December 18, 2007
How To

Sherpa 101: Google Audio Ads - 10 Steps to Get on the Radio for Less

SUMMARY: Traditional radio advertising is still a good buy to build brand awareness. But a standard 13-week campaign can be out of reach for marketers with smaller budgets.

Google Audio Ads is a lower-cost alternative. In our latest Sherpa 101, see how to set up and run an Audio Ads campaign that could feature you on dozens of stations at a fraction of the cost.
“Direct demand generation is a big part of everyone’s budget, but you don’t want to forget about just awareness generation,” says Nick Pegley, VP Marketing, All Covered, a technology services firm that caters to small businesses.

Marketers who run awareness campaigns usually have bigger budgets with more cash to spend on radio to put their company’s name before listeners. In traditional radio advertising, radio stations are “talking about wanting to sell us a whole 13-week campaign, and you’ve got to have 100s of spots in rotation. It gets expensive pretty quickly,” Pegley says.

Money doesn’t stop Pegley from running a campaign on traditional radio stations. An alternative for him is Google Audio Ads, a service that facilitates the ad-buying process.

Pegley spends about $500 a month on Google Audio Ads, which is a fraction of what he spends on online advertising. “Depending on the city and the time of day, we’re running ads for like 50 cents or a dollar. So you can run quite a lot of ads.”

Last May, Steven Wagner, President and Founder, Kudzu, compared the cost of Google Audio Ads to traditional radio buys and saw a huge savings. With Google, it cost him $900 to run more than 260 spots at peak times on 17 radio stations.

“We had 261 radio spots, for a quarter of the cost of what it was when we originally looked at going into the Boston market. For us, it was going to be three times that amount for a quarter of [the ads], and this is all during the same drive time, so this comparing an apple to an apple.”

Audio Ads is a part of Google’s AdWords interface. It serves as a central location for marketers to upload a radio ad and disseminate it to dozens of radio stations through Google’s content network. All of the ads are played on premium -- not remnant or leftover -- ad inventory.

To start an Audio Ads campaign, we talked to several experts who gave us the following 10 strategies:

-> Step 1. Create a Google AdWords account

If you don’t have a Google AdWords account, visit the link at the bottom of this article and click the “Start now” button to set up an account. If you already have an account, look under the “other campaign types” heading on your campaign summary page.

-> Step 2. Define your audience

Your radio ads should target a specific audience -- like your customers.

Look at your demographics and answer the following questions:
-Where is this person?
-When does that person listen to the radio?
-What types of radio programs does that person listen to?
-What type of message will most connect with that person?

Answers to these questions will help you create an ad that will reach and interest your target audience.

-> Step 3. Set your campaign objectives

Do you want to invoke a direct response from listeners? Build brand and create awareness? Generate leads? Your radio ads should have a purpose; generally, they’re not used to sell products. (If you’re interested in direct response radio, see our previous Sherpa article in the hotlinks at the end of the article.)

“I think that you have to be clear that this is not how you’re generating lots of leads to drive your business,” says Pegley, whose audio ad campaigns are written to increase awareness of his company among small business owners in major cities.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with Google. I think it’s just radio ads in general,” says Shawn Shepherd, Founder, “I think that’s pretty much the purpose of radio ads. So many times when people are listening to the radio, they’re not in a position to purchase or do something.”

Your campaign’s objectives will dictate whether you need components beyond the radio ad -- like a specifically designed landing page or a telesales team.

Wagner, for example, decided that one of his clients needed a vanity URL since the ad was intended to drive website traffic. “They had a name that was difficult to spell, or is often misspelled. So, we chose the city that we were in and used that [in the URL].”

-> Step 4. Create your radio ad

All audio ads submitted to Google must be of professional quality and of a commercial nature, according to Google’s AdWords Help Center. They can’t be longer than 30 seconds and can only promote one business. (See hotlink below for the rest of Google’s Audio Ad policies.)

- After you’ve read the rules, start designing your ad. Unless you’re familiar with radio advertising’s best practices, you should consider outsourcing the creative work. Google offers an Ad Creation Marketplace where you can search through listings of industry professionals who can help you with everything from ad concept to creation.

“We submitted our basic ad requirements to a few of the ad creation affiliates in the marketplace,” Shepherd says. “We received responses from every one that we submitted the request to. [The contractor we selected] reviewed the website and created the entire ad, script and creative, with very little input from me. The ad creation took less than two days.”

