Using radio with outdoor
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In the media community there is a widely held belief that radio and outdoor make a highly effective media combination. To a large degree this is a result of the complementary functional media characteristics of the two media – both are habitually consumed, mainly on-the-move, and generate high levels of frequency. One has voice and the other has pictures.
However, there is very little understanding about how the combination of radio and outdoor works from a deeper communication perspective.
To help build further insight into this area, the OAA and RAB jointly funded new research into how the two media combine. This research is presented here alongside existing understanding of this increasingly popular media pairing.
New learning – should we be talking?
The Acacia Avenue research conducted on behalf of OAA and RAB suggests that a combination of outdoor and radio can be a powerful means of evolving consumers’ perceptions of a brand.
There is more to be learned about how radio and outdoor work together in the real world and we are keen to collaborate with brands that are using them in combination as part of a long term strategy.
Does this apply to the brands you work on?
If you’d like to open a conversation about working together to develop learning in this area, please give the RAB a call.
Summary and conclusions
Radio and outdoor can be a powerful media pairing yet few brands use the combination strategically.
At first glance, the strength of the combination appears to come from the obvious differences between the two media – stature vs. on my level, public vs. private, pictures vs. voice. However, new research suggests that it is the characteristics they share that make them so effective as a pairing.
Complementary functional media characteristics
Radio offers: Time specific messagingVoice (character)
Outdoor offers: Location specific messaging Visuals (image)
Complementary emotional connection characteristics
Radio perceived as: At my level Personal
Outdoor perceived as:Public Having stature
Outdoor and radio shared characteristics
- - Consumed whilst doing other things (“parallel” media)
- - Reach people in a variety of mindsets
- - Messages absorbed more at subconscious level
- - Greater recency of impact
- - Reach people out of home
- - Geographical flexibility
Findings from new research
- - Outdoor and radio generate higher levels of frequency, delivering multiple executions to consumers operating in different mindsets. These factors facilitate the creation of new brand associations faster than one message or medium alone
- - These effects are enhanced by the high levels of implicit learning across these media,enabling brand messages to be more directly absorbed into long term memory
- - Ultimately, outdoor and radio combined are able to accelerate consumer learning of newbrand messages
What do we know about outdoor and radio?
Despite the clear physical differences between radio and outdoor (which tend to define their differentiating functional and emotional characteristics) the two media share many common strengths.
Consumed whilst doing other things
For the most part (i.e. nine out of ten listening situations), radio is an accompaniment for people involved in a primary activity, e.g. getting ready for work, doing housework, surfing the internet, driving, etc.
For outdoor, this is true all of the time as its audience consists of people on the move from one location to another.
Historically, this secondary nature of the two media was considered to be a potential weakness but increasingly it is being viewed as a real strength, for several reasons:
People nowadays have less time available due to work commitments. When it comes to leisure time they are faced with an ever-growing choice of activities to fit into a decreasing amount of time. This means greater pressure on the amount of time that consumers are prepared to spend consuming primary media.
As "parallel" media, radio and outdoor are largely immune to these pressures and research suggests that audiences to both media are likely to continue to grow.
Reaching people at relevant times Research demonstrates that advertising recall is higher when consumers are engaged in an activity that relates to the advertised brand, e.g. anti-speeding messages heard when driving (see chart below). Whilst this finding came from a piece of radio research, it intuitively makes sense for outdoor.
However, of the main media, only radio and outdoor are able to be consumed as intended whilst doing something else and are therefore most able to capitalise on this effect.
Low ad avoidance
Ad avoidance is increasingly recognised as a barrier to effective advertising. As the chart below shows, radio is categorised as a low avoidance medium because listening is not the consumer’s primary activity so they are less likely to change channels when the ads come on. As an editorial-free medium, outdoor was not included in this research. However, this lack of editorial coupled with its auxiliary nature indicates that active ad avoidance levels are low.
Reach people out of home
Increasing work hours and a desire to use leisure time more valuably, mean that increasing numbers of people are spending more time out of home, than in the home environment. The BBC Daily Life survey confirms that 15-34 year olds, working adults and Londoners spend more time out of home than they do awake in home (see chart below).This development suggests a new emphasis on advertisers and media planners to consider more ways to connect with consumers out of home. This is reinforced by the parallel trend of brands developing new product lines specifically designed to meet the needs of these more mobile consumers (especially in the snack food and beverage categories).
