Last week, 512,700 adults listened to a Portland radio station during the work week sometime between 6:00am and 10:00am. I was one of them. This time of day is referred to by broadcasters as "morning drive time" and it is the time most business owners want to advertise.
As a consequence of this demand versus the finite number of available commercials, advertisers generally pay a premium for advertising to be heard during this time of day. For a Maine small business owner with a limited marketing budget is the premium worth paying? The best answer is: IT DEPENDS.
The Mythology of Morning Drive Time
First, let's bust the myth. Morning drive time on radio is not the most listened to time of day. It's not even the second most listened time of the day. As a matter of fact in southern Maine, morning drive time is the third most listened to time during the week.
Advertising on Portland radio during morning drive time has many benefits, which will be discussed in a moment. But for budget conscious Maine small business owners, there is an alternative way to reach the same audience. If an advertiser strategically spreads their radio advertising budget throughout other times of day, they could effectively reach 97.1% of the morning drive time audience without paying the premium pricing.
The Portland radio dial is rich in marquee talent during the morning including Blake & Eva on Coast 93.1 (WMGX); The WPOR Morning Crew; The Q Morning Show on Q97.9 (WJBQ); Chuck Igo on Rewind 100.9 (WYNZ); The Captain & Celeste on WBLM; and Irwin Gratz just to name a few. So if morning drive time is not the most listened to time of day, then why do radio stations stock the morning show with such high-caliber talent?
Morning Radio Is A Perfect Lean Back Product
According to veteran radio programmer, Steve Goldstein, Executive Vice President of Programming for Saga Communications, "Mornings in America are a forefront affair. People are looking for a filter of everything out there these days and morning radio is that perfect “lean back” product in which we do the work of organizing the most interesting and entertaining items of the day of a target audience." During other times of day, says Goldstein, "people are looking for a soundtrack, whether they are working at an office or delivering packages on a Fed-Ex truck. While some like to curate their own content, most are happier having someone do that for them." Radio fits that bill.
If a business can afford to pay the premium for morning drive time, there are rewards. As Steve Goldstein said, morning shows are designed to be "forefront." This could help put an added spotlight on commercials. But the greatest benefit is leveraging the parasocial relationship the morning talent has with their audience.
Radio DJs: The Friends We Haven't Met Yet
A recent study by The University of California, Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism finds that 82% listeners have parasocial feelings for their favorite radio personalities. According to the study's author, Paula Woodely, a parasocial interaction "describes one-sided interpersonal relationships in which one party knows (or feels as though they know) a great deal about the other. The most common form of such relationships is between celebrities and their fans. There is an 'illusion of intimacy' between media personalities and audience in parasocial interactions." The study goes on to say, that more than half of people with favorite radio personalities have considered or purchased a product/service advertised during their favorite Radio personality’s show. (Lean more about the parasocial relationship between radio personalities and their audience in our blog post: Radio DJs: The Friends We've Never Met)
A number of Maine small business owners leverage this parasocial relationship as part of their advertising campaigns. For instance, just last week The Bill Dodge Auto Group, which consists of 8 dealerships throughout southern Maine, needed to recruit 18 new sales consultants...a tough challenge for any business. To help reach their goal, he auto group contracted Eva Matteson from the Coast 93.1 morning show and Nick "The Intern" Colby from the WPOR morning show, to broadcast live commercials to target qualified candidates. The advertiser reported that they were inundated with applicants. Click on the links below to hear an example of one of these commercials:
So here's the bottom line on advertising on morning radio: it is a premium priced product with definite benefits but, there are other ways to reach the same audience more efficiently. The decision to pay the premium should be based, however, on two criteria: the business owner's budget and the campaign's specific objectives. A reputable account executive from any Portland radio station can prevent the facts to help a Maine small business owners make the best decision.