A Beginner’s Guide to Radio Advertising in Singapore

Although digital marketing is now the most popular channel of advertising for most businesses, radio advertising is still an efficient medium for some businesses to reach out to their customers. This is because besides being an effective tool, radio advertising is also an extremely cost effective one that you can use to reach out to a large, targeted audience group. For certain types of companies such as automobile dealers, jewellery companies, beauty salons, medical spas, health products and services, this channel has consistently proven to be an effective medium for them to generate brand awareness and achieve business growth.  

I spent 15 years of my professional career involved in radio advertising in Singapore, and have handled at least a few hundreds radio ad campaigns, generating as much as 10 to 15 times ROI for some campaigns. This article was inspired by the realisation that there are little or almost no resources for radio advertising in Singapore from a client’s perspective. I have detailed the following sections in such a way that you will first get to know how to create a great radio ad strategy, components of a typical radio proposal, how much it costs to advertise on radio, factors affecting the ROI with some tips for negotiating better deals that are within your budget and finally, how to track the effectiveness of your radio ad campaigns. As much as possible, I will relate my experience back to the Singapore market. I will then end off with a brief profile of the radio stations available in Singapore. I also want to stress that this article stems mainly from my own experience, and there’re really no right or wrong way. I hope this can be a beginner guide for the junior marketer or entrepreneur, who can then modify it to suit his own products or services. 

Here’s the index of what I’m going to talk about: 

(1) Creating a Radio Ad Strategy
(2) A Typical Radio Proposal and What It Includes
(3) Factors Affecting the Costs of Radio Ad Spots
(4) What Is the Minimum Investment?
(5) How Do You Compare the Per Spot Cost Across Different Radio Stations?
(6) How to Measure the ROI of Your Radio Advertising Campaign
(7) Factors Affecting the ROI of Your Radio Advertising Campaign
(8) The Radio Industry in Singapore
(9) How Are Singapore Radio Ratings Determined?

There are many radio stations both in Singapore and in each country worldwide, and your first step is to find the one radio advertising Singaporethat matches the demographics and psychographics of your business’ target customers. You need to pin down the profile of your audience, decide on the objective of your campaign, for instance, what you want to achieve from it, what message to craft, and finally, how to track the effectiveness of your campaign. In between, you will need also to negotiate with the radio station on the cost of the radio ads although this can be outsourced to an advertising agency who will be able to offer you an agency discount. The amount is at the discretion of your agency who will decide on the percentile based on your current or future advertising frequency, budget, and your relationship with the sales manager or director. Some companies prefer to outsource their media plan to an advertising agency, because they know how to get the best rates for you, and know how to push for the best deals.

Creating a Radio Ad Strategy

In brief, the steps are as follow, but you can definitely tailor it according to your business’ needs. As a guide, allow at least a month for you to plan and strategize, though I have executed campaigns in as little time as a week before.

(1) Create a customer persona for your products or services.

(2) Decide if you want to hire an ad agency or liase with the radio station yourself.

(3) Let your radio station or ad agency know your campaign objective, who it wants to reach, what is your ultimate call-to-action, and other necessary actions you need them to take.

(4) Find out the listener profile of all the radio stations available in your country (either from the agency or radio station, depending on who you use).

(5) Get a radio proposal with schedule and cost advertising in each radio station.

(6) Match the best 2 to 3 radio stations’ listener profiles to your customer persona, and narrow it down to 1 or 2 according to your budget.

(7) Decide whether you want to outsource the production of the radio commercial to a professional radio production company, or let the radio station execute it at a lower cost. Sometimes, your ad agency might suggest a good production company. The ad script, stock music, voice talents and post production editing are always included as part of the total cost, no matter which party you engage. Usually, cost can start from SGD1,500 onwards.
Decide on a call-to-action to track the effectiveness of your radio advertising campaign.

A Typical Radio Proposal and What It Includes

A typical radio proposal would include special terms specific to the radio advertising industry, as well as pricing for selected spots per week, timing, the length of the spots and other entitlements. The terms may be different across countries, but some terms such as spots, rate, cost, morning drive time, evening drive time, frequency and net reach are basically the same.

Under the terms that your radio station uses before agreeing to the costs indicated in the proposal and endorsing it.

