buying radio time is an art and a science

Buying radio time is an art and a science

You have a shiny new radio commercial.  But it’s only as good as its’ audience.  There are 3 important factors when choosing what station(s) your commercial will air on.

There’s an old expression “Make sure you have enough noise makers to make it a real party.”  That’s a very simplified way of saying you should have sufficient budget to make the splash your commercial deserves to achieve its’ desired results.

A common philosophy and one we exercise regularly here is to make sure you “own” the station or stations you choose to go with for your buy.  It’s better to take a modest budget and dominate one station than spread your money amongst too many stations and not achieve effective  exposure on any.

When buying radio there are three factors.  Reach, frequency and cost per point.

Reach is the number of prospects that will likely hear your commercial.  Frequency is the average number of times your potential customer will actually hear your commercial.  Cost per point is the benchmark for evaluating the cost effectiveness.  It’s the cost to reach 1 percent of your target audience.

The rule of thumb is to buy enough frequency to ensure your commercial is heard several times.


Often a radio station will have a feature such as Coach Time where the coach of a local team is interviewed at the same time each day.  Buy paying a modest premium your product receives association and brand enhancement by that direct association, provided your product is a natural fit for the feature you’re purchasing.

Run offs

At certain times of the year, radio stations will have a glut of inventory and play with the rate card price.  Your product may benefit from buying more spots during these slow times provided your product is desired at that time of the year.


In addition to sponsorships, billboards often accompany your commercial.  “The 6 o’clock news is brought to you by Aamco. Better transmissions. Better mechanics.”

Know your station

Some stations have a large number of listeners listening for a very short period of time.  You’ll want to ensure you’ve bought enough frequency to ensure you catch those listeners as they pop in and out of the station you have chosen.  In Toronto we have 680News where people tune in by the thousands on the 1’s to hear the traffic and weather together.  Then they’ll pop back to the music format they were listening to.  By going heavy on a station like 680 you’re able to talk to a wide grouping of listeners from various radio stations.

If you have a youth oriented product with a definite younger skew it would make sense to simply buy the station that leads in that demographic.

Buying radio involves part numbers and part gut instinct but when you combine logic and proven formulas it generally means a radio buy that achieves the goals of proper reach and frequency.