Radio Advertising

Why Radio Advertising?

Why Radio Advertising? 16


Radio provides reach, with 89% of UK adults tuning in each week; resonance, as an emotional influencer with the power to enhance brand perceptions at a subconscious level; and results, delivering an average ROI of £7.70 for every pound spent.

Ad avoidance for radio is the lowest out of all mediums, making it a stand out choice for those looking to cut through the noise to reach their customers effectively. And, radio has always had the contextual edge, being consumed in and around other activities and habits. 

Research conducted by Differentology revealed, brands like McDonald's, Heinz and Deliveroo saw a sales uplift of 51% when they focused on targeting their customers when they were engaged in relevant activities. Meaning radio is a great choice for growth-minded marketers. 

Speaking technically, radio is a reach medium with universal appeal, targeting an attentive and captive audience. Listeners have a strong emotional connection with their chosen station, which reflects positively on radio advertising. It provides information as it reaches consumers closest to their time of purchase, as they drive to or from work, or even during a lunch break.

Radio advertising has inherent persuasive strengths which subconsciously build trust, purchase intent, and personal cues. 



Like with all advertising mediums, the reasons why it's deemed effective can vary from campaign to campaign, but there are some clear benefits to advertising on radio that stand head and shoulders above the rest. 

The following reasons should start to shed light on why you should choose radio for your advertising. Let's dive in.


1. Radio is cost-effective 

Running low cost, low risk but high impact advertising is what we all aim for. Getting there is another thing altogether. The good news is that on average brands using radio get their money back nearly eight times over at £7.70*. Couple that with lower production costs and you're on to a winner. 

*Source: Radiocentre’s: Radio for growing ROI


When it comes to actually creating your ads you have to not only factor in the cost of the airtime or space on the page, you also have to consider the cost of producing the creative. 

From a 60 second TV ad with a full cast and crew, to a microphone, a voice actor and a sound designer - it's vitally important that you get creative that carries your message to your customers with originality, empathy and creativity. 

But, for most, our imaginations run up a hefty bill. 

Dreams of a sprawling cast, original soundtrack and beautifully colourised cinematography come to mind only to be crushed by the weight of the inevitable invoice. 

But with radio, you can have your dream ad without running up a hefty creative bill. All you need is the right script and an excellent sound designer to bring alive the theatre of the mind. 

This is reflected in the evidence, with many advertisers believing that you can have a cost-effective advertising campaign with radio. Just take a look at the results of the Re-evaluating Media study from Ebiquity:

low production cost

But, some critics remain. There is no way that an audio ad can be as effective as a visual one, right..?

The psychological benefits of music and audio are well documented. It's been found to improve moods when shopping, leading to overall average expenditure. 

Advertisers can also use the familiarity of a popular song to incite a specific reaction in viewers that aligns with the objective of their ad. Powerful songs can evoke strong emotional responses, and songs can help create a soundtrack to the events unfolding in an ad when lyrics are integrated into the voice-over and storyline.

Steff quote 


But while it’s important that ads resonate with viewers, advertisers want their messages to drive sales, especially with the large price tags that can come with using popular music. However, the good news is that popular songs (and artists) deliver a one-two punch: They boost emotive power and can drive significant returns.

Slower paced songs have even been attributed to improved memory. Remember that the next time you're thinking about your radio creative. 

The benefits of using a well-known, and probably very expensive, bit of music was twofold:

  1. People already know it and begin to draw associations almost immediately. People will also have their own experiences with the song and will carry over those thoughts and feelings. (Which can have positive and negative effects.)
  2. They were able to adapt the popular song to suit the shorter, punchier format of an advert. (And play around with manipulative elements of music theory)

And of course, good quality music won't ever come without a cost. That's where royalties come in and luckily there are plenty of ways to get the music you want while keeping the cost down. 


How royalties work:

We spoke to Creative Account Manager, Steffen about how royalties and licencing works:

"When it comes to using a song, you have two options:

You can buy publishing rights – essentially you're buying sheet music and can recreate it however you like. This costs less than mechanical rights but you need to factor in the costs for covering the song.

Option two is to buy publishing AND mechanical rights. This is for people who want to totally lift it and use the exact song. This is naturally more expensive.

You also need an agreement with the record company. Some of the record companies are a bit precious. For example 7 Nation Army by the White Stripes is totally off limits for anyone, regardless of budget."


