People typically don’t watch TV while driving vehicles (thankfully), but they do listen to the radio plenty, says Thom Callahan, president of the Southern California Broadcasters Assn.

And a lot of those listeners are in the market to buy a vehicle, he says, citing an online polling of 3,000 San Diego and Los Angeles residents.

More than 90% of new- and used-vehicle buyers listen to AM/FM radio, and many of them are in-car listeners, Callahan tells WardsAuto. “Some of the study results are fascinating. For instance, 60% of those in the car market said they were in the market for a week, 40% for three weeks to a month.”

The association points out that buying pattern to dealers and automakers who represent a chunk of radio advertisers. Accordingly, Callahan recommends spreading automotive radio spots throughout a given month, not just during the final days of a push to hit monthly sales targets.

Still, an advertising cadence spread across 30 days “is a huge hurdle for some dealers to overcome,” he says.  

The trade group contends it isn’t trying to pilfer advertisers from other media. “Digital and TV can do what they want,” Callahan says. “We’re just saying, 'Keep an open mind. Look at where and when to spend.’”

He cites study results indicating TV ads, despite higher costs, often miss target audiences. In the study’s SoCal geographic area, 34% of TV viewers have full- or part-time jobs, compared with 74% of radio listeners. (Employment usually is a must for buying and financing a vehicle.)

“But for every dollar spent on radio, $7 to $9 is spent on TV,” Callahan says.

What makes for a good dealer radio ad?

“Every dealer has a different opinion on that,” he says. However he says fewer than 5% of 30-second commercials mention the sponsor’s website. His advice to rectify that: “Drill down on the website by mentioning it as many times as possible in the ad.”

He notes the study doesn’t suggest automakers and dealers increase their ad budgets or forgo TV spots for radio.

“We are asking the automotive industry to engage radio in a discussion of a more effective media strategy to reach qualified customers. Based on this new research and current market conditions, the time for that discussion is now.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com