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What Are the Differences between Radio and TV Advertising?

By Theresa Miles
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments

By Pippinwhite — On Feb 18, 2014

Local radio advertising can be downright hilarious. There's nothing like listening to a business owner who has never read lines in his life attempt to read a 15-second blurb. It can be very funny.

A local, home-owned country music station in my area targets the 55 and up crowd, so many of their ads are for businesses like pest control, furniture stores, grocery stores and of course, funeral homes.

One of the DJs can make a listener's mouth water when she starts describing the food at one of the local buffet restaurants.

Some small, local stations --especially in the South -- still have "sick call" segments where the DJ reads names of local people who are sick or in the hospital. This is frequently followed by a request to keep these souls in listeners' thoughts and prayers.

Radio advertising at small stations is often a glimpse into the past of a bygone era.

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