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Data and analytics tools have become a game changer for how radio is programmed, bought and sold. Programmers use them to better understand their audiences, while advertisers rely on them to determine when and how to reach specific audiences with the right message. During the session “Secret Sauce: The Proof We Need for Remaining Relevant and Driving Growth” at last week’s Radio Show in Dallas, buyers and sellers talked about how these tools have become part of the fabric of how they do their jobs.

With the ability to follow audiences as they migrate across different devices during their media day, programmers now know which platforms – web, mobile, social, etc. – to promote at different times of the day. “The more you can understand about the audience – what they’re doing and their lifestyle – the more we can improve how we serve them,” said Tim Clarke, VP, Content and Audience, Cox Media Group.

Advertisers, too, are focusing on which devices consumers are engaging with at different times of the day. “The commuter journey is so important – where are consumers when they are most receptive to advertising,” Kristen Pankratz, part of the Brand Media team at ad agency The Richards Group, said. “We also use our syndicated resources to figure that out – what does a day in the life look like for the person and what are the touchpoints they’re using.”

For example, after using a mix of live reads and produced ads, a real estate agency client decided to shift the mix to fewer live reads and more produced ads. By using attribution data from vendor LeadsRx, the radio stations were able to show the endorsement ads “were far more effective” in generating website traffic than the produced ads, Clarke said.

Eleana Johnson, Senior Brand Manager of Texas electricity provider Reliant, said she uses data to ensure they’re employing the right creative for the right audience. In light of the state’s diverse population, Reliant tests which creative works best in each of the Texas markets where they operate, including both English and Spanish language ads. “Getting this insight from the study, we are able to quickly learn and swap the creative in a real-time experience instead of waiting for months,” Smith said. “Texas is huge; the DMAs are so different from each other and having data about your DMAs can only help us better target for an advertiser.”

Marketers and media companies are also using data to dispel commonly held myths, like the one that disclaimers in auto ads on the radio are tune-outs. Westwood One and Katz Radio Group conducted a study on the subject and found those in the market to buy a car “liked the disclaimer because it explained the deal,” Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer, of Cumulus Media and Westwood One, said. The study also found that when the disclaimer is sped up in an auto ad, it is just as effective, noted Katz Radio Group President Christine Travaglini, who moderated the session.

Because testing the impact of advertising is more difficult on broadcast radio, The Richards Group will introduce its audio ad strategies in streaming first, to get a sense of what’s working and then apply the learnings to broadcast radio. “If we see this type of audio is working in streaming, we’ll try it in AM/FM,” Pankratz said.

But it’s more than just data, analytics and creative testing that goes into a successful campaign. It also requires the media partner to comprehend the essence of the client’s brand and what they’re trying to accomplish. “The media recommendations that we get back from our agency and radio partners don’t always align with our brand objectives. It’s important for radio partners to have a conversation with the brand so you can understand what we are trying to accomplish so we can develop an audio strategy around that,” Johnson said.

As the marketing effectiveness industry matures, one of the latest trends is that narrow ad targeting isn’t always the most effective use of an advertiser’s dollars, Bouvard suggested. “The obsession with data-driven targeting is overblown and doesn’t necessarily move the sales needle,” he said, citing a study that showed reach trumps targeting by a two-to-one margin. While acknowledging that broadcast reach tactics are super important, Pankratz argued that it’s equally important that specific people receive a specific message at a specific time. “You need the right balance to meet [campaign] goals,” she said.

Noting that data can be misused, Clarke stressed “the importance of educating our sales and programming teams on how to use the data to balance the sheer amount of insights we can have with strategy in making the right long term and short-term decisions. If we followed streaming data in our markets on music, we’d be changing our playlists every hour because there’s so much of it. But there is a place in the conversation for those insights.”

On the programming side of the radio station, an abundance of data on music has allowed programmers to see how every song is performing on virtually every platform, Clarke said. “We have to educate our sales and programming teams on how to use the data, to balance the sheer amount of insights we can have with the strategy, to make the right long term and short-term decisions. If we followed streaming data in our markets, we’d be changing our playlists every hour. But there is a place for these insights.”

Added Bouvard, “We’re in the golden age of insights for programming and sales.”