Factors Affecting the Costs of Radio Ad Spots

I have always been asked this question – is it expensive to advertise on radio, and how much do they cost in general? In the context of Singapore in particular, this really depends on the popularity, radio ratings and radio rankings of the radio stations.

The costs for radio advertising include the cost of radio ad production, voice talent, scriptwriting and the cost to run your radio ads. It is often quoted on a per-spot basis and ranges from SGD300 to SGD600 per 30 or 60 seconds onwards, but radio stations usually provide you with a discount if you take up more advertising spots over a period of time. The cost per spot also depends on the following factors:

The Number of Listeners – The more listeners the radio station has, the more it costs

The Demographic of Listeners – Some target audience are more popular and hence more expensive, such as listeners age 25 – 54, males aged 18 – 35 or a wealthier audience who are all surveyed to have higher purchasing power and are more responsive.

Format of the Radio Station – Talk show, country music, jazz, classical or oldies radio stations all tend to command higher costs.

Time Slot – Whether your commercial is aired during Morning Drive time (6am to 10am), mid-day slots (10am to 3pm), Afternoon Drive time (3pm to 7pm) and Evening Drive time (7pm to 12am). Some 24-hour stations also have an overnight time slot, which can run from midnight to 6am.

The Extent of Competition from Other Advertisers – The more businesses that want to advertise within a particular time, the more expensive it will be as the radio station increases cost during that time. For instance, radio spots are more expensive during Chinese New Year and Christmas, as multiple advertisers such as gift suppliers, F&B manufacturers and fashion companies look to increase their radio ad spend.

Format of the Commercial – Whether you choose pre-recorded radio commercial, open talks, where two or more radio personalities will talk about your products or services during their slot, live reads, advertorials or sponsorship opening and closing credits. Open talks are usually more expensive because they seem more genuine to the listeners and are interactive.

Your Negotiation Skills – The cost per spot of ad also depend on how much you can negotiate. Usually, get a proposal from the radio station or ad agency, and look to negotiating the price downwards by at least 20 – 40%. Here are a few methods you can use:

First-Time Advertiser Discount – If you are a first-time advertiser on a particular radio station, be sure to ask for a new advertiser discount. Most of the time, the radio station will agree to your request because they would want to lock in a new client.

Volume Discounts – There should also be volume discounts if you intend to buy many slots at any time. Ask your sales manager about it.

Trade for Free Spots – Radio stations are often looking for new products and services that they can give away as prizes to contests on their shows, so try to talk to your sales manager and see if he is keen to do a trade of your products in exchange for a few free spots, or spots with lowered costs.

Choose the Less Costly Spots – Another idea is to choose the spots which are not so costly, or let your radio station choose the time and day for your ad schedule, such as fringe days or times that are less in demand. This will lower your costs but do try to negotiate for a better time slot, as lower cost slots are often not as highly rated.

Buy Shorter Duration Spots – Advertisers are given the option to purchase 30 or 60 seconds commercial spots, but sometimes 10 or 15 seconds ones could also be available on selected radio stations during selected time and these spots usually cost less than the usual duration spots of 30 or 60 seconds. These spots can give you a brand shout, while at the same time keep your costs lower.

Run of Station (ROS) Spots – ROS spots are lower priced ad spots that have no definite, guarantee airing time. They may air anytime from 6am to 12am but if there is available prime time slots such as in the morning and afternoon drive times, which are quite rare, ROS commercials may be allowed to air. I would recommend that you mix some prime time slots with some ROS commercials if you have a limited marketing budget.

On-Air Features – Radio stations may sometimes allow advertisers to further sponsor some on-air features such as weather reports, news snippets, traffic updates or accident reports with a short beginning or end sponsor mention. These features are usually negotiable items which you may not necessary need to pay so much. Negotiate to your best effort, and you may just get them for free sometimes.  

Find Competitors – Look for different radio stations, and if you find one with a lower cost, but with the same audience demographics, try to ask your chosen station for a lower price too. This may not always work, but it’s worth a try sometimes.

What Is the Minimum Investment?

How many spots will give me the required response I am looking at? As an estimate, I usually allocate a minimum budget of S$10,000 pe radio campaign for it to generate the kind of response that I am looking at, though campaign effectiveness differs across products and services. You might be able to get a campaign with as little as S$5,000 for stations such as SAFRA radio though this is because their reach and audience may not be as extensive as bigger stations such as SPH and Mediacorp Radio. Note that each radio station has different costs depending on their audience, which are determined via an independent third party organisation.

