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Study Shows When It Comes To Ad Effectiveness, Radio Holds Its Own Vs. TV.

The results of a two-year study testing 40,000 audio and video ads by researcher ABX (Advertising Benchmark Index) shows that assumptions about the impact of visual vs. audio ads are unfounded.

An analysis of the research in Westwood One's weekly blog points out that ABX's review of nearly 11,000 TV and 2,800 radio ads across dozens of categories – its largest creative effectiveness study to date, measuring brand awareness, clarity of messaging, impact on brand reputation and causation of consumer call to action – shows AM/FM radio ads are 92% as effective as those on TV.

“The study reveals that the industry belief that sight, sound and motion is superior to audio ads is a myth,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says. “The implication is that video ads create substantially greater creative effectiveness, better brand equity and larger sales effect than an audio ad, [but] the overall scores are so close between TV and radio.”

Indeed, ABX's results show TV advertising's effectiveness is only 8% better than that of AM/FM radio at four times the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and that the best-testing radio ads outscored nearly half (48%) of the TV ads. “Moving some TV funds to AM/FM radio produces significantly higher reach,” ABX President Gary Gatto says. “Often the excuse for not doing this is the need for sight, sound, and motion that TV provides and, in many cases, the lack of confidence in AM/FM radio creative’s ability to move the needle. But extensive ABX data shows that AM/FM radio can be nearly as effective as television when best practices in audio creative are followed.”

Looking at specific brand categories such as hair care, skin care or quick-service restaurants, where advertisers stress the need for consumers to see the product or results thereof, ABX's findings show radio ads perform close to TV: 95% of TV's effectiveness for skin care, 89% for hair care, and 89% for QSRs, with even greater effectiveness for fast-food brands such as Arby's and Chick-fil-A, all at a fraction of TV CPMs.

One explanation for these results comes from a Nielsen eye-tracking study cited in Westwood One's blog, showing that TV ads are not actually seen 61% of the time, meaning advertiser demands for sight, sound and motion are rarely achieved. According to Nielsen, this is due to people looking at their phone or a second screen 40% of the time, and being out of the room 21% of the time. “Half the time, that 'sight, sound, and motion' TV ad is just an AM/FM radio ad,” Bouvard notes. “People can look away, but they cannot shut their ears.”

The power of audio vs. video extends to programming itself, as noted in the blog. A Nature Research study of consumers exposed to video and audio narratives of the HBO drama “Game of Thrones” shows higher levels of consumer engagement with the audio book vs. the TV show, based on sensors measuring their heart rates, electrodermal activity and body temperatures. “Audio narratives require active participation to imagine the story,” Bouvard says. “Video narratives require less of the audience, resulting in passive engagement. The science is clear: audio drives more effectiveness and creative engagement than TV.”

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