Who Should Use Radio Advertising?
( Originally Published 1932 )
EVERY advertiser must answer for himself the question, "Should I use broadcasting?" There is no ready-made formula to guide him in his decision. Radio is still growing. Its technic is still being learned. Its possibilities are still being explored. It has shown wonderful possibilities for successful use in unusual ways, and when the expenditure seemed foolish. Nobody can say now—probably for a good many years—who should use radio advertising.
The question of who should or should not advertise was fairly easy to answer six years ago when broadcasting was just beginning and the advertiser could only say, "This program is sponsored by my company." Those were the days when every advertiser had the manners of an Old World gentleman, and took very seriously the fact that he was a guest in the home and that the home was sacred. He might talk about the weather and how beautiful the wife was, and kiss the children, but he would never mention his product.
This was little better than publicity, and the advertisers had to rely entirely on magazines and newspapers for his story. A little later the broadcasting company allowed him to mention his product and then use an adjective—a very mild adjective—describing it. The home was still sacred and the advertiser only mentioned his product casually, as he would the weather, in passing. Of course, a number of manufacturers couldn't use this kind of advertising profitably. The adjectives grew into phrases and phrases grew into sentences, and then sentences grew into paragraphs. Radio had at last become a direct advertising medium. The advertiser had at last transformed himself from an Old World gentleman into a house to house canvasser. He showed all that person's grim determination of sticking to his sales talk. What if a few did turn the radio dial just as some slam the door in the faces of solicitors? All he asked was a chance at those who let in his program.
According to the latest estimate there are 10,000,000 radio sets in the United States. Surveys would indicate that 10,000,000 of these are tuned in every day. According to the 1930 census there is an average of 2 1/2 people grouped around each radio set. This gives a potential daily audience of 25,000,000.
That means that broadcasting is most ideal for the man who makes an article that 25,000,000 of all kinds of people—rich men, poor men, beggar men, thieves—really can use. Certainly large numbers of manufacturers of such products as tooth paste, cigarettes, soap are using the air. Broadcasting is probably not a very good advertising medium for a man who makes an article which is only bought by a relatively few because of its peculiar nature or high cost. I say probably because there have been successful exceptions. For example, there is one man who broadcasts every year a program on tree surgery. You really have to have an estate before you associate with tree surgeons. And just notice the large number of programs sponsored by automobiles costing more than a thousand dollars—also the use of broad-casting by steamship companies offering trips to the South Seas and around the world on a cash, not a promise-topay, basis.
The broadcasting companies have offered the advertiser an unusual opportunity to select the audience who will listen to his program by allowing him to choose and build his own entertainment and the kind of program he puts on. He can get any kind of audience he wants, from those who read the Police Gazette to those who read the Atlantic Monthly. Never before has the advertiser enjoyed such a position in any medium.
For example, the publisher of a magazine selects his own stories and articles (the entertainment) and edits these into a magazine which attracts a certain kind of person. Then he goes to an advertiser and says, "Here is a page in my magazine for such a price which reaches such and such people." It is important to note that the selection of the readers was done entirely by the editor. The advertiser simply took advantage of the means the editor gave him to reach possible customers.
However, no broadcasting company, national or local, does any such selecting of an audience for the advertiser. Broadcasting being free to the listener, the directors of stations had no way to make the radio audience pay for entertainment as publishers do at so much a copy. Broadcasting had to find another way. They insisted—these directors of radio stations—that the advertiser supply his own entertainment as well as his own advertising. They have said, in effect, to the advertiser, "Here is the editor's chair, and here's the circulation manager's chair. You have got to get out your own magazine and put your own advertising in it and the cost is—enough. The air is yours, but it is up to you to get your own audience to sell." When owners of broadcasting stations and chains did this they gave the advertiser a chance to find just the listeners who could purchase his products if he were a clever enough showman. If he doesn't get the right audience, it isn't anybody's fault but his own. Being an amateur, he has been learning this painfully by trial and error—but actually learning. This job of preparing his own entertainment and getting his own circulation in addition to telling his own sales story gave the advertiser three jobs where he had only one before, but also gave all the plus advantages that come from doing these three instead of only one of them—and that is why practically any advertiser can adapt it to his own purpose. He is certainly sitting in the driver's seat.