The rates above are just rough estimates for example purposes only, and do not include agency discounts, or other factors that could decrease or increase costs.

How Do You Compare the Per Spot Cost Across Different Radio Stations?

A radio proposal will usually include spots in different time slots. If you are trying to compare the cost per spot across different radio stations, it is incorrect to just divide the total cost of your proposal by the number of ad spots to determine the cost per spot because some spots’ timings are more expensive.

How then, shall you make a comparison? The correct way is to determine the Cost Per Thousand (CPM) or Cost Per Point (CPP):

Cost Per Thousand (CPM) – The cost to reach 1,000 listeners

Cost Per Point (CPP) – The cost to reach 1% of the population within a geographic area. This metric can be used to compare the costs between different advertising choices within a specific geographic area.

Finally, this is how you should calculate the cost of advertising per spot.

Cost of Advertising Per Spot = Number of people listening x Cost to reach 1,000 listeners (CPM)

How to Measure the ROI of Your Radio Advertising Campaign

The ROI, or return on investment of a radio advertising campaign is an important metric that you need to know and determine after the conclusion of each campaign. But in traditional advertising campaigns, it is a bit tricky to track the ROI because there is no sure way of doing that because the audience is too wide. For example, if I publishes a print ad in a magazine, I can’t track the actual number of eyeballs that have seen my ad. I can only insert a call-to-action on that ad, and track the number of people that responds, for instance, to a lucky draw or promotional code that I have printed on the ad.

Some of the ways that I have used to measure the ROI of my traditional advertising campaigns include using coupons, lucky draws, promotion codes, surveys, social media accounts and web analytics. You can also get a lead through your website, in-person or through telephone purchases by offering a reward to your customers who mentions the radio station or programme that plays your commercials.

Hence, you can still measure an indicative ROI of your radio campaigns within a specific time frame. Firstly, you need to know the number of attributable leads you received in total as a result of the radio ads. When you receive a lead through your call-to-action, either through one of your web pages, your Facebook page, SMS, telephone or onsite location. For physical businesses with an onsite location, it can be a promotion code that you asks customers to verbalise to the counter staff at, for instance, an F&B business, or a small entertainment attraction for kids. You can then ask your staff to note down the number of customers into a Google sheet who came in using this code and track your conversions.

Other measurable goals that you can measure includes sales, website visits or the number of new customers. You also need to have your marketing department calculate the total marketing spend on your radio ads, and the costs of any creatives that were done during the process.

In my experience, if you are using an ad agency for your radio ads, it is your responsibility to understand what you want to achieve based on your radio campaign too, and how you want to measure the effectiveness, because if you leave it entirely to the ad agencies, there could be a slight chance that some of them may conduct the ROI analysis that work in their favour, because they certainly hope that you would continue your business with them.

Also, in the case that you are using more than one platform to advertise, for instance, radio and digital ads, separate your sources and track them individually. After that, you can use the following ROI equation to measure the percentage that you have generated on each platform.

ROI = (Total sales – total investment) / Total investment x 100%

Do note to use a different call-to-action, be it a phone number, unique URL, SMS, Facebook page, in each radio campaign you run, so that you can correctly determine which campaign is driving the most sales and leads.

However, for ads that are intended to build a long term brand purpose, it is quite tricky to associate the radio ads with a particular transaction, be it a sale, a click or a new customer. If you really need to track the branding effect, you can choose a sample size of your audience after the end of the ads to see if any of them recall your brand or messages or whether there are any increase in brand perception.

But today’s marketers use such a huge range of channels to reach their audience that it makes it very difficult to properly attribute a certain ROI to one channel. One smart way is to nail down your objectives, highlight a few key metrics that you can identify with your customer’s purchase journey and see if you find a correlation between the metrics and your objectives after the conclusion of your radio campaign.

Factors Affecting the ROI of Your Radio Advertising Campaign

(1) Choice of Radio Stations and Your Target Audience’s Age Group and Profile

There are many radio stations both in Singapore and in each country worldwide, and finding one that matches your customer’s demographics in terms of age, gender, income, psychographics such as hobbies, personalities, beliefs, etc.) is not as easy as it seems, as you need to select the top stations that can most effectively reach the highest potentially qualified audience, for the most number of times or frequency, for the least amount of investment. If you fail to choose the appropriate radio station for your audience, or your customer persona is incorrect, chances are, your ROI may fall below your expectations.