Outdoor is naturally highly effective at reaching audiences out of home. Radio also provides high reach of out of home consumers every week (in fact, amongst 15-34 year olds out of home listening accounts for over 40% of their total listening).
Habitual consumption = recency of impact
The vast majority of radio listening occurs at the same time every day, particularly during the working week. People use radio to help them wake up, get ready and get out of the house. A lot of regular listening also occurs in-car on the way to work or during the school run.
This habitual pattern of consumption is also true of outdoor. People tend to follow the same routes to work, school or the shops every time they travel.
So with radio and outdoor it is possible to cost-effectively generate a constant daily presence in people’s lives, meaning that brands can speak with consumers closer to the point of purchase, whenever that may be.
Increasingly advertising budgets are under pressure and this is leading some brand owners to focus advertising spend geographically to areas where it is likely to have the greatest effects.
Outdoor is incredibly flexible in this respect, allowing brands to hone targeting down to a particular street or store group.
From broad regional stations through to stations focusing on smaller geographical communities, radio is also able to offer advertisers a range of geographical targeting solutions.
Time specific vs. location specific
Radio messages can be broadcast at times of day when they are most likely to be relevant to the consumer and outdoor messages can be placed in locations where they will be of greater relevance to the consumer.
The two media can work harmoniously in this respect. For example, radio messages about FMCG brands heard when on key retail days people are preparing the shopping list (Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings) coupled with outdoor messages placed in or near retail outlets.
Voice vs. visuals
By providing an opportunity for brands to develop highly recognisable visual properties, outdoor is recognised as a powerful medium for developing brand image. Radio is different from visual advertising media like outdoor in that it doesn’t deal in brand image, it deals in brand character. It’s a fairly subtle difference, and both are components of the wider concept of brand personality, but they represent different ways of knowing the brand (or, from the advertiser’s point of view, of manipulating the brand).
At my level vs. stature
Of all mainstream media, listeners feel that radio is most at their level (see chart below). This perhaps is a function of the fact that most radio listening is predominantly a personal experience, taking place when people are alone, in personal spaces such as the bedroom or car, with the listener having personally chosen the station themselves (compared to, for example, TV where channel choice is often based on consensus).
Outdoor advertising scores highly in terms of the public nature of the way it communicates and is also perceived as a medium that can bestow stature on brands. Whilst this is predominantly a function of size, reliance on the written word (as opposed to the spoken word) may reinforce this – printed words often make communication seem more authoritative and/or official (i.e. compare writing to someone about a problem compared to speaking with them on the phone about it).
The media relationships map below summarises the complementary nature of the two media from the consumer perspective.
New research into the media combination of outdoor and radio
In order to look beyond existing knowledge of how outdoor and radio work together, the OAA and RAB commissioned qualitative research agency Acacia Avenue to help develop a deeper understanding of how this media combination communicates brand messages.
In attempting to research something that consumers rarely, if ever, think about - how they relate to a combination of media at a generic level, and the potential effects of this in influencing how they feel about brands advertised within this juxtaposition – the project required depth rather than breadth of information.
Acacia Avenue recommended a methodology where ten participants were pre-tasked with a photojournal and asked to note any radio and outdoor advertising experiences that made an impression across the space of a week. They were then interviewed in-depth by Acacia Avenue’s experienced qualitative researchers.
The project aimed to provide a sense of what the future holds for this media combination (more sites, more listening) and the sample was chosen to reflect this – 16-34 adults living in London who regularly travel through urban areas, and who listen to over fourteen hours of radio per week.
The context – Neuroscience and brands
It has been estimated that each of us has about 10,000 brands stored in the brain.Brands in memory consist of extensive associative networks. The input that forms a brand network consists of sensory stimuli – the brain input that arrives through the five senses.
A brand associative network (also called a ‘brand representation’ or ‘brand engram’) is gradually built up through the combination of many past experiences and ongoing current encounters with a brand. Each encounter with a brand is a stimulus that is stored in the brain and adds to the associative network that already exists.
Such stimulus does not require conscious attention to be processed by the brain; it can also happen through shallow processing of information – something that happens automatically, semiconsciously or even unconsciously below the radar (sometimes referred to as ‘passive’ or ‘implicit’ learning).