This extends to the choice of voice. When a lot of adverts rely on voice over to deliver important bits of information, you need to make sure that your voice is both consistent with creativity and context. 

Payment Options 

Radio advertising also has a wealth of flexible payment options to help curb the costs. 

These payment plans usually come in the form of 12 months, brand building campaigns that are designed to spread the cost of production and airtime over a long period of time. As it works, you'll slowly be building a share of mind with the listeners of your chosen station. 

Our WOW packages only come round at the start of the financial year but if it sounds like something you'd be interested in, you can contact a member of our team below:

Contact the team

Valuing Radio

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Commercial Radio report: Valuing Radio reveals information that would be of interest to advertisers up and down the country. 

This information is particularly relevant for SMEs looking to expand their business.

Local Advertising ROI

Radiocentre’s regional ROI analysis is based on local advertising revenue and underpinned by Radiocentre’s ROI multiplier research, which shows that brands using commercial radio in the UK get their money back 7.7 times on average and, in many sectors, radio offers the best ROI of any media.

 Learn about our stations


2. Radio targets the right people at the right times  

It's important you get your targeting right and thankfully radio has plenty of strategies (some unique to the medium) for targeting your customers when they're most likely to be thinking about a purchase. 

Reaching the most receptive of any audience isn't an easy prospect, it's been that way for a long time. 

Back in the 50's people were targeted based on their job role. In the 80s it was about where they lived. In the 90s, we targeted based on what they bought. These insights were gained through hard-fought censuses or surveys. Either way, they were static and didn't reflect the lives we lead. 

Until now, we’ve been thinking about what the demographic characteristics of a person can tell us about who that person is and what they might purchase; for instance, if they live in a certain area, are of a certain age and do a certain job, we might be able to deduce that they like foreign holidays. However, this is simply a "propensity", meaning they are twice as likely to engage with foreign holidays, based on results modelled from a survey base, measured in tens of thousands.

Now, with new data sets such as social data, we already know that certain people like foreign holidays before we’ve even tried to figure out where they live or what else they do. By adding that information, we can then complete the picture on who a customer is, how best to communicate with them and what channel to use to do so.

In short, instead of targeting using demographics, we need to target using what actually matters: people’s passions, motivations and mindsets. We need to target like radio has been since its inception - based on interest, passion and love. 

Different stations carry different interests and, as a result, different audiences. Going one step further, the shows on those stations specialise even more - with certain presenters and personalities garnering niche interests and passions. 

But what does that mean to you and your brand? 

Simply put, it means you can target your customers more specifically and more easily on radio.

Moreover, radio makes effective use of what those in the industry call touchpoints. 

Touchpoints are certain times in the day when your customers are engaged in an activity.

Common touchpoints include the always adored school run, morning/evening work out and work time. These are times when your customers are primed for brand messages but cannot be reached directly through any other medium other than radio. 

Working with a radio station gives you access to this audience data so you can work on tailoring a message to these touchpoints which, in turn, will generate more qualified leads and sales. 

But, if you're going to target people at the times they're engaged, with radio you can create a message that takes advantage of this knowledge through context...


Radio delivers on context in a few important ways:

Strategic Planning

You’re probably reading this with a pretty good idea of when you would want your advertisements to run. Nine times out of ten, however, advertisers jump at the wrong times.

Drive time and breakfast are massively popular on radio stations and are always overbooked, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s the best for your business. You need to think about your brand, your customers and what they’re doing at certain times in the day.

If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry, every radio station will have Planners who are specifically briefed to find you the time bands that will get you the best response.

Smooth Radio North West’s Planner shared some of the most common mistakes made by advertisers on radio in terms of planning spots and airtime:

Confessions of A Radio Planner

1 - Advertisers Presume No One is Listening Overnight – Smooth North West, in isolation, delivers listeners you wouldn’t expect. Taxi Drivers, Lorry Drivers, you name it. Even those who are looking to get back to sleep. A lot of advertisers are often surprised at the levels of audience radio delivers overnight and a bit of bravery is required to take advantage of this listener base. 

Smooth is known as the ‘relaxing music mix’ so this Mattress supplier knew their radio advert focusing on those who’re struggling to sleep at night would hit the ground running. They picked unpopular (and massively cheap slots) that run overnight to target those who are struggling to sleep. We knew Smooth delivered massive audience overnight so this campaign went down a storm.

