Direct Response Radio Advertising: What’s the Best Time Frame for a Radio Advertising Test Campaign?

We’re always getting calls from startup companies that have some spin on this story: “We’ve got a new product to launch and we want to run a week-long direct response radio advertising test campaign in (insert major metro market here). We have a budget of $1,000 to spend on this and we’re expecting at least 100 calls/leads from it. Can you guarantee we’ll get that many calls? Have you worked with anyone else in our industry, and if so, can we see their call data?”

It’s not that they’re asking anything unreasonable, though it’d take a heart of stone to just accept their money and give them what they say they want. A thousand-dollar budget and a week-long time frame? Their odds of making back that investment would be ten times as good if they just went to Vegas and bet it all on red. Win or lose, they might have some fun there. But running a direct response radio advertising test campaign with that budget and time frame? That’s not even gambling: that’s suicide.

If there’s one thing that most businesses have in common, it’s that they have competition. There are few companies that can truly call themselves unique: every business segment is crowded with businesses vying for the same limited pool of customers. Their weapons in this war? Advertising. You’re not the first to think of using radio advertising or TV advertising to promote your business and you’re certainly not the last, nor the only. Your competitors will be running their own ads in the same markets, and a lackluster showing on your part will do you no favors.

#1 The first thing to do is identify the appropriate target market for your direct response radio advertising or direct response TV advertising test campaign. You’ve got two factors to consider: your advertising budget (first) and the demand for your product/service in a given market (second). You’re the only expert there is on the subject of your business: make sure your advertising partner is armed with the information they need to provide you with the best help possible.

#2 Run your test campaign in your target market for 8 to 16 weeks. It takes time and repetition for your message (including direct response radio advertising and direct response channels) to have an effect on listeners/viewers: they need to hear your message at least five times before your campaign can build any kind of momentum. The right ad frequency will help this process along: it should take 4 to 5 days for the average listener to hear your message five times, so you need to run your test for at least a month; 2 or 3 months will give you better information.

#3 Make the most of your advertising budget by choosing a market where you can run your test campaign long enough and often enough to get the results you need. Running two ads a day on a single station in a single market is about the same as just setting the money on fire and making smoke signals to attract customers.

This isn’t just empty talk from some advertising bigwig who thinks of everything in terms of GRPs (gross rating points). I’ve been a client myself, trying to grow a business and maintain acquisition/leads costs, and you can trust me when I say that the key to a successful test campaign is frequency. I’ve seen plenty of underfunded test campaigns over the past 11 years, and I never saw a single one of them work. As for short-term tests campaigns, their prospects have been just as dire, with the rare exception now and again: test campaigns for brand-new, never-before-seen products/services that had yet to enter the mainstream and had never been advertised through TV or radio before. So unless you truly have The Next Big Thing, you’ll have to put aside some money for an 8 to 12-week campaign in an appropriate market.

If your business is located in Albany-Schenectady, NY; Honolulu, HI; Tulsa, OK; Fresno, CA; Grand Rapids, MI; Albuquerque, NM; Allentown, PA; Wilkes Barre-Scranton, PA; Knoxville, TN; Omaha, NE; Sarasota, FL; Bakersfield, CA; Akron, OH; El Paso, TX; or any of the other 305 radio markets, you can call our office with any questions you may have about TV or radio advertising. Even if you are not our customer, we are still happy to help your business out.