[From Inside Radio]

 

If radio was seeking a feel-good moment among all its increased competition, flattish revenue projections and other challenges, it got one Wednesday at the Radio Show in Nashville. That’s when a trio of marketing execs from big national brands took to the stage to explain why they pour buckets of cash into the medium and how it works for them.

Kristin Volkmann, director of media, Cricket Wireless, said radio is one of the “key drivers” of the carrier’s business based on its “effectiveness.” “It does a great job in swinging the doors open” at the wireless provider’s 3,349 local retail stores, she said.

Ashley Hinchman, director, global brand management, Aloft Hotels, said the lifestyle hotel brand uses radio “to bring the Aloft brand to life.” Radio is part of an Aloft media mix designed to meet multiple objectives, from “national awareness all the way down to market-specific performance and engagement.”

But perhaps the most ringing endorsement came from Larry Schweber, division VP, marketing & communications at entertainment and technology juggernaut Comcast. “We are big radio buyers,” he said. “We believe in radio, not just for its reach but also for its mix. Radio provides a really unique opportunity for us in some markets where some of the other tactics don’t work as well.” Schweber backs up those words with action. Radio receives Comcast’s second-largest media allocation.

Both Cricket owner AT&T and Comcast rely on media mix models, which use complex statistical analysis of sales and marketing data to estimate the impact of various marketing tactics. In fact, Comcast is so bullish on these models that Schweber says it knows in each DMA what percent of its marketing should be spent on radio and which formats to use. “It gives us the direction to start with but it’s not the be all and end all,” he said of media mix models. Schweber also looks at other factors such as engagement and interaction, or the arrival of a new competitor.

Volkmann said a successful media plan “pulls in other platforms” and urged radio to deploy its social and mobile assets for advertisers.

Comcast relies on hundreds of radio personalities as product endorsers to add credibility and localness to its Xfinity brand. “They’re big personalities and they have big followings,” Schweber said. Radio endorsers are required to tweet about the product and post about it on Facebook. To ensure the jocks are up to speed on the latest products and features, Comcast does roadshows twice a year to demonstrate the technology and equip the hosts with it so they can talk about it. “It’s credibility that no other tactic can match,” Schweber said of endorsement ads. “The thing about your influencers vs. digital influencers is yours talk and that time is so much more important than reading it online. When you hear it, and that inflection, it means more.”

A Cricket campaign called Show Us Your Smile leveraged radio to help the brand have one of its best fourth quarters ever, Volkmann said. Comcast used radio to drive Indianapolis Colts fans into an experiential tent at Lucas Oil Stadium before a game. During a massive downpour, Schweber did a radio interview that many fans heard in their cars, waiting for the weather to clear. Later, when a long line formed to enter the tent, Schweber asked some of those who queued up what brought them there. “They said they heard about it on the radio,” he said.

Asked why radio matters, each of the execs had a different take. “It continues to be the No. 1 entertainment form in the car,” Volkmann noted. “It’s universal,” added Hinchman. Said Schweber, “It works because it’s local in a global economy. It’s the one thing I can go back to and get very, very local with.”