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The Car Is Still Driving Radio – It’s an Environmental Thing

March 6, 2014

Over the past year, the discussion of the digital dash has dominated the conversation about the unique relationship that the automobile has with radio. A car was once described as a radio with four wheels. No matter what your opinion is on the digital dash, it is only one aspect of this complicated relationship that radio and the car have.

There is a tremendous economic relationship between the local car dealer and the radio broadcasters in that market. In 2012, automotive was the number one spending category in radio; the same is true for the first three quarters of 2013 (Miller Kaplan). Clearly radio must work for this advertiser category. What makes this even more important is the fact that cars are selling again. After a few tough years, some are predicting that auto sales will exceed 16 million vehicles in 2014, more than any other year (Forbes).

Here is what I don’t understand. Why do local automotive dealers use television? I know they can show their car, and they get to put themselves (or their family) on TV. However, I don’t believe that the best place to convince me to buy a new car is when I am loafing on my couch.

Which is a better environment to sell a potential customer a new car; while they’re lying down on the sofa in the comfort of their living room, or driving their present car that is pushing 100,000 miles? I can only assume it is the latter.

An effective radio ad can make the listener look down at their old vehicle and long for a shiny new car. For TV to achieve this, you are asking the potential consumer to get off their butt, and go to the garage.

Can someone please explain this to me?

If not, radio sales executives need to focus on this advantage. Every dollar that the local car dealer spends on TV is a dollar they aren’t spending on radio, a better environment to move cars.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner