Radio: The neglected teen medium

With radio reaching more than 90% of all teens on a weekly basis, according to the Radio Marketing Bureau of Canada, it is surprising that marketers don't make more of this medium to target the lucrative teen demo.

With radio reaching more than 90% of all teens on a weekly basis, according to the Radio Marketing Bureau of Canada, it is surprising that marketers don’t make more of this medium to target the lucrative teen demo.

Teens have a tendency to be loyal to the one station that meets their needs and desires, presenting many opportunities to reach a targeted group with a single media buy.

‘Generally in every market you get one station that plays the music that appeals to youth and as a result they capture 60% to 80% of teens,’ says Jeff Marchand, VP chief strategy director at Toronto-based Starcom Worldwide. ‘If you want to buy teen radio you are only looking at one or two stations, whereas with adults you would buy four or five.’

There are many ways to reach teens through radio, over and above the traditional 30-second spot. One potential opportunity that advertisers should be making more use of, according to Tammy Silny, media director at Toronto-based Bimm Communications Group, is building relationships with popular on-air personalities.

‘I would say radio is one of the most, if not the most, relevant media for reaching teens. On-air presenters carry a lot of sway, particularly with the tweens and younger teens,’ she says. ‘Finding an association with a personality like that can really build your brand.

‘What the advertiser wants more than anything is for the radio guy to be seen out and about drinking, wearing or using the product.’

According to Pascale LeBlanc, founder of Toronto-based youth marketing consultancy Youthopia, which recently cut ties with Big Orbit after a short alliance, advertisers could be making a lot more of the opportunity to reach teens by encouraging listener-participation in programming.

‘Teens love radio contests but it would make it more of an experience if the winners were called in to do on-air interviews,’ she says. Alliances with campus radio stations could also be effective, LeBlanc suggests. ‘You could do a tie-in with a specific product-launch and ask the DJ from a campus radio program to come and host the show.’

But not all advertisers are taking full advantage of the numerous opportunities that radio can offer. Despite having a 65% share of the 12-to-17 market in the Vancouver area, Z95.3 attracts surprisingly little interest from teen-targeted advertisers.

Long-term commitments are generally rejected in favour of a short burst of ads, according to the station’s general sales manager, Glenn Chalmers, because radio is usually used only as a piece of the marketing puzzle, and not the full solution.

‘There are very few advertisers who come to us seeking teens,’ says Chalmers, adding that they may be missing out on a big opportunity. ‘If they used radio over longer periods of time they would see better results.’

While the station features many contests in conjunction with ad clients, Chalmers believes that product testimonials can have a negative impact on a brand and on the station. ‘I would never ask the announcers to endorse a product because teens can smell bullshit a mile off. They realize it’s a sell-out and the person doing the endorsement loses credibility,’ he says.

Not all stations would support this view, however. Kiss 92, which reaches a hefty 42% of Toronto’s teens, has recently been beefing up its use of paid on-air product endorsements.

‘It’s an area that we are starting to explore more, although we have to be careful not to over-do it,’ says Lannie Atkins, general sales manager at Kiss.

Kiss’ clients benefit not only from airtime but also from the sought-after presence at the station’s regular teen-focused events.

‘When you’re advertising to teens you have to be at their level and a big part of what we do is product sampling at events,’ says David Wannan, promotions director. Events such as CD release parties, concerts and live-to-air club nights offer the ideal opportunity for teen-targeted marketers.

Starcom’s Marchand believes in looking for freebies such as contests and sampling programs that can sometimes be thrown in with the deal. ‘Every contract has to have fur on it,’ he says. ‘If I’m buying a 30-second spot, I want something extra. For me, the best deal would be content which sells the product into a morning show over a long period of time.’

Such extras are a popular attraction for advertisers using Z103, the second choice for teens in the Toronto area. Teens currently account for 21% of the station’s listeners.

Show-hosts at Z103 provide free on-air chat as a bonus to advertisers placing spots. ‘When PlayStation 2 first came out, some of the announcers would comment about it quite a lot,’ says Connie Biafore, promotions manager at the station, adding that this kind of on-air chat is not usually paid for. ‘It’s great for the advertisers because they are reaching a huge number of active young adults with a disposable income.’

The station also runs daily contests on behalf of its advertising partners. ‘If an advertiser has a product that they would like to give out as an added bonus, we tie it in to a feature,’ says Biafore. Computer games, cell phone companies and movie theatres are among the station’s key teen-targeted clients.