(2) The Message in the Commercial

After you’ve chosen your radio station(s), you need to think about the message you want to convey to your audience, and what you need them to do next. Make your message relevant to your target audience’s pain point, for instance, and they will want to know more about how to solve their problems with your products or services. Once you nail that down, you can then start to bring your brand and their benefits into their minds. Provide them with a reason to care about your business, products or services, and they will start to take notice and take action.

You might be familiar with the way that many radio commercials sound over the Singapore airwaves, but do not based on what other advertisers are doing. Of course, do use their ads as a guide, and if some of the bigger advertisers are consistently using the same ad formats, chances are these formats are giving their businesses positive ROIs. However, do note that it might be a good idea to avoid sounding like the other commercials – tell your own story, find a different angle and as much as possible, inject some unique elements of your own to break out of the commercial clutter. Suggestions include discounting if customers purchase in bulk, order before a cut-off date or let your audience participate in a competition to win attractive prizes.

(3) Call-to-Action

One vital point in the success or failure of your ad is to have a compelling call to action that drives your customers to your business. Your message has to grab your customers’ attention and make them act. Often, this can be a telephone hotline number, an SMS that the customer can send in their message or your official, mobile responsive business website. For physical businesses, it can be a promotion code that you asks customers to verbalise to the counter staff at, for instance, an F&B business, or a small entertainment attraction for kids.

(4) Any Jingles or Songs?

Jingles and songs are said to be much more effective than a commercial which has just spoken words because it actually makes your radio ad more memorable in your customers’ minds, and gives life to your products or services. It is definitely easier for your audience to remember an ad with a catchy, memorable jingle with meaningful lyrics. Some radio ads can even be remembered by customers for more than 10 or 20 years.

(5) Popularity of the Radio DJ(s)

The popularity of the radio DJ(s) or radio personalities also affect the cost of the radio spots, and consequently, it can affect the extent of the reach to your audience and the effectiveness of the radio campaign. The more popular DJ(s) often command rates higher than their counterparts, but a word of caution, choose the DJ(s) because they fit your products’ image and branding and not because of their popularity.

(6) Voice Talents and Agency

Most of the time, the radio stations will be able to produce the radio commercial for you by booking their DJs’ time but some advertisers still prefer to task this to an external voice production agency because of their expertise in scripting, choosing the voice talent, and designing the format of the ad to cater to the product. If you are looking for a truly professional sounding radio commercial, it might be worth your while to look for an agency that has experience and an expansive record of radio campaigns that have good ROI, as most of the time, these agencies are familiar with the techniques or words, or which sound talent can give you the maximum response. As a guide, it costs from S$300 onwards for the production of a radio commercial, including scriptwriting. If you need a professional jingle, agencies might add on an extra charge for composition.

(7) Master Contract

It is important to plan at least a month in advance if you wish to include radio advertising in your marketing campaign. Better still, try to plan 6 months to a year in advance by signing a master contract, so that you can get better discounts from radio stations or ad agencies. The two main radio stations Mediacorp Radio and SPH Radio very often provide discounts and/or value added items for customers who can commit to a one year radio advertising contract. One advantage of this is that you get to lock down the rates, and will not experience an increase in rates later on if the stations so decide to do so. Usually, payment is only after the commercials have been aired, so you do not have to worry about not having enough funds.

(8) Time and Day of Your Ads

The time and day that you choose to advertise will also affect the ROI of your ads. Remembering your products and services, focus on your target audience intimately. Find out their daily habits such as what time do they drive their children to school, what time do they reach their office, and what time do they drive home, for instance? Do they listen to the radio while they are at work? Which days and what time do your audience bring their family out?

Knowing all these and getting them correct will allow you to better plan your media strategy, and hence greatly improve your radio ROI.

(9) Check the Weather   

If you are advertising for an upcoming event or activity that is outdoor, it is most likely your audience will not visit when it is raining heavily, no matter how aggressively you advertise on that day. I would usually look at the weather forecast, and place my ads only on days that are sunny, to get the most out of my advertising dollars.

