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As president of Venice, CA-based radio advertising and marketing company Direct Results, Jill Albert is a firm believer in the comeback of radio, thanks to the rise of such audio platforms as podcasting and smart speakers—along with AM/FM’s ongoing ability to reach and engage the masses.

Her firm is also an expert in uniting radio ads with campaigns that already feature digital advertising and marketing. To date, the firm has commandeered more than 495 successful campaigns generating sales exceeding $11.3 billion. Direct Results clients include Toyota, AAA, Hershey, EarthLink, Cigna, 20th Century Fox, USC and UCLA, with a depth of experience in engagement marketing, promotions, audience analysis and market segmentation.

This year, the Los Angeles Business Journal ranked Direct Results No. 29 on its top Women-Owned Businesses list. Albert speaks with Inside Radio about how reaching clients has evolved in the 11 years since founding the firm, her love affair with radio—and how newer audio platforms are expanding the age-old reach of broadcasters.

Direct Results was founded in 2007 when radio had fewer data tools to track results and monitor ROI. Digital was just heating up as the “sexy” alternative to traditional media. What was your mantra then to convince clients that radio indeed does deliver?  

Radio educates and entertains consumers daily. People have relationships with their favorite radio stations because of the consistent time they spend with the station and on-air personalities. That familiarity breeds trust, and the entertainment factor makes people happy. When people are happy, they receive messages better and a recommendation by a favorite radio personality is as powerful as the recommendation of a close friend. When trust is affirmed, people listen and respond.

As for tracking results, there was little technology available when we started. We organized a programming team to develop a database application, which we call Audio Xchange, or AX. It allows us to track response, report cost per lead data on every station, network and personality… and ultimately help advertisers repeat effective CPL [cost per lead] based on clients’ goals.

Ah, 10 years later. Things have changed a lot. Please explain how today’s more sophisticated metrics and data tools help you show potential clients that radio works. Is it an easier sell?

Easier, no. But we have 11 years of data showing us exactly which stations have listeners responding to which messages and the cost to acquire a new customer. It is easier and faster to hit the advertiser's bullseye and deliver ROI metrics and scale buys for fast effective growth. The data is plentiful, it's refreshed daily. It is gold. 

It feels like radio is on a comeback trajectory. While listening has never ebbed, radio lost its cool over the past 10+ years. Advertisers appear to be coming around again to the idea that AM/FM is a platform that engages and reaches all demos. What are your thoughts? 

I think audio in general is getting cooler. There is an audio form of entertainment that everyone can enjoy. Most listen to radio, many also listen to digital and podcasts. American commute times are at an all-time high, over 52 minutes a day. This is often the only time a consumer is alone, not bombarded by other messages and multiple people trying to get their attention. While they may be stuck in traffic, radio entertains them and delivers messaging applicable to their lives. It is a win-win for the advertiser and consumer alike.

A lot of radio ad campaigns are now being tied directly into campaigns already featuring digital advertising. How are you effectively marrying the two?

The marriage can and should be pure harmony. Radio introduces the company and sells the why and why now. The consumer then takes what they have heard on radio and researches more details online. Radio drives awareness and action to the web, while the digital interface primarily helps the consumer actively seek out a product or service. Radio drives search. We see it time and again with education, auto, entertainment, services... so many categories. Without radio, search decreases.

Direct Results is now active in the podcast arena. What’s your forecast for the platform… and how can broadcasters and advertisers most effectively reach this passionate audience?

We do love podcasts. They can be wonderfully engaging, very relevant and excellent at delivering endorsement advertising that delivers excellent ROI. It is important to carefully match the right product or service to the right podcast endorser. The connection must be real to work. Clearly the platform will grow and we should see consolidation soon.

Smart speakers are growing faster than mobile did. While there is no advertising on Alexa (yet), it’s essential that broadcasters are present, as we know. What is the potential for smart speakers as an opportunity for radio?

This is incredible... audio is coming back into the home. The possibilities are endless to deliver relevant ads at the right time and place. Think recipes in the kitchen, cocktails on the patio. Personally, I find it both exciting and a little scary as privacy issues are exceedingly important and these speakers can be overly invasive.

Congrats! You were just named one of the Top 30 Women-Owned Businesses by the Los Angeles Business Journal, with nearly 500 successful campaigns generating $11 billion. Do you feel like being a woman has given you an edge, made things more challenging… or is it a non-factor for you?

This was fun news, indeed. In my experience, women are very collaborative. A collaborative point of view is helpful to bring out the best in each team member as everyone is uber important. We absolutely need many perspectives, a variety of strengths, ages and experience to create best outcomes. We build teams to win for our clients.

Jill, what’s your favorite radio station? 

I'm not allowed to answer that question - it would be like choosing a favorite child!