Media and Advertising: How To Beat The Cable Guys

Many local retailers who feel they can no longer afford to advertise effectively on radio see cable as a safe refuge. This sentiment was underscored in Arbitron’s recent Radio’s Biggest Local Spenders Speak Up! study. In the study, local advertisers cited "Targeting a Specific Consumer," "Total Costs" and "Frequency" as the three most sought-after benefits of a local medium. Local cable TV does well in all three areas.

Another reason radio should take local cable seriously: When local advertisers (both agency and non-agency) were asked which media were getting better and which media were getting worse, 55 percent said local cable was getting better while only nine percent said it was getting worse. In contrast, radio fared poorly, with only 25 percent saying radio was getting better and a significant 29 percent saying that it was getting worse.

So, how can radio compete against local cable TV? First, know your market. Find out how many cable systems operate in your Metro, what their coverage areas are and how many subscribers they have. A simple way to gather this information is to get a media kit from your local cable companies.

Second, invest time and resources in knowing your local advertisers’ trade areas and demographics. MapMAKER is an excellent prospecting tool that will allow you to match your radio station’s audience with the geography of the customer’s trade area. And Scarborough can help you hone in on your client’s customers’ zip codes. If your station does well within a prospect’s trade area and your audience demographics are a good match, you have strong ammunition to sell your station’s value and targetability against cable. Just make sure that your station can really help the client. Nothing generates repeat business like success, and nothing will hurt your reputation as much as an ineffective campaign.

Third, when developing a schedule recommendation, make sure the client will be running enough spots to get results. If they can’t afford to run enough, turn down the order. If the budget is limited, look into restricting the schedule to specific dayparts with lower turnover ratios to get better frequency at a lower cost. This method of scheduling can help you compete effectively with cheap cable spots in terms of frequency.

Winning the battle against local cable wont’ happen overnight. Successful development of local direct business requires knowledge, tenacity and, most of all, a genuine belief that radio is the medium that helps the customer get results.

Updated commentary: What wasn’t mentioned in the above article is the the study also revealed that local advertisers felt that cable and TV salespeople were more professional than radio salespeople. Today in Birmingham, many of the more respected local TV and cable salespeople are ex-radio salespeople.