Here is a quick overview of the terminology commonly used in radio advertising.

1. The Radio Business

Cluster or Group
In the 21st Century, most commercially successful radio stations are owned within local ‘groups’ or ‘clusters.’ These clusters may contain2-7 stations in a single market area. This modern radio organization, with many stations to choose from and many types of advertising across those stations, is able to offer more specialized and customizable marketing solutions than previously offered. This helps clients achieve their business goals – namely to reach exactly who they need to, at a price they can afford, to generate profitable growth.

Coverage Area
The geographic area within which a radio signal can be heard.

Production Dept.
Radio companies have specialized in-house production groups that offer services ranging from copy writing to sound mixing/editing, jingle production, and talent (voice work for commercials). These services are usually offered at a deep discount to radio clients, compared to outside vendors such as agencies.

Sales Representative or “Rep”
The sales representative’s role is the one most advertisers come to know the best. Reps are responsible for understanding their client’s business, the competition, and the media marketplace. Their service ranges from, assisting with scheduling and commercial creation (bring the brand to life on air and following up to ensure that client needs are met.

2. Radio’s ‘Time’ Terminology

Radio programming is typically divided up into 4-5 hour shifts on weekdays. These are called ‘dayparts’.  In some cases, radio ads are also scheduled to run in specific dayparts.

You may want to use daypart scheduling to reach the most listeners in the least amount of time (in morning and afternoon drive), but these periods are more expensive on a ‘per impression’ basis because they are in higher demand among large national brands. Conversely, you might be willing to reach your full target audience at a slightly slower rate, by using just evenings and midday’s in order to significantly lower your cost.

Morning Drive (or AM Drive)
Monday through Friday typically 5:30AM to 10AM.

Midday (or Daytime)
Monday through Friday from 10AM-3PM.

Afternoon Drive (or PM Drive)
Monday though Friday from 3-7PM.

Evening
Monday though Friday from 7PM-Midnight.

Mon-Sun 6A-12MID (Full-Day)
The full-day schedule ensures that ads are heard by the broadest number of station listeners and at a blended cost the 4 dayparts.

Overnights
Mon-Sun 12MID-5:30AM.  Overnight broadcasts typically target people who work in non-traditional office/business hours. Overnights reach real consumers and should not be ignored as an option. Due to strong loyalty and less overall commercial activity, it is often possible for businesses to achieve high brand-awareness among these smaller communities of listeners.

3. Radio Listening Measurement

Almost all radio stations subscribe to an audience measurement service, so that advertisers have an understanding of how many people listen to stations, when they listen, and how station audiences differ in terms of demographics and lifestyle/spending power. We call these services and measurements ‘ratings.’

Ratings Services:

Arbitron: A company that specializes in radio measurement.

Nielsen: Radio’s newest ratings provider, and the leader in worldwide consumer research, which is being used to replace Arbitron ratings in 51 U.S. markets today.

Ratings Terminology:

Average Quarter-Hour Persons (AQH)
The average number of persons listening to a particular station for at least five consecutive minutes during a 15-minute period. This term is generally used in a formula by ad agencies to determine the cost per point, or the cost of reaching 1% of the target market.

Average Quarter-Hour Rating
The average Quarter-Hour Persons estimate expressed as a percentage of the population being measured. A rating of “2.4” means that 2.4% of the population is listening at that specific time.

Audience Composition
The demographic, geographic, or socioeconomic profile of a station’s audience. Comparing a station’s composition to the general population or, to another station, is useful when determining which station most closely serves an advertiser’s target market.

Cume Persons (also referred to as “Cume” or “Reach”)
Cume is the total number of unique persons who listen to a Radio station during a specified time. We refer to this figure as our ‘Community ofListeners.’

Metro Survey Area (MSA)
Geographic area that includes the counties that have the most concentrated economic impact in or around a population area. This is not the total area covered by a radio station’s signal. It is a measurement that pertains to the listeners who are surveyed by the market’s ratings agencies.

Total Survey Area (TSA)
Geographic area that encompasses the Metro Survey Area (MSA) and may include additional counties located outside the MSA, which meet certain listening criteria (typically, exurban and rural areas).

4. Commercial Scheduling Terms

Cost Per Point (CPP)
The cost of reaching an Average Quarter-Hour Persons audience that is equivalent to one percent of the population in a given demographic group.