(10) Other Channels of Promotion Offered by the Radio Station

Besides radio spots, radio stations may also offer you other channels of promotion which might boost your radio advertising ROI. Some might be added to your proposal for a bit of extra cost, while some will be totally free.

Radio Events – Events such as sponsorship of radio breakfast series or sponsorship of a particular segment are good for you to further promote your business at little additional cost on top of your package. For instance, your company may be able to sponsor the event venue, gift bag items, provide samples, have an exclusive promotion for the listeners or even demonstrate or distribute your products and materials at the event itself.

Radio Station’s Social Media Channels – You can tap into the radio station’s website or social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter as radio stations usually have large number of audience on their social media given their publicity and advertising budget. Some radio stations even have web streams of their programs online. You can ask your radio sales manager to give it to you for free, as it often don’t cost them anything to help you publicise on these channels.  

Cross Promotions – Sometimes, it might be possible to ask your sales manager whether there are other advertisers who might be interested to do cross promotions with your products or services. For example, an attraction can pair up with an F&B outlet or restaurant to offer free food or a discounted meal with the purchase of their tickets. The F&B outlet can in turn help promote the attraction by offering a discounted attraction ticket with every meal purchase. This will increase both parties’ exposure and increase ROI.

Finally, although radio advertising costs can be reasonable, you will probably need to invest a good portion of your budget on this platform for the long term because this would then make your ad spend on radio more worth it, as radio advertisements benefit more from being repeatedly broadcast over the airwaves. Your investment in your commercial can then make your product or service more memorable. New advertisers will need to develop brand recognition first to be perceived as reliable, so if you are really committed to developing this channel’s audience, start with a branding campaign to introduce yourself, and then develop a proper long-term strategy that can turn that brand recognition into purchase intent, or even repeat purchase.

The Radio Industry in Singapore

The radio industry in Singapore is small, with only 3 main radio broadcasters – Mediacorp Radio, SPH Radio and So Drama! Entertainment (used to be Singapore Armed Forces Reservists’ Association, or SAFRA Radio), and BBC World Service. Altogether, they operate 18 free-to-air radio stations.

Come December 2017, Singapore will have 2 more new commercial free-to-air radio stations FM89.3 and FM96.3, as the Singapore government has awarded the vacant radio frequencies to SPH Radio. This will bring the total number of local FM stations to 20.

According to SPH Radio, the new radio stations will cater to new listener segments. One frequency will be reserved for a new Chinese radio station that caters to listeners above the age of 50, providing them with lifestyle information on health, wellness and retirement planning. It will also feature Chinese pop songs and ‘Xinyao’ entertainment music from the 1980s and 1990s. The second station is targeted at PMEBs, or professionals, managers, executives and businessmen, with information on finance and money matters.

How Are Singapore Radio Ratings Determined?

In the latest Nielsen Radio Survey on 15 June 2017, Mediacorp’s three Chinese radio stations Capital 95.8FM, Love 97.2FM and Y.E.S.93.3FM are the top three radio stations in Singapore for 23 consecutive years, with listenership of 19.9%, 19.3% and 18.4% respectively, while its English station Class 95FM remains the number one English radio station for more than 20 years, with a listenership of 15.9%.  

SPH Radio’s Kiss 92FM remained the number one English music station based on percentage share of listenership. On the other hand, Love 97.2FM is the number one station in terms of share at 14.5% while listeners on Warna 94.2FM spent the longest time with the station at 18 hours and 38 minutes, an increase of close to 2 hours from the last survey.

However, as a marketer, I would advise you to take all these numbers with a pinch of salt because what’s more important is which radio station is more appropriate for your products or services in terms of its target audience, and what are the kind of support and package they can give you.

We’ll be able to offer some tips on how to market and sell to your target audience using radio advertising. Alternatively, your products or services might be more suitable for a different marketing platform. Why not contact us for a chat below to find out? We’ll be glad to offer some advice.  

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Bei

Bei

With over 20 years’ of experience in training, copywriting and integrated marketing communications in the F&B manufacturing and leisure, travel and tourism sectors, Bei possesses a unique understanding of all aspects of marketing practice, with a passion for content marketing and SEO. Bilingual in English and Chinese, she is also the author of 4 English guidebooks for students and a book of sketches on Amazon. Connect with her at [email protected]

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