Figuring Out How to Sell Digital Radio

What You'll Hear at RAB's Conference in Atlanta

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NEW YORK ( -- At the Radio Advertising Bureau conference in Atlanta next week, the radio sales, marketing and management communities will merge more than they have in years past to discuss how the radio industry can turn revenue from flat to booming again.

Leading the conversation will be a panel of key buyers and planners in radio: Rex Conklin, media director, Wal-Mart Stores; Kim Vasey, senior VP-director of radio, Mediaedge:cia; Maribeth Papuga, senior VP-director of local investment and activation, MediaVest; and Laurie M. Clark, regional VP, Coca-Cola, Atlanta. The panelists will discuss radio's role in the changing media landscape and where it can still take a decent share of ad budgets.

"The media landscape is shifting to an on-demand, interactive environment, and radio needs to know how to position itself to be part of the solution for advertisers," Ms. Vasey said. "RAB 2008 is providing a platform for the radio industry to hear from advertisers and their agencies firsthand."

Katz Advantage expansion
Advancing that conversation is the announcement this week by Clear Channel's Katz Advantage that it will expand its sales group to accommodate the multiplatform radio buys sought by brand managers and chief marketing officers. Bonnie Press, president of Katz Advantage, said the group has struggled to keep advertisers and media buyers up to speed with the changes radio has undergone in the past 36 months, and having more manpower will help. Marketers who've already done strategic deals with the group include Pizza Hut, CarMax, Seat Exchange and Turner Broadcasting.

Ms. Press said the Katz Advantage group will double its staff; open new offices; and help position radio and its newfound embrace of on-demand, digital and mobile technology. Clear Channel sites alone receive a combined 11 million unique visits, more than competitive sites at AOL and Yahoo. Yet the growing audience tuning in to terrestrial radio online tends to get overlooked in the marketplace when things such as stagnant radio ratings and the delay of Arbitron's Portable People Meter measurement in key markets are factored in.

"Radio is still a pervasive medium," Ms. Press said. "Somewhere between 93% and 96% of the country is still consuming radio today. It's probably the most flexible medium. You can do takeover hours, takeover parts, takeover days. The ability to really embrace all these mechanisms and integrate them into a single platform that an advertiser can use when making them available to the public will capitalize on radio's ability to become more engaged."

'Significant sales lift'
Local advertisers are taking advantage of the new offerings, turning to Clear Channel's expanded keyword offerings and Google Audio platform. But some national marketers continue to find viable uses for the traditional medium. Yum Brands' Pizza Hut launched a radio-takeover campaign for its Cheesy Bites product that contributed to a 2.5% sales lift for the franchise. "For a mature brand, that's a significant sales lift for them," Ms. Press said.

Lynn Rupprecht, group account director for Pizza Hut field business at media agency TracyLocke, said the brand has continued to use radio for nontraditional campaigns, signing up for hourlong roadblocks and sponsoring a franchise-wide music hour to drive sales.

"Not only do they have great penetration and do well in terms of numbers in the markets, they always have a fast turnaround," Ms. Rupprecht said. "I can go to their top people, and we can together come up with ideas that work for the client that are easy for us to execute, then each local station puts a local twist on it. We're trying to incorporate the brand Pizza Hut into the lifestyle of our consumers, and radio is still a great way to do that."

Spreading the word
Other radio groups are behind the Katz initiative too. "As radio masters new platforms and new forms of content, it's crucial that additional knowledgeable and trusted voices spread the word about radio's true and enormous value," said Peter Smyth, president-CEO of Greater Media and 2008 chairman of the Radio Advertising Bureau. "Katz brings two strengths to the table: deep expertise in advertising national brands on how to get the most out of all of radio's platforms and a proven track record in creating results for advertisers."
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