Local Radio Advertising: Cost, Examples, and Tips

Local Radio Advertising: Cost, Examples, and Tips
February 21, 2020 Levi Olmstead
local radio advertising

In today’s market, there are many digital advertising options for businesses to use. While methods like social media, PPC, and SEM may be your first thoughts when brainstorming advertising for your business, it’s important not to underestimate the effectiveness of older advertising methods.

Radio advertising can often be overlooked, but is an influential, cost-effective local advertising channel to target a specific market of consumers through a different media outlet.

How Can Radio Advertising Help Your Small Business?

Radio advertising can help your business reach an audience that you may be missing online or in print. Radio advertisements are short and simple, and get your message across to listeners in a straightforward fashion.

Radio advertising is great for targeting a market, because certain consumers listen to certain stations, and these stations can be fairly simple to pinpoint depending on your target audience. Plus, creating a radio ad yourself is often fairly cheap, unlike commercials and graphics for social media. So, radio advertising can help your business reach a wider audience and boost sales for a, often times, cheaper advertising budget.

Radio Advertising Effectiveness by Industry

Radio advertising can be effective for businesses of all types. However, they have been proven to offer more success and increase sales in certain industries than others. 

Mass product merchandisers and department stores are the industries that see the biggest ROI, followed closely by telecommunications providers. These stores and brands are often easy to remember and offer consumers products or services that everyone likely needs at one point.

Therefore, industries that cater to a wider audience, like fast food services, often receive a significantly higher ROI with their radio ads.

How Much Does Radio Advertising Cost?

Radio advertising is typically priced by the number of listeners multiplied by the cost per thousand (CPM). While station and market affect the cost, radio advertising often falls between $200 and $5,000 per week

Cost will be affected by length of advertisement, time, location, and station. For instance, a 60-second ad will cost more than a 30-second ad and an ad played late at night will cost less than an ad aired during rush hour. Additionally, an ad in a more populated market, like Chicago will cost more than an ad in rural Illinois and a more popular station will cost more due to the higher audience rate.

Ad Cost by Market

Like all markets, depending on the local market, prices vary depending on population and exposure, demand, production costs, etc. Below are examples of various markets and their weekly estimated costs for being played to local markets 20 times per week. 

It is important to note that these costs do not include production budgets and will be influenced depending on station, time of day, and length of ad.


Market Population (Approx.)ExamplesCost Range
3 – 8.5 millionChicago, LA, New York$4,000 – $8,000
1 – 2.5 millionDallas, Philadelphia, Houston$2,000 – $5,000
500,000 – 900,000Portland, Denver, Seattle$1,000 – $3,000
250,000 – 500,000Buffalo, Cleveland, Omaha$500 – $2,000
Less than 250,000Rockford, De Moines, Richmond $200 – $1,500

How to Buy Air Time on a Radio Station

Typically, radio stations offer 18 minutes of advertising time per hour, of which businesses can purchase ad air time for 15 seconds, 30 seconds or 60 seconds. 

Once your ad has been created and edited to the appropriate length, it’s time to choose a station for your ad to play on, the time you plan to buy air time for, and how often you want your ad(s) to play. 

Buying air time on a radio station is a fairly quick process. 

First, research radio stations and their audiences to decipher which station(s) will offer your business the best results. Consider what current ads are played on the station and ask for a media kit from the station when available. 

After choosing where your ad will air, determine what air time slots will benefit your brand most.

Best Times to Advertise on the Radio

The most popular and most expensive air times are the morning and evening rush hours. However, depending on your ad, this does not mean these are the best times for your business to buy. Consider when your audience is listening, and go from there. 

Air time slots are typically divided as follows:

  • Morning Rush Hour: 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • Midday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
  • Evening Rush Hour: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Evening: 7 p.m. to 12 a.m.
  • Late Night: 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.

After getting in contact and sparking a contract with a radio station or two, negotiate pricing based on your ad length and air time slots. 

Be realistic on pricing. Consider tactics such as creating a short 15-second version of your ad and a longer 60-second version to be played at different time slots to save you money without losing audience reach at certain time slots. 

After you’ve come to an agreement with the station(s), wait for your ads to air and track campaign results to improve reach on your next campaign.