On my desk lies a list of the clients of the National Broadcasting Company. Its clients are selling automobiles, tires, building materials, cigars, cigarettes, clothing, dry goods, soft drinks, drugs and perfume, investments, insurance, foods, trees, shrubs, furniture, labor-saving devices, jewelry, clocks, watches, oil, gas, coal machinery, paints, brushes, varnishes, radios, phonographs, shoes, trunks, bags, soaps, magazines, books, travel, motion pictures, Broadway shows, supper clubs—oh, practically anything anybody might want.
Following is some result data which will show how varied types of products have successfully used radio broadcasting.
At 90 Folgers Coffee Puts on a Radio Sprint. Folgers Coffee Company have been roasting and selling their coffee under that name in California for ninety years. Various surveys . . . showed this product nestling in seventeenth place as compared with its competitive brands. A little over a year ago they were persuaded to try radio with a half-hour program a week, using only three stations. Within a few months, results warranted their expanding this program over the entire Pacific Coast, including Salt Lake and Denver. . . . The results enjoyed by this company, who during the past year have employed no other advertising media, are indeed significant. Without changing the size, color, label or price of their can of coffee, and relying on nothing but their radio program to stimulate its sales, within six months' time this product was moved from seventeenth place to the position of a contender for second place in this highly competitive market.
Bringing in the Dealers for Kraft Phenix Cheese. Though skeptical at first over the reception of radio advertising by "listeners-in," especially morning hour programs, we are becoming more and more convinced that the age of radio is here as another dimension of advertising, not to supplant any other medium, but to definitely tie it in with a well-rounded magazine and newspaper program. It is interesting to note the many fine reactions which we have already received to our radio programs. They are most encouraging. In one instance a re-port came from our salesman at Hartford, Connecticut, that every retail dealer in Hartford and other New England towns is calling for Nukraft, the product mentioned over the radio last Tuesday morning. Had this come from but one or two stores it would not mean much, but coming as it did from almost every store called upon that week-end by two of our salesmen, it is certainly significant. We are receiving an average of over eleven hundred requests every week from our radio audience for our recipe book. Hundreds of letters come in each week with comments, suggestions and requests. All of these reactions seem to indicate a very definite interest in our type of morning hour broadcasts and are most tangible evidence of radio as a producer of sales. (Dartnell Report.)
Opening Door in House to House Canvass. We were surprised at a great many items, one of them being the stimulating effect that it [radio advertising] had on our own organization. Our house to house canvassers find that the Maytag radio pro-gram is a very good subject to be used as a door opener, with the result that the salesman is given an opportunity to talk with the housewife about a subject of mutual interest and gradually work the conversation around to the Maytag washer and the opportunities available for a free home demonstration.
Lifting Theater Attendance. Never in my twenty years' experience as a Chicago theater manager has any one feature helped patronage like the broadcasting of "Abie's Irish Rose" from the Studebaker Theater stage last Tuesday evening. By actual count at the box office 2,876 persons mentioned they had heard "Abie" over the radio when purchasing tickets. And all of this number forty-eight hours after the actual broadcasting. At one time two lines of eager patrons reached from the box offices to the Auditorium Hotel 200 feet from the theater. ... Letters came from all parts of the country. The telephone has been ringing constantly, radio fans making inquiry as to when they could purchase tickets. On the night of the broad-casting two girls answered phone calls until 2 o'clock in the morning.
Building Dealer Morale for an Oil Company. WLW has assisted materially in the building of dealer morale, and has proved a substantial and invaluable assistance to us in merchandising Sterling Oils. It has opened new markets for us and strengthened our old ones.
Sampling a Toothpaste in a New Market. We started on this station with six half-hour programs and twice during the program a bare mention was made that on receipt of name and address a sample tube of Dr. Strasska's Toothpaste would be sent. More than 87,412 sample tubes were sent out by request, and in addition to that The Marshall Drug Company of Cleve-land, with which a tieup was worked, gave away more than 125,000 sample tubes, in each case obtaining a signature from the person getting the tube so that the mailing list of the Strasska Laboratories could be complete. In twelve weeks of broadcasting on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings at the dinner hour, we thus obtained a total of 212,-412 requests for samples.
