December 7, 2011

Radio Delivers 93 Percent of its Lead-In Audience During the Average Commercial Break

Comprehensive study of 18 million commercial breaks across 48 markets indicates radio maintains its audience delivery when the spots come on;

Arbitron, Media Monitors and Coleman Insights expand on landmark 2006 study

NEW YORK; December 7, 2011 –Radio delivers more than 93 percent of its lead-in audience during the average commercial break, according to a new study of radio ratings data and commercial occurrence data conducted by Arbitron, Media Monitors and Coleman Insights.

What Happens When the Spots Come On: 2011 Edition is a comprehensive update of a landmark 2006 study on the radio audience behavior during commercial breaks. Both studies took advantage of the increased precision of passive electronic measurement, both for radio audiences and for commercial occurrences.

The 2011 study of minute-by-minute audience levels across 48 top radio markets again demonstrates that radio maintains its audience delivery during commercial breaks, contrary to the common misperception among advertisers, agencies and even radio executives that audiences during commercial breaks are a fraction of the numbers that were listening to the station just before the commercials began.

For the 2011 study, Arbitron, Media Monitors and Coleman Insights analyzed 18 million commercial breaks, 62 million minutes of commercials and 866 stations for a year of audience data from all 48 PPM markets to compare the audience level for each minute of a commercial break to the audience for the minute before the commercials began.

Key findings of the 2011 study include:

• One to three-minute commercial breaks deliver radio audiences levels that are  practically the same as the lead-in audience. The average minute audience during one-minute breaks is equal to the lead-in audience for that break; two-minute breaks deliver 99 percent of their lead-in average minute audiences; and three minute breaks deliver 96 percent of their lead-in audience levels.

• Longer spot breaks of four to six minutes-plus delivered an average minute audience that was nearly 90 percent of the lead-in audience. Four-minute breaks delivered 92 percent of the lead-in audience; five-minute breaks delivered 87 percent. Even spot breaks of six minutes or longer delivered an average minute audience that was 85 percent of the audience level before the commercials began.

• Commercial breaks in morning drive deliver 97 percent of their lead-in audience, on average. The higher percentage during mornings is driven by shorter commercial breaks during morning compared with other time periods and the higher number of people who are first tuning into radio early in the day than those who tune out.

• Among teens and persons aged 18 to 24, radio delivers nearly 90 percent of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks. Among people age 65 and older, radio delivers 98 percent of the lead-in audience once the commercials come on.

New findings unique to the more comprehensive 2011 study include:

• There is little difference by market in terms of the average audience delivery during commercial breaks. Of the 48 markets studied, three markets with the highest percentage delivered an average of 95 percent of their lead-in audience levels during commercial breaks and the three markets with the smallest percentage delivered an average of 91 percent of their lead-in audience levels.

• Audience delivery during commercial breaks was consistent throughout the year. Radio commercial breaks delivered between 93 percent and 94 percent of lead-in audience levels during each month of the year.

These findings stand in stark contrast to the perceptions of the advertiser/agency industry and even of radio broadcasters about the impact of commercials on the radio audience. In a web poll conducted by Arbitron and Coleman Insights, people identifying themselves as members of the advertiser/agency industry (362 responses) said that, on average, the size of the audience during a radio commercial break is only 68 percent of the size of the audience before the commercial began. On average, respondents identifying themselves as members of the radio industry (1,178 responses) believe radio holds only 78 percent of the audience during commercials.

“Radio does a remarkable job of maintaining its audience delivery when the commercials come on,” said Bill Rose, senior vice president, Marketing, Arbitron Inc. “Now that the Portable People Meter service can track radio audiences across 48 top markets, we can now demonstrate how radio constantly replenishes its audience with new listeners during commercial breaks. Today we know that the medium can deliver an average of 93 percent of its lead-in audience levels on a consistent basis, no matter the market, the daypart or the time of year.”

“The incredible ability of radio stations to deliver audiences during commercial breaks suggests that programmers should not obsess over their stations’ spot placement strategies,” said Warren Kurtzman, president and chief operating officer, Coleman Insights. “There is no doubt that running excessive commercial inventory can undermine a station’s brand and hurt its long-term performance, but we see very little evidence that commercials cause nearly as much audience tune-out in the short term as many radio industry professionals believe.”

“Our Media Monitors technical team did an amazing job of computing a massive full year of spot break information on US radio. To our knowledge, this is the first study of this magnitude ever done. We’re thrilled to continue writing the book on audience behavior for Radio,” said Philippe Generali, president, Media Monitors.

A copy of the full report detailing the study’s findings and implications are available here.

How the study was conducted:

This study looks at the 866 radio stations measured by Media Monitors and Arbitron across all 48 Portable People Meter-measured radio markets in the United States during the months of October 2010 through September 2011. All told, the study analyzed 17,896,325 unique commercial breaks involving 61,902,473 minutes of advertising.

The study analyzed ratings data from Arbitron’s Portable People Meter service to determine the audience during each of these nearly 18 million commercial breaks, ranging in length from one minute to six minutes and longer. The audience for the minute prior to the start of each break (the “lead-in audience”) was compared to the average minute audience during each commercial break.


One thought on “Radio Delivers 93 Percent of its Lead-In Audience During the Average Commercial Break”

  1. Pingback: 7 Things That Will Shock You About Radio Advertising | Chad Gatlin

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