, commissioned by Cumulus Media/Westwood One, suggest that AM/FM radio can do a better job reaching users of pharmaceuticals than TV.

An analysis of these studies, along with other related research, in Westwood One's weekly blog, helps to explain why the category's ad spend on AM/FM has increased 59% since 2018, according to Miller Kaplan. “For the second year in a row, pharma/drug store is the number one advertising category on U.S. network radio,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says. “AbbVie, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, and P&G are running AM/FM radio campaigns for multiple brands.”

Citing a recent example of a pharmaceutical company's dependency on radio, Bouvard points out that Moderna used AM/FM in September, reaching more than 83 million Americans to promote its new COVID vaccine.

Signal Hill's surveys were prompted by a major pharma brand looking to measure the impact of its audio ad buy for a digestion ailment medication. Working in its favor was the finding that heavy AM/FM radio listeners have a far greater incidence of having the digestive symptoms ISB-C (irritable bowel syndrome with constipation) or CIC (chronic idiopathic constipation) compared to TV viewers, with heavy AM/FM listeners 33% more likely to be IBS-C patients and 53% more likely to be CIC patients. Additionally, those with the disease skew younger, which explains why TV under-indexes.

“AM/FM radio has worked for the brand,” Bouvard notes. “Among heavy AM/FM radio listeners, there was strong upper funnel growth (awareness and ad recall). Compared to TV viewers, heavy AM/FM radio listeners, had higher unaided awareness, consideration, and usage vs. heavy TV viewers, despite spending nearly three times [as much] on TV vs. AM/FM radio [ads].” All of these metrics hit a four-year high in Signal Hill's most recent study, conducted in May.

Helping to make AM/FM radio's case are Nielsen numbers showing AM/FM radio outreaches live and time-shifted TV among adults 18-49.

In a side-by-side comparison, while TV shows a slight advantage in aided awareness and general ad recall among heavy viewers, AM/FM leads TV by a considerable margin in unaided awareness, brand consideration and usage.

The blog also points to research from ABX showing that for pharma ads, AM/FM radio is 94% as effective as TV at one-fourth the CPM. “TV's 'sight, sound, and motion' superiority over pharma audio ads is a myth,” Bouvard says, citing both ABX's findings and those from a Nielsen study. “Part of the reason is TV ads are not seen 61% of the time. When TV ads play, 40% of the time, people are looking at a second screen, not the TV.”

Using Nielsen's media planning platform, Westwood One's analysis shows that across seven medication brands, the younger the demographic, the greater the incremental reach generated by AM/FM when added to a marketing plan with TV in the mix. Likewise, Bouvard says, [“pharma's] AM/FM radio investments generate a massive reach increase among light TV viewers, and strong growth in medium TV viewers. The network radio overlay causes reach to soar. AM/FM radio makes TV plans better.”

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