2- Advertisers Jump At Busiest Slots – Not only do the prices mount up higher and higher due to competition, it’s become a bit of misnomer that these slots give the best results, they just give you the most of our audience when they’re captive. Unless you’re a motor salesman, windscreen repair person or anything relating to cars – we’d suggest you stay away from drive time and instead look for where your customers are most engaged.

3 - Programmatic Ads on Radio are a thing – Line up more than one bit of creative because radio has the technology to change which ad gets played on the fly.

McDonalds UK ran programmatic ads during the summer. Depending on temperatures from the met office, their creative would change. While it stayed under a certain temperature they ran the regular ads for the ‘Saver Menu’. Once the temperature went over a certain level, those switched out for McFlurry Ads. Simple. 


Strategic planning, like most advertising, starts from having a decent brief and a clear understanding of your customers. Work on clearly defining those audiences so we can find the perfect spot for your ad to play on.



Down to the emotional connection and relationship between listener and station, competitions, phone-ins, text ins and other listener engagement activities have a massive impact on radio. The impact far out-shoots other traditional media and, with the combination of digital and radio, this is only improving over time.

A sponsorship works in a similar way to regular air-time promotions, but instead of playing between other ads in a slot, you get to be the champion for a specific segment on radio. This could be a competition, a giveaway or a specific show like the weather, news or a particular host’s show.

Sponsorships like these that are massively popular with a very distinct listenership give you a chance to get contextual advertising perfect.

Each segment that you can sponsor has its own specific tone and content which you can follow according to your objectives.

Advertisers looking to drive sales to their music event have sponsored some of our most popular hits shows. Legal and law firms have sponsored the news and so on.

For a slightly more subversive example, following the weather with sponsorship for a travel agent would be a sound decision. Imagine if you had a great deal for sunny breaks away and knew that you needed to target work-weary adults who were thinking about a break. Hitting them after they’ve just heard the bleak weather report and are thinking about how rubbish the weather is is a great use of context-based advertising.

Our latest video 

Delivering Relevance at Scale

Going to broad and not targeting can lead to problems. What many either don’t seem to know or don’t seem to acknowledge is that targeting too specifically can get you into an equally as tricky situation.

What you need is relevance on a scale that matters. Context, not just for a couple of hundred people, but for hundreds of thousands.

Radio provides that relevance at scale.

Browse our stations here:

Learn about our stations



3. Radio advertising builds your brand and changes perceptions 

Brand building is the main driver of long-term growth and involves the creation of memory structures that prime consumers to want to choose the brand. Without brand strengthening, growth will be weaker, activation will be weaker, pricing power will not improve and profitability growth will be severely reduced

The IPA's Les Binet and Peter Field outlined a user manual for building a brand. 

They outlined that:

"Brand building is the main driver of long-term growth and involves the creation of memory structures that prime consumers to want to choose the brand. Without brand strengthening, growth will be weaker, activation will be weaker, pricing power will not improve and profitability growth will be severely reduced."

Likewise, it was made clear that long-term, brand-building campaigns need to do three things:

  1. Reach a wide audience
  2. Make an emotional connection
  3. Create brand fame

It's in these 3 core brand-building elements that radio advertising lays it's foundations.


Radio delivers a combined audience of 49.5 million, a massive stake in the highly fragmented media audiences. 

Emotional Connection

As for the emotional connection, Radio turns to music - something we all find a connection with.

The psychological benefits of music and audio are well documented. It's been found to improve moods when shopping, leading to higher than average overall expenditure. 

Advertisers can also use the familiarity of a popular song to incite a specific reaction in listeners that aligns with the objective of their ad. Powerful songs can evoke strong emotional responses, and songs can help create a soundtrack to the events unfolding in an ad when lyrics are integrated into the voice-over and storyline.

"Using well-known music is like using the world’s best shortcut. It gets a client on level three almost immediately. You’re quickly getting them to the level of trust, commercial responsibility and actionability that can take years of standard outreach."

 - Creative Account Manager, Steffen Armstrong

But while it’s important that ads resonate with listeners, advertisers want their messages to drive sales, especially with the large price tags that can come with using popular music. However, the good news is that popular songs (and artists) deliver a one-two punch: They boost emotive power and can drive significant returns.

One of radio's enduring strengths is that you can listen while doing something else.  But with this comes a heightened need to have clear, stand out creative... (According to IPA Touchpoints; 92% of listening is done while listeners are engaged in another activity.) with that in mind you need to be much more efficient with your creative on radio than you would have to be with other traditional advertising mediums. 

