Big Spenders Extol Virtues of Local Radio to Drive Sales

At RAB: During Economic Hard Times, Radio Proves Cost Efficient

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ATLANTA ( -- The economic downturn could yield some significant upside for the radio advertising market. At the Radio Advertising Bureau Conference in Atlanta, top spenders from brands like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and Macy's, as well as key media buyers at Mediaedge:cia and MediaVest, spoke of radio's advantages and efficiencies in executing less costly media plans.

Rex Conklin, media director of Wal-Mart Stores, said Wal-Mart has already started using radio for more efficient media spending in the wake of economic recession. "Particularly in a down economy, the advantages of radio are significant in that it's very local and very flexible, which is incredibly important, especially when you're talking about pricing. Being able to change copy in a day if I need to is very important to Wal-Mart as a retailer." He added that Wal-Mart is continuing to look at programs that will take advantage of radio in this economy.

Local reach
Richard Phelan, media director, Macy's, New York, echoed Mr. Conklin in his appreciation of radio's ability to customize copy and also to "really drive people to stores and obviously the end sales. It's something we must continue to consider as hopefully this doesn't last as long as everyone's saying. I think it's a great medium to use in times of whether it's a good time or a bad time [for the economy.]"

Laurie M. Clark, regional VP, Coca-Cola, Atlanta, said radio has been effective at delivering reach locally vs. having to spend a big budget nationally. "If you think about it from a beverage landscape standpoint, there are so many different choices you can have," she said. She noted that recent brand launches for Coke Zero and some of the company's water products used emerging media to supplement media buys. As recently as five years ago, the majority of Coke's media buys were executed on TV and radio. Now those mediums are being used to more efficiently drive reach and to support other buys the company is making with in-store media and other new platforms.

Internet radio
Online radio, however, is a different story. Maribeth Papuga, senior VP-director of local investment and activation, MediaVest, said that when radio planners are asked to move dollars from other media to the internet, "They don't say, 'Wow, let me do internet radio.' They actually don't know what to do with it." In fact, the consumer's perception of emerging audio technology like high-definition radio often tends to mirror that of the ad community. Ms. Papuga cited a recent study in which a half-percent of consumers said they were aware of HD radio. "If they're not hearing about it, the ad industry is not hearing about it."

Kim Vasey, senior VP-director of radio at Mediaedge:cia, said awareness needs to come from all sides. "It's so important for all of us together form the agency side to the sales side to the rep firms to be out there in the industry educating the clients. We need to take all the extensions and make it work for our clients, make it relevant, and show how it's going to make our clients' dollar work harder."
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