As it continues to fight for a larger share of the overall ad pie, radio has a shiny new tool that proponents say can help change advertiser perceptions of the medium. For the first time ever, the industry has the ability to show advertisers the actual audience delivery of their previously aired TV campaigns and how adding radio to the media mix would have improved their reach. Broadcasters using Nielsen Media Impact say the data it produces is “powerful” and is opening eyes high up the media planning food chain.

But it’s early days for NMI at radio and the impact won’t be felt overnight.

While the industry has been boasting about its No. 1 reach for years, it hasn’t had the data to show exactly how that reach can benefit a specific advertiser. That is the promise of NMI. Radio broadcasters using the tool say it can help change the mindset of the advertising community about radio by speaking to them about their own brands and in their own language. “To have the ability now to create a narrative that’s based on data and facts as it relates to the net positive benefits of reallocating dollars within media plans is truly a game changer for our industry,” says Jon Blum, VP of Agency Partnerships & Analytics at Entercom, which began using NMI on the local and national levels in April.

While not a new tool – agencies and TV networks have been using it for years – Nielsen added radio to the national media planning tool in November 2018. Last month, Nielsen expanded a local version of the system, known as Local Media Impact, to all 48 PPM radio markets. Originally designed for agencies and advertisers, the software streamlines the buying of radio and TV advertising. The product is built with respondent level data from PPM panelists and diary keepers to allow in-depth cross-platform analyses for both local TV and radio separately, as well as TV and radio together.

Reallocating Dollars To Radio

In several cases, the product is being used to pitch marketers on peeling away some of their TV budget, maybe 20%, and reallocating it to radio to reach more consumers, including light TV viewers or growing legions of younger consumers who have tuned out of the medium all together. While that’s not a new mission, what’s different is that NMI allows radio to tangibly demonstrate the impact such a reallocation would have for a specific client by drawing on their previous campaigns.

Using the software interface, a radio company can see exactly how much a client spent on a specific TV campaign and what it delivered. In a case study from Nielsen and Westwood One, an unidentified movie studio invested $5.6 million on TV in a June 2018 campaign that achieved 43% reach among adults 18-49. But through what’s known as a “replacement schedule,” the case study illustrates how that campaign could have been optimized to produce better results. Had the studio allocated 20% of that $5.6 million investment to radio, its reach would have shot up to 73% without increasing the ad budget. “Once agencies see the impact, it drops a lot of jaws,” says Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus/Westwood One, which began licensing NMI in March. “The reality is we’ve never been able to say, ‘Look, you’re missing 40% of the market.’ This makes it intensely more relevant because you’re showing the client their spend and the actual incremental reach growth”

By balancing their media mix, Blum says advertisers can improve the performance of their TV campaigns “because we know that two mediums are going to have an additive impact and increase recall and ad memorability significantly.”

Univision, which owns radio and TV, is taking a more 360-degree approach to using the tool. Kathleen Bohan, Senior VP of Local Research at the Hispanic media company, used to rely on what’s known as data fusion to show how the two mediums can work in concert for a client. “But it didn’t have the tactical use of how a planner might use it or a client might want to see it, which is: Tell me exactly how my schedule performed and how I can optimize it and give me a real world example,” she says. “It went from the theoretical to the practical.” Univision is using NMI to show how radio and TV are best combined to target the Hispanic audience and to look at English-language media vs Spanish-language media. “It’s very powerful when you show someone literally what they did and an opportunity to look at it differently, utilizing currency systems. It helps you have the types of conversations much earlier in the funnel than traditional radio sales people are typically able to do.”

Slow Agency Adoption

Just over six months after its availability at radio, only three radio companies have signed up to license the tool. And while NMI has about 80 ad agency subscribers, just a handful, including the Richards Group, have so far agreed to pay the additional fee to access radio data in NMI via what’s known as the radio plug-in. One issue among radio companies that haven’t licensed the software is having to pay for access to a tool that hasn’t been ubiquitously adopted by the agencies. Another concern is that using it without planners and buyers having the same view could create friction or turn radio companies into an accidental sales force for Nielsen.

Procter & Gamble, a voracious radio buyer, is using NMI to plan and buy radio and the influential consumer packaged goods giant is closely watched by other major advertisers because of its penchant to research most everything it does. “If the world’s most analytical, most respected advertiser is deep into NMI and showing the impact for radio and they were the No. 5 advertiser last year, that shows the impact,” Bouvard says.

Bohan says Univision is seeing a lot of agency interest because it’s the first time many of them have been able to look tactically at media schedules in a single system that combines radio and TV currencies, as opposed to a siloed approach. “If they’re using one media and not the other it’s a window to something they don’t have a lot of information on,” she says. “And if they buy both, it allows them to meld their schedules and look at their delivery in a more holistic way.”

Radio broadcasters using NMI to persuade big national brands to invest in radio aren’t expecting immediate results. After all, many Fortune 500 brands are already far along in mapping out their 2020 media plans so the ultimate impact with this type of marketer won’t likely be felt until 2021. “No one instantaneously next quarter is going to change a plan that was already baked last year,” Bouvard points out. “But it sparks interest and intrigue because you’re showing them something that’s highly relevant to their brand.”

The impact is likely to be felt sooner on the local level. “The car dealers or the dealer group down the street where you are dealing with the principal who has an affinity towards TV and may not be open to radio is a prime candidate for this,” says Entercom’s Blum.

Broadcasters are betting that having Nielsen-validated numbers to show the impact radio can have on their specific campaigns will allow them to get to marketers earlier in the media planning process and increase the likelihood of getting radio on the plan. “As we arm our sales people and sales management with access to these tools, it makes them better prepared to be in front of to the right people, with the right information at the right time to move the needle to a significant degree,” Blum says. Adds Bohan: “There is a lot of opportunity within the tool because it tells a story for radio that we’ve been unable to tell before. We’re just scratching the surface.” – Paul Heine