Stimulus absorbed in this manner tends to add indistinct yet deep-seated and powerful emotional feelings to an associative network.
Robert Heath’s model of Low Involvement Processing hypothesises that most brands and their advertising are processed at this level.
"The Low Involvement Processing Model operates through the repeated processing of elements and concepts at low attention levels, leading to the gradual establishment of ‘meaningful’ association with the brand."
Cells that fire together are wired together
Physiological changes take place in the brain when an association between things is repeated frequently – sometimes referred to as ‘hardwiring’ the brain. This in turn means that it is more likely that a certain pattern of response will occur in reaction to specific stimulus received in the future. And once learned, associations are rarely forgotten.
Brand associations can be ‘hardwired’ into the memory through the same process. These can be strengthened over time through repetition (and will weaken over time if not repeated).
It can take up to two years to hardwire a new brand association
New associations aren’t created overnight. Research suggests that it may take two years for a new association to be hardwired into an individual’s brand engram, and this has important implications for advertisers.Firstly, it suggests that it is unrealistic to expect any major effect on people’s brand perceptions based solely on stand-alone short-term advertising campaigns.
It also begs the questions – can anything be done to speed up this process?
Accelerating the hardwiring process
Acacia Avenue suggest that there are four potential ways of accelerating the formation of new hardwired associations:
Variations on a theme
- A series of messages that are varied, but clearly associated in some way, can help the brain learn a new association faster.
Frequency of reception
- This process can be aided by receiving the stimulus more frequently.
- Receiving related stimulus in different contexts help strengthen an association in the brain.
- Messages processed at a low involvement level are absorbed more directly into the long-term memory.
The research findings
How radio and outdoor contribute to creating hardwired associations
Acacia Avenue’s research revealed three areas in which outdoor and radio perform strongly in terms of helping to hardwire brand associations.
Pull, not push Separation of the senses
Everybody is multi-dimensional in some way – we are different people depending upon mood, place, who we’re with, etc. As one respondent put it:
"I’m a different person depending on how I feel, who I’m with, where I am and what I’m doing."
In this context, people may be more receptive to different messages when operating in a particular mindset, and this can have a knock-on effect on communication effectiveness.
Acacia Avenue identified five main mindsets that the participants in the research were operating in:
- Busy, busy, busy
- Chilled out
- Time for me
- Need some oomph
Further analysis revealed the opportunity for communicating with people within each of these mindsets and identified the media that are most appropriate to the task.
a. Busy, busy, busy
In this mindset, people are very task focused, either going somewhere or something done (e.g. late for an appointment; facing an impending work deadline). Every minute counts, so they feel rushed and stressed, and can’t really see beyond the task in hand. As one respondent said:
"I’m usually in a rush to get somewhere and the adverts are holding me up"
With a low level of engagement with one’s surroundings, there are clearly limited learning opportunities when operating in this mindset and only media that can be consumed whilst doing other things stand a chance of communicating, and even then at low levels. As a result, outdoor and radio have a slightly better chance of being received than TV and press (see chart below).
In this mindset, people are engaged in a routine task such as commuting, housework, or other routine work and are just trying to get through it. This is predominantly dead time and, because of the routine nature of the task, their actions are automatic/trancelike and they can complete it without really thinking. They are, to a large degree, ‘in their own world’:
"When I’m driving, I’m smoking. I’m on autopilot, not paying much attention… I’m not really listening but I don’t like no noise at all"
People operating in Autopilot are open to some forms of low impact entertainment, which tends to be passively consumed as they are already engaged in a primary activity. In this instance, radio and outdoor are able to communicate with this audience, as can some press opportunities, albeit at slightly lower levels (e.g. magazines in a dentist’s waiting room).
c. Chilled out
The pressure is off in this mindset. People are relaxing at home, or on their way to a social event, and are actively looking to their surroundings for stimulation and entertainment.
"You’re going to take in anything because you’ve got nothing else to look at while you’re walking down the road"
In this active learning mode it is easier for all media to communicate with people, as they are being actively sought out to provide entertainment and stimulus.
d. Time for me
In this mindset, people are looking to make the most of their time. They are engaged in chores but are feeling more productive and prepared to multi-task. Therefore they are open to some form of stimulation to help convert this ‘dead time’ into ‘life time’.
