Ana Martinoli

The Theory and Practice of Radio Advertising


There are many debates about the way advertising works. Different media all have their own strengths and weaknesses, which advertising-planning needs to take into account. This paper offers some guidelines on the challenges that apply to radio advertising. It presents brief reviews of various studies that throw useful light on the vexed questions of what kind of ads work best for radio campaigns. The studies under review analyze the impact of commercials’ style and spot length on listeners, look into adaptation of commercials for different stations, compare avoidance levels in different media, explore to what extent people actually take in radio ads when listening as a secondary activity, and which factors have the greatest impact on consumers’ memory.

Three contemporary theorists are especially foregrounded. Ervin Ephron claims that advertising can be made more effective if it is closer to the time of action/purchase. Andrew Ehrenberg contends that advertising, in the absence of any persuasive news for the consumer, is a relatively “weak force in the mix, and mainly works defensively, using repetition and reinforcement to avoid a brand fading from the consumer’s mind. Robert Heath contends that most advertising – even in “primary media like TV – is consumed passively, with low involvement on the part of the consumer, so that most advertising memories are vague and emotional, rather than literal or rational. Underlying all of these theories is a sense that advertising is not usually a simple act of persuasion, conducive to a change in consumer preference or behavior.