Cost Per Thousand (CPM)
The cost of reaching 1,000 unique listeners at least once. You can roughly compare your media alternatives by the cost that they charge to reach 1000persons. Figures range from $4 CPM for Radio to $11 CPM for local TV News and $240 for direct mail.

Gross Impressions (GIs)
The sum of the Average Quarter-Hour Persons (AQH) audience for all commercials in a given schedule. The total number of times a commercial will be heard over the course of a schedule.

Gross Rating Points (GRPs)
A rating point equals 1% of the total population. GRP’s are the sum of all rating points achieved for a particular commercial schedule.

Frequency
The average number of times the same person will hear a commercial. This is one of the most important metrics used to compare the effectiveness of different media (other than ‘reach’, cost, and effectiveness). Marketing science has proven that commercials need to be heard/seen repetitively in order to impact consumer behavior. A media that delivers high frequency isn’t just preferable, it’s a requirement for most marketing applications.

Reach
The number of different people that will hear the commercial at least one time. This is a very important marketing measurement: all marketers want to reach a lot of people. But ‘reach’ should never be focused on by itself. When marketers think in terms of ‘reaching as many people that they can afford’ they often fail. To have an effective ad campaign, marketers should think in terms of ‘reaching as many people, with the frequency required to change behavior, as I can afford.’

Unit (or Spot)
One commercial message, regardless of length. Radio spots can have :60, :30, :15, and :10 second durations. Most radio advertisers use the :60format, but if your ideal message is short and clear, you can use the other lengths (which cost less) to buy more commercials for any given budget, which can increase both your reach and frequency.

Target Demo (Demo)
An age group or audience make-up that you target with your commercial message – usually through your choice of stations, specific programs, or combinations of these.

5. Commercial Buying Terms

Available Inventory (or ‘Avail)
The unsold commercial position on a given station available for purchase.

Best Time Available (BTA)
A commitment by the station to air scheduled commercials in the highest-rated positions that are open/available during the campaign, though no specific guarantees are made for these runs. These schedules give the broadcaster scheduling flexibility and, in return, the advertiser generally secures a very favorable rate.

Book-End
Commercial messages from the same advertiser/brand that air at the beginning and end of a commercial set. This strategy is used to increase the impact of the message.

Equal Rotation
Scheduling rule that ensures a commercial will be exposed equally to listeners at different times of the day. This rule is generally used to ensure that a campaign reaches all potential listeners and does not concentrate its impressions in one or more dayparts.

Fixed Position (or Anchored spots)
A commercial scheduled to run at a precise time, or a commercial scheduled to run within specific programming content. The purpose is to increase the likelihood that loyal/habitual listeners hear the spot more frequently than in broader scheduling options.

Flight
The duration of an ad campaign, typically used for campaigns that have on/off/on-again scheduling.

Flight Dates
Start and end dates of an advertising campaign.

Frontload
Refers to creating a schedule that tends to place more commercials on days of the week that have less demand. This is another strategy used to get more exposure at a lower average cost.

Live Read
A commercial message that is read “live” on-air by a station personality. This can be a particularly effective way of connecting your brand to a loyal community of listeners (by way of association).

Mention (or ‘Billboard’)
Short name mentions given to an advertiser who sponsors that particular show element, daypart, or feature.

Piggy-Back
Two commercials scheduled to run back-to-back, purchased by the same advertiser. This is often used for creative purposes to get attention and deliver different types of messages (e.g. humorous/educational).

Pre-emption and Pre-emptible
An agreement by the advertiser that a scheduled commercial can be replaced in favor of a higher-priced commercial or for some other reason. This arrangement provides broadcasters with greater flexibility and advertisers with a lower price.

Run of Schedule (ROS)
Another scheduling option that trades low-cost for guaranteed positions. An ROS schedule will usually run Monday-Friday, 6AM-12AM, with the best placement available that are not subject to other guarantees or station priorities.

Rotation
The distribution of commercials across a section of days and hours within the purchased time period.

Simulcast
When two or more Radio stations broadcast the same programs and same commercials at the same times.

Sponsorship
On-air recognition that an advertiser has purchased a unique right of association with a program or specific feature. The message is similar to a mention, but typically comes with a longer-term commitment and additional exposure on signage, websites, etc.

Total Audience Plan (TAP)
An advertising schedule that places ads in a pattern that utilizes all station dayparts for maximum station audience exposure.