If you really want to hear what good radio creative sounds like, then you'll want to check out our Radio Advert Archive, where we've been building up a bank of the best (and worst) radio adverts currently airing, along with the thoughts from our own creatives (the guys who write the ads). 

Creating Brand Frame

Radio is effective at driving a high share of voice/share of mind for a brand on budgets that would have limited impact within other media.

This amplifies brand fame: analysis of the IPA Databank reveals that including radio as part of the mix significantly increases the chance of achieving brand fame, as the chart below shows. 




Sales activation

4. Radio advertising for sales activation 

Radio offers short lead times 

As mentioned above, radio is the holy grail of cost-effective advertising. You get many more impacts for your money than you would with something like TV. 


When you need increased footfall and quick wins, you need to put yourself out there.

Radio provides, on average, the lowest ‘cost per thousand (customers)’ of all traditional advertising. Likewise, radio also offers low cost production values for your advert – bringing that dream advert idea closer to life and closer to the budget.

What’s the point of driving sales and increasing footfall if you’re spending most of your return on advertising? Stick with radio, the cost-effective way to drive footfall and sales response.

Assured ROI

Radiocentre found an incremental return of £7.70 for every £1 spent on radio, which is a great return on your investment. 

Trust in radio, is the only traditional medium that continues to grow. 

In Q4 2021 radio took £718.7 million in ad revenue in 2021, breaking the previous record of £713.6m in 2018. 

This represents 25% growth year-on-year vs. a pandemic-hit 2020.


Radio Provides an Experience

Think of the way radio is delivered. It’s focused on the relationship between broadcast and listener. It’s intimate, exclusive and action-based. Your customers will be called to take a specific action.

An advert that addresses customers directly will not only generate more responses, but will capture the customers who are ready to buy.

Similarly, radio advertising backs up a strong call to action with creative that sells.

If you need help building a message that can drive footfall and sales, we’d be happy to help.  Just click the button below to get started with radio. 

Listening keeps growing

Radiocentre’s research project Audio Now explored the position of different audio services in people’s lives today. The study established that the demand for audio is increasing due to the pressure of modern life, with people using audio to help them cope. But audio doesn’t just fulfil one need: the research identified six different need-states where audio played a role.

audio listening

But with the introduction and proliferation of on-demand audio services like Spotify, Apple Music or Amazon, questions have been raised about Radio's future. Despite these questions, on-demand audio has become the yin to live radio's yang. 

The different characteristics of live radio and on-demand audio mean that they are suited to different need-states and play complementary roles in the listener’s life.

Live radio is unique because it offers human voice and human choice and retains the ability to surprise. Radio also connects us to the outside world – both by keeping us in the loop and by providing a reason to talk to the people around us. What makes on-demand audio services different is the potential to listen – at least in theory – to anything. It offers control and instant gratification and the ability for a more immersive, focused music experience. While radio can help people feel connected to the wider world, on-demand help connects them to their world: be it, friends, with similar tastes or people they share playlists with.


Emotional Multiplier

Amongst other things, people use media to make themselves feel better and when Radio is done right, it has the biggest emotional multiplier effect on your customers than any other advertising medium.

Radiocentre's study 'Radio: The Emotional Multiplier' found that:

Media consumption has a significant positive effect on people's mood

When the respondents reported their media usage and their perceived levels of happiness and energy across the week, there is a clear correlation: people who were consuming media had higher scores for both energy and happiness.

Radio has the biggest influence on people’s Happiness and Energy

and on more occasions, radio is the highest scoring medium (compared to TV and online) for increasing both energy and happiness. This is true across all days of the week and almost all times of the day.

This radio editorial effect is proven to enhance engagement with advertising

EEG tests in the lab confirm that radio stimulates positive engagement activity in the brain. They also confirm that when ads are preceded by radio editorial, levels of positive engagement are sustained throughout the ad break.


But just being on radio won't be enough for you to tug at your customer's heartstrings and compel them to take an action.

