Broadcast Radio - America’s #1 Reach Medium - Confirms Advertiser Appeal In 2015

Digital, Off-Air Platform Revenues Hit New Highs

New York, New York -- March 3, 2016 -- Radio boasts the broadest mass reach among all media* while simultaneously affording narrow targeting capabilities through numerous program formats and networks. These powerful attributes combine to make broadcast radio the most efficient, effective vehicle for advertising – and radio's unparalleled consumer reach through broadcast is increasingly being enhanced by stations' ability to provide additional reach through both digital platforms and ‘Off-Air,' or non-traditional, extensions like events, sponsorships and ticket sales.

In 2015, radio held its own in attracting ad dollars within the highly competitive media environment, and 2015 also represented milestones for radio's Digital and Off-Air sectors: Revenue derived from radio's increasingly important digital platforms topped $1B for the first time, and off-air sales grew 11% over last year's strong performance to exceed the $2B mark. Combined, Digital and Off-Air sectors comprise nearly 1/5 of radio's total bottom line for the full year 2015.

"More and more advertisers are extending the unmatched reach of broadcast radio by taking advantage of radio's off-air and digital options," said Erica Farber, President and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau.  "By using radio stations' digital and off-air platforms, advertisers are extending the scope and reach of their messaging – and because more and more consumers are enjoying experiential events or spending time on devices, off-air opportunities can build on the strength of broadcast radio and provide the ability to reach them effectively and efficiently." 

Other Non-Spot highlights for 2015 include:

  • Off-Air sales now represent nearly 12% of total revenue.
  • Network's strong second half (up 3%) helped boost full year by 1%.

The Top 5 advertiser categories of 2014 held steady in rank and rank positions through 2015, with four adding additional dollars to radio. Leading category Auto Dealers/Dealer Groups/Manufacturers' spending was flat but represented twice as many dollars in total as #2 Communications/Cellular.

"Radio realized 2015 gains across many categories," said Farber. "These positive trends will continue as advertisers rediscover radio's strengths as a traffic driver, brand builder that delivers results."

Auto Dealers/Dealer Groups/Manufacturers

Auto Dealers/Dealer Groups/Manufacturers held their course on Spot Radio, once again pulling in as the top category among all advertisers based on virtually no change in spending versus full year 2014 (+0.4%).

Honda Dealer Association upped Spot by 15% to take the #1 position in the category for 2015, displacing 2014's leader Toyota Dealer Association (now #2). Noteworthy among online accounts using radio, increased spending more than nine-fold over last year, zooming up in rank to #12 from a near-bottom presence last year.


Heavy Spot volume allowed Communications/Cellular to retain its #2 category ranking in 2015 even though it was the only Top 5 category to register a decrease (-5%) versus prior year comps. This category's current significance to radio is clear: Three of radio's Top 5 individual advertisers in 2015 are Communications/Cellular accounts, including T-Mobile (#1), AT&T (#3), and Sprint (#5) – with Verizon Wireless close behind in the #6 spot.

Financial Services

Spot expenditures in radio's third-ranked category grew 4% over 2014, in which it also ranked #3. However, within the category ranks, there's a major shift: CashCall mortgage lenders increased their commitment by 120% and vaulted to the #1 ranking held last year by JPMorgan Chase, now #4 off a 60% cutback. LoanMe, offering personal and small business loans, was up 312% (now #5 vs. #30 last year).

Health Care

By the end of 2015, this fourth-ranked category increased total spending 5% versus full year 2014. With regional clinics and hospitals injecting more Spot ad dollars, various regional medical service industries dominate the top ranks: Within the top five, regional category advertiser Dignity Health Care System boosted their spending 128% versus year ago comps. Immediately following, at #3, is NuMale Medical Center – up 65%; and Lasik Plus, #4, up 2% over the same time period.

Professional Services

Posting the greatest Spot gain among the top five ad categories, Professional Services ended the 12-month period up 9%. LifeLock (ranked #2) was up six-fold - a significant gain in rank position compared to the First-Half (#12). 1-800-411-PAIN and Zerorez Carpet Cleaning Service also posted double-digit increases, up 15% and 12%, respectively year-to-year.

Total Revenue

Time-tested radio held its own again in 2015, ending the year flat (-1%) versus 2014 comps.

"It's clear that advertisers' commitment to radio remains consistent," stated Erica Farber, President & CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau. "They will find money to try out shiny new vehicles, but they continue to rely on radio's core ability to reach huge numbers of consumers and motivate them to buy products and services."

*Nielsen Comparable Metrics Report, Q3 2015

Spot Radio, Digital and Off-Air revenues are based on a pool of more than 100 markets as reported by the accounting firm of Miller Kaplan Arase LLP and extrapolated to the entire U.S. Digital Revenue is comprised from activity generated by websites, Internet/web streaming, video/display ads, etc. Network Revenue includes seven major Radio network companies. Revenue data has been randomly verified since 2002.

Spot Radio Advertiser Category analysis is based on data from Miller Kaplan Arase LLP X-Ray Market Reports. X-Ray Market Reports are compiled from advertiser expenditure data direct from station billing in 40 markets. X-Ray Markets represent approximately 80% of the dollars from the total pool of over 100 markets.

The lineup of markets/stations may vary from year to year.  Percent change is calculated on revenue adjusted to current year reporting.

The Radio Advertising Bureau serves more than 6,000 member Radio stations in the U.S. and over 1,000 member networks, representative firms, broadcast vendors, and international organizations. RAB leads and participates in educational, research, sales, and advocacy programs that promote and advance Radio as a primary advertising medium.

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