"When I’m listening in the car, I’m looking for stimulation, I want to learn, keep the mind alive"
As they are looking to their surroundings to help them learn new things, it is easier for all media to communicate with people in this mindset, e.g. Metro newspaper when commuting. However, the parallel nature of radio and outdoor offer a clear advantage in effectively communicating with this audience.
e. Need some oomph
In this mindset, people are trying to wake up or stay awake when they are tired or bored on the go, e.g. getting ready to go out or commuting. Their motivation is catching up mentally with what they’re doing. People in this mindset are actively seeking to be energised in some way and are looking to others to provide this stimulation.
"O2 (poster) looked fantastic, calming, changed my mood"
As people are open to learning from almost any source, most media are able to communicate with this mindset. However, as this is again a predominantly on-the-go audience, radio and outdoor have a natural advantage over ‘primary’ media like TV and press.
Summary of mindsets
Pull, not push
On TV, ads are an interruption of programming.For parallel media like radio and outdoor, the ads can provide welcome distraction from surroundings and/or the primary task that the consumer is engaged in. Also, because the medium isn’t the focus of activity, people feel that advertising on radio and outdoor is more benign – it allows them to absorb and interpret messages when they want to. Hence, they are subject to lower levels of deliberate ad avoidance than primary media like TV.
"When you’re moving it’s your choice"
"(Radio and outdoor) less intrusive than TV"
"…less of an imposition, less in your face”
"...should capture your attention, leaving you wanting more”
An additional benefit of this parallel nature of outdoor and radio consumption is that they are more conducive to implicit learning, that is absorbing stimulus at a sub-conscious level.
"Radio’s more subliminal than telly, which you’re sat in front of – radio you’re walking
"In the evening I sit down in front of the TV. Outdoor ads and radio could be getting in your head at all times"
As we have already explored, the benefit of implicitly learned stimulus is that it is absorbed more directly into the long-term memory.
Separation of the senses
Both outdoor and radio are single-sense media – one has pictures, the other has voice. In both cases, elements are left open to interpretation by the individual, e.g. with outdoor, what tone of voice is the ad speaking with; with radio, what does the speaker (and what they are talking about) look like:
"In radio, it’s what you want to see rather than what you are told to see"
The benefit of the consumer ‘closing the loop’ in this way is that they automatically make the stimulus more personally relevant (it also avoids the occasionally negative perceptions created by stereotyping in some TV advertising).
Acacia Avenue also found that people perceive there to be a positive ‘multiplier effect’ when exposed to messages across both media:
"You connect something you see with something you’ve heard…it’s intriguing"
"With TV you have to take it all in at once, compared to this (outdoor and radio) can have a double impact"
"Food…the picture is all you need, then the radio talking about the flavours and textures and everything gets me going"
This suggests that people connect memories of single-sense (audio or visual) stimulus from one medium when exposed to an associated stimulus conveyed using a different sense in another medium. This provides an important opportunity for enhancing ‘layering’ of brand associations.
Summary of new research findings
- - It can take up to two years to ‘hardwire’ a new brand association into the brain
- - This process can be accelerated by layering of messages:
- - Varied but associated messaging
- - Received more often
- - In different contexts
- - Learned at an implicit level
A combination of radio and outdoor uniquely enhances layering of messages
- - Messages can reach people in a variety of different mindsets, most of which are not reached effectively by other media
- - Messages are felt to be less intrusive, more benign (these media offer light relief from surroundings or tasks) – people are able to interpret them when and how they want
- - As parallel media, messages are processed at lower levels of attention meaning that learning is more implicit and more directly absorbed into the long term memory
- - Messages leave more for the consumer to resolve making them more personally relevant
- - Radio and outdoor's higher frequency, delivering multiple executions to consumers operating in different mindsets can create hardwired associations faster than one message or medium alone
- - These effects are enhanced by the high levels of implicit learning across both media
Radio and outdoor combine to stimulate the mindsets other media cannot reach
Little research has been done into the combined effectiveness of outdoor and radio to date. This section summarises some case studies that have been released into the public domain.
If you’re interested in working together to help develop further learning in this area, please give the RAB a call.
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