How to Pick a Radio Station

While we can’t necessarily go into your specific radio station checklist, there are obvious station genres that we all encounter that typically attract similar audiences nationally. 

If you’re running a business, it’s likely that you already have your target market identified. This target market is your main factor in picking a radio station. 

Who is your customer? Where are they from? What is their age? What are their interests? What do they listen to?

Have a clear definition of who your consumer is and place your ad where your consumer will be listening. 

As a starting point in your research, below is a simple outline of demographics and types of radio stations that are often paired together.


Station TypeGeneral Demographics
Top 40Under 35, listens during peak hours
AlternativeUnder 35, listens during peak hours
RockBetween 25 and 55, listens during peak hours and evenings
ContemporaryBetween 25 and 65, listens throughout day and evening
ClassicalOver 55, listens throughout day and evening
OldiesOver 40, listens during peak hours and evenings
News TalkOver 55, listens during peak hours
SportsVarying age group, listens during games

How to Make Your First Radio Ad

Making a radio ad is fairly simple and can be done quite quickly and typically costs between $300 and $1,000

There are a few options when creating a radio ad, you can have the radio station create the ad, pay a professional production company to create the ad, create the ad yourself, or hire a freelancer. All the options require the same general steps, but the process and cost will vary slightly.

If the staton creates the ad for you, ensure you are not required to use the ad if it is not up to your standards. Share all your ideas with the station so it gets a good idea of what type of ad you are looking to present to consumers. It is important to note that you will not be able to use this ad on stations other than the ad creator.

If a professional production company creates the ad for you, it will likely cost the most, but provide the best results. The company will work with you to write a script, pick a voice, music, and effects, and record the ad. Ask the company to create a couple ads for you to test their effectiveness. 

If you create the ad yourself, you will be in charge of complete creation and recording of your ad. Ensure your recording does not sound too scripted and that you’re comfortable with your voice being on the radio.

If you don’t have a radio voice or don’t have a voice that fits your ad, work with a freelancer. Working with a freelancer, you will essentially be creating the ad yourself, but a freelance voice actor will record your script for you for a fee. 

Regardless of the method you choose, remember the following points to include:

  • Create a script
  • Cut the script to the correct timing
  • Choose a voice
  • Select music
  • Select sound effects
  • Record the audio
  • Track the ad

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How to Determine ROI of Radio Advertising?

After creating an ad, it’s important to track how well recepted the ad is and how much traffic it is bringing to your business. Determining the ROI of your radio ad can help you better plan future radio ads and budgets to boost sales and save money. 

There are many ways to measure the ROI of your radio ad, but some of the most common and easiest to implement include using a vanity URL, using a tracking phone number, asking new leads, and measuring your sales while the ad is being aired. 

1. Use a Vanity URL

A vanity URL is when you send listeners to a specific landing page on your website that they will hear the link to on the ad. You can track page traffic using analytics tools such as Google analytics to monitor the page visits and most visited time slots. 

2. Use a Tracking Phone Number

Similar to a vanity URL, provide listeners with a special phone number for them to call into. This will differentiate those calling from hearing the radio ad from those calling from hearing about your campaign in another way. 

3. Ask New Leads How They Heard About You

If possible, asking new leads how they heard about you when they make a purchase or sign up for your brand is a simple way to track not just ROI on radio ads, but all marketing tactics. While this plan is full-proof if all consumers are willing to take the time to answer this question, not all of them are, which can lead to less accurate data.

4. Measure Sales While Ad is Aired

This one may seem a bit obvious compared to the others, but one of the easiest ways to track ROI is to just track your sales before your ad ran and while your ad is running. While this will not differentiate where sales are coming from, for example, radio ads or social media ads, it will give you the overall picture as to whether your current tactics are improving sales and worth your budget.

Next Steps with Radio Advertising

Radio advertising can be a great tactic to attract customers and increase sales for your business. Being a less expensive advertising method, it is worth testing out with the chance that it can better your business at a low investment cost. 

You now know the ins-and-outs of radio advertising and how to get started implementing a radio ad into your next campaign. So, start researching local radio stations and brainstorming scripts that will attract your target market.

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