Radio and TV advertising are a typical part of a company's strategic marketing mix. Although the two types of advertising serve complementary functions, there are distinct differences between the formats that makes one type of advertising more appropriate in certain situations than the other. The basic differences between radio and TV advertising involve format, cost, approach and reach.
The most obvious difference between radio and TV advertising is the format. Radio advertising is purely audio, while TV advertising is audio and visual. This might seem to be a simple difference but it goes to the heart of the decision about which format is appropriate for certain products. Specific products with selling points that rely heavy on visual queues would likely be a poor fit for radio, since the consumer has no way of augmenting the advertising with a visual assessment. Conversely, products with easily understandable benefits that people are familiar with and can visualize on their own often thrive with radio advertising.
A significant difference that often determines whether radio and TV advertising are viable options as an initial matter is cost. Television advertising is 50 times more expensive than radio advertising. A radio advertisement can be made by anyone with a good voice and access to a studio in hours. Often, radio stations will quickly produce the radio spot for the client, writing the copy, retaining their show hosts as the voice talent and using their own equipment. Television commercials, conversely, are major productions that require weeks to complete.
Another difference between radio and TV advertising is the approach each makes to its target audience. Each format operates to a different prime advertising time. For radio, prime advertising time is during the drive to and from work. Television prime time is typically considered the evening hours but can differ, depending upon the target market. Radio also benefits from channel segmentation by music format that makes it easier for advertisements to target a specific market regardless of when the ad plays on the air.
Reach is another significant difference between radio and TV advertising. Radio reaches more people for longer lengths of time. Those people tend to skew heavily towards adults who work and drive, however, while TV advertising can effectively target children. A developing trend in the difference between the reach of radio versus TV is the ability of television watchers to skip TV advertising through the use of digital recorders, while radio still benefits from a captured audience that can only skip commercials by changing channels.