Radio is the perfect platform to showcase writing talent. A well-constructed script can pack a real punch and make your ad stand out in a busy ad break. Although there is no one way to approach a radio script, here are some things to consider as you get started:

  • Know your spot length. Before you start, be very clear on how much time you have to play with, including any ‘legal’ copy you may be required to include.
  • Keep it simple. Be single-minded. Don’t expect your listener to remember complex detail. The ‘tennis ball analogy’ holds true.
  • How does your brand speak? Are there any distinctive words, phrases or a distinctive way of speaking synonymous with the brand? If so, you should use them or write in a way that compliments them.
  • Don’t overwrite your ad. With radio, you can communicate powerfully with very few words. Silence and a few carefully chosen words can create real impact and make your message easier to recall. That said, a more complex script can reward repeat listening if it’s well-written and well-judged – provided the commercial message remains clear.
  • Avoid the clichés. Radio can be a best-bed of tired creative conventions. (‘This is the sound of….’, the presenter spoof, ‘The blah-blah sale is NOW ON..’ etc.) Make sure your spot is distinctive and avoid becoming audio wallpaper.

Radio advertising case studies 

The proof for radio advertising effectiveness lies very much in the pudding.

Below you'll find a collection of radio advertising case studies that explore radio impact on a range of key advertising metrics:

British Airways


British Airways - Online Ticket Sales




What Happened?

From the beginning of 2009, British Airways (BA) ran a tactical leisure airtime campaign designed to stimulate immediate web traffic and sales. With a greater impetus on driving short term metrics in tough market conditions, BA was keen to get a better understanding of how radio could drive people online to the website and ultimately deliver sales. Additionally BA wanted to learn more about how their radio creative could improve effectiveness scores going forward.






The BA radio campaign ran from late December 2008 to the end of January 2009 in London and the South East. BA used a variety of executions to highlight the different places that they fly to and the must dos for each destination. The ad's aimed to whet the listener's appetite for places such as New York, Orlando, and Pisa; and drive people to for more details. 

Results demonstrate the important role radio played in increasing top of mind awareness (ad awareness more than doubled) as well as positive perceptions of BA at an important time for online travel searches and ticket sales. This resulted in radio successfully achieving BA's core business goals for the campaign of increasing traffic to the BA website and stimulating online ticket purchases, further proof of radio's ability to influence consumers at all stages of the purchase funnel.


"The RAB worked with us to understand the contribution that radio can make to direct response campaigns. It's as important as ever that we maximise the return on our marketing investment and pieces of research such as this really provide some great insight into channel and creative effectiveness."

Anna West, Planning & Media Manager, British Airways



AA - On the Roads

What Happened?


The AA were looking to show their target audience that they will do whatever it takes to keep their show on the road. They knew the role for breakdown cover needed to change from a focus on urgency to utility, showing the AA understands their lives as drivers.


Why was radio used?

To make their new brand campaign a success, the AA set out to maximise reach of their target audience, ensure high levels of cut-through and stimulate an emotional response. As part of a multi-media campaign featuring TV and outdoor, radio helped extend the overall reach of the campaign. More crucially, radio allowed the AA to take the message out of the living room into the car and emotionally engage potential customers across the day.


The launch campaign was a success for the AA with radio specifically helping to drive higher levels of stand- out and ad recognition amongst listeners. Most importantly, the campaign was effective at broadening the appeal of AA breakdown assistance, with radio listeners 44% more likely to consider the AA. The campaign proved very successful amongst non-AA members who are considering buying breakdown service - 41.2% of these listeners would consider the AA when purchasing break down assistance compared with 28.9% of non-radio listeners, thus the radio campaign successfully broadened the AA's appeal amongst the undecided.

AA - On the Roads

What Happened?


It's estimated that up to 25% of cars on the road have a chipped windscreen and, crucially, most people don't do anything about it until it's too late. Once it turns into a crack the whole windscreen needs replacing, which costs the motorist a lot of time and money. So Autoglass needed to start a conversation directly with the motorist about the benefits of calling Autoglass when they first get a chip. Repairing a chip is usually free if they have fully comp insurance, and only takes around 25 minutes to complete.


Why was radio used?


In this particular case you're dealing with something people usually try to avoid and put off for as long as possible. They wouldn't go online to research it, they wouldn't talk about it or read about it. Instead, Radio's strength here was in it's about to reaching out where it mattered the most: in the car where the problem was most obvious. 


The radio campaign was tested in three different regions to allow for the optimum laydown to be identified in combination with enhanced web presence. 


The short term effect on business was immediately felt, with significant uplifts in both calls and repair rates. 


"Advertising our services on radio works, because most listeners are in their cars looking right through the problem we can fix."

Peter Lumsdaine, Sales & Marketing Director, Autoglas


Download our Why Radio infographic here:


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