Filling up a Hotel. We are hereby expressing our appreciation for the wonderful manner in which the radio advertising of the California Hotel has been carried out. It secured for us over five hundred requests for our prospectuses, most of them written. Our apartments were all filled in ten days; we were forced to open another dining-room before the end of the month; our banquet and tea rooms are filled every night, and business organizations are using them in the daytime. To us it was a new experience in good will publicity and direct selling methods, and we are for it a million.
Wayne Overall Company Gets Results. This company of Fort Wayne, Indiana, originally signed a thirteen-week con-tract and has steadily continued it. It uses only radio for its advertising and reported that the end of its fiscal year showed an 8o per cent increase in sales in spite of the fact that it was a dull year generally for business.
A Cigar Company's Valentine. On February 14th, St. Valentine's Day, during our program (Jno. H. Swisher & Son, Inc.) which started at 11 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, we told all listeners that we would send them a valentine if they would write to us or to the station, commenting on the program, and stated that the reply would have to be postmarked not later than February 17th. We received 21,500 replies postmarked before the 17th and 6,000 or 7,000 replies after that date.
Selling Chicks by Radio. It may interest you to know that the results we have had from the program broadcast by you were very satisfactory. This twenty-minute program brought us in exactly 9,642 letters and cards requesting our chick catalog. The cost of the program was $95 which amounted to less than one cent per inquiry. Our records show that from the fourteen weeks of broadcasting last season, consisting of twenty minutes each week, we received 29,753 inquiries of which 20 per cent of this number developed into sales.
Drawing Investors for Public Utility. Every week radio brings in the names of about 1,000 thrifty investment-minded prospects who write for the Budget Book. It builds a mailing list of people who have asked for information on Cities Service Securities. It dramatizes the vastness of Cities Service under-takings, thus inspiring confidence and support. It acts as a constant reminder of Cities Service gasoline, oils, power, heat and light to the consumer and the prospect. It ties-in with the service station organization by emphasizing the Black and White Pumps. It makes dealers fully appreciative of the effort exerted to increase their sales. It knits more closely together the 20,000 members of the Cities Service organization. It secures good will, better understanding, and a more friendly interest on the part of the general public and official bodies. It is directly responsible for sales, both of gasoline and of securities.
Magazine publishers have found the air profitable for sampling their product, attracting to their publication more of the same kind of people who have been purchasing it regularly. It so happens that people like to read a story they have seen in the movies and like to buy a magazine to read the story they have heard over the air.
There have, of course, been some notable failures but these do not seem to be due so much to the type of product advertised as to the program used. It occasionally happens that a program that has been outstanding for a considerable period may be overshadowed by the pro-gram of a competitive product and result in the falling off of the audience of the original advertiser and hence in reduced returns. This occurred in the case of a nationally known toothpaste after Amos 'n' Andy under the sponsorship of another toothpaste manufacturer had taken the country by storm.
From the above result data, it can be seen that advertisers use radio not only to reach the consumer directly but for other purposes as well. Many build programs solely for the purpose of interesting those who distribute their product, feeling that dealers will give better display and push the product harder in selling it if they like the manufacturer's radio program. This is similar to what manufacturers do when they take the store owner out to lunch or show him a good time when he comes to the home office. For example, in order to appeal to the dealers, a manufacturer of silk stockings or perfume may put on a mystery story, although he knows that women, the ultimate consumers of his product, prefer love stories.
Another manufacturer had a product that he was selling at a much cheaper price than any of his competitors. He wanted to get over the idea that his article was of the highest quality and made his entertainment consist of that music which is known to be good but which most people don't like. Even the people who didn't listen to his program—and their number was legion—got the impression that he stood only for the best in literature, music and products.
Another manufacturer who sells all of his products from door to door, and whose problem was getting his salesmen into the house, devoted his program entirely to introducing his salesmen and never tried to sell his product at all.
I know of another manufacturer whose program is de-voted entirely to giving the impression of great size, feeling that the public will think that any product made by a company that sounds as big as his does must be good. He is content with just having the announcer mention his products in an awestruck voice.
Then, of course, there is the man who insists on using his program for social rather than selling purposes to convince the Four Hundred that he is just the kind of man they should embrace.
As the advertiser learns more about broadcasting he will be able to do much more with his program than at present as far as sales results are concerned, for he is still only a beginner, learning by bumping his nose and burning his fingers, finding that this, as everything else, is learned by experience.