Study: Radio Listeners May Not Be Trying So Hard To Avoid Commercial Breaks.


New findings published in the Journal of Advertising Research are challenging some long-held assumptions about how radio listeners try to avoid advertisements.


Researchers from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, which is based at the University of South Australia Business School, have determined that radio ad avoidance could be much lower than believed.


The team explored what’s known as “mechanical avoidance,” which includes actions like switching stations or turning off the radio altogether rather than hear commercials. The researchers, drawing their findings from an 800-member panel from Vancouver (each of whom used portable people meters), put avoidance at a low 3% across the day.


Many advertisers, the team noted in its study, believe up to a third of audiences switch stations during commercial breaks.


The team’s analysis encompassed more than 2.9 million minutes of programming — including more than 534,000 advertising minutes and more than 841,000 separate commercials, according to a report by the World Advertising Research Center (WARC).


Mechanical avoidance, the Ehrenberg-Bass team determined, was also higher out of home – “most likely because of the more accessible controls on radio devices out of home, such as in the car and on the move.”


The researchers also found that talk stations had lower rates of mechanical avoidance than music stations. The reason: “because advertising (which often includes talking) has a greater audio contrast with music content.”


A new related insight to the aforementioned is the impact that light listeners have on ad avoidance. “Light listeners listen for shorter times than medium and heavy listeners,” the researchers wrote, “so they constantly are entering and leaving the audience.” And since lighter listeners have a stronger presence during morning drive and daytime, it means higher rates of ad avoidance during those times.


“One reason for the high turnover of light listeners,” the researchers wrote, “is that most radio listening is done while driving, and the turn-on and turn-off actions likely signify the beginning and ending of travel instead of advertising avoidance.”

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