After running his ad more than 3,200 times, with a total listenership of almost 900,000, Shepherd says the cost of his Audio Ads campaign, including creation, was less than $1,000.

- You can, of course, find help outside of Google’s Marketplace and do some of the work yourself.

Pegley’s team wrote the ad’s script and outsourced the voiceover. “Straight voice recording used to be really expensive, but, now, because it’s so easy for people to do if they’ve got a home studio and a good voice. We paid like $40 bucks or something for this guy to record the ad. You go back years, it was like $500, plus they wanted a residual every time it was played.”

- Once your ad is ready to go, submit it to Google AdWords and await approval. If you’ve followed the rules, this process should take less than 24 hours.

“It’s not as fast as if you wanted to set up a [paid search] campaign,” Wagner says. “That makes it a challenge, because you upload all your information and you don’t see where your ad is until the reviewers approve it. So, you couldn’t just add one real quickly in your market to make a change. You have to plan for that difference.”

-> Step 5. Target customers by day of the week and time

Google allows you to pick which days you want your ad to run, but not the exact time. Instead, you select a time interval for the ad.

- Weekdays are broken into five chunks of time.
- Weekends are broken into two chunks of time.

The most expensive time slots for any market are the weekday drive times: 6 a.m.-10 a.m. and 3 p.m.-7 p.m. because that’s when most commuters listen to their radio.

-> Step 6. Choose the market or location

Google lets you choose to run your ads across the country or in specific markets. Remember that larger metropolitan markets, such as New York or Boston, will be more expensive than others.

You can search for available markets by entering your city, state or ZIP Code, and Google will return to you a list of Designated Market Areas (DMAs).

“[This] basically is something of a blind system, where you bid on a geographical area and you find out later which stations you actually ran on. The problem is … we’ve got an office in Atlanta, and we service about a 30 to 40 mile radius around Atlanta. So, I bid on [the Atlanta DMA] and I ended up running on like Athens, GA, which is a whole different part of the state. It’s technically in the Atlanta DMA, but the DMA is kind of the whole state,” says Pegley.

Also, if you’ve chosen to target drive time, you need to remember that people don’t always live where they work. “If you’re a business in Manhattan, you may want to run the ad in New Jersey as well as Manhattan, because maybe people are driving in from New Jersey,” Pegley says.

-> Step 7. Select the type of station

You can choose from more than 40 different formats, or types of radio programs, to run your ad. They cover everything from religious to rock to news. Selecting more popular formats, such as sports, will raise your price.

“You don’t have the choice to just go in and say ‘we want to be on CBS radio in Boston,” says Wagner.

-> Step 8. Choose whether to bid or reserve buys

Google gives you two pricing options when buying radio advertising inventory:

Option #1. Bid for ad plays -- The radio ad inventory in Google’s network is auctioned off every day, with ad plays going to the highest bidder. This option is the most affordable but it does not guarantee that your ad will play. All the marketers we spoke with for this article chose this option.

Option #2. Reserve ad plays -- You can also purchase radio advertising on Google’s network for at a set price. This will ensure that your ad will play at a set time of day in a set market -- so it is a smart option for time-sensitive campaigns. This option is typically more expensive.

-> Step 9. Set your budget, bid and campaign duration

If you’ve bid on keywords in Google AdWords, then bidding on Audio Ads will seem familiar to you. The difference is that you bid the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for 1,000 radio ad impressions (CPM). Impressions are based on estimates of how many people are listening to a radio station when it plays your ad.

- Start by setting your budget and the start and end dates for your campaign. When your budget is met, your Audio Ads campaign will automatically deactivate.

- Then set your maximum bid for every thousand impressions. Your ad will only play if your maximum bid is greater than or equal to the CPM for the time and market you’ve selected. The CPM fluctuates based on the market, time and bidding activity. Once your ad runs, you’ll be charged the price for every 1,000 impressions served by the station.

-> Step 10. Analyze your reports and refine your campaign

Once your campaign is rolling, Google will report when your ad was played, the market it played in, the type of station it played on and the number of impressions served. It also gives you the audio clip of your ad.

Google doesn’t always reveal which radio stations ran your ad. You have to do some leg work using the audio clip, which is vital for determining which stations ran your ad, says Pegley.

“When you listen to that, typically you’ll hear your ad, but you often get about 20 seconds on either end, and that’s enough for you to hear the radio station call sign. So, you have a little bit of detective work. And if you don’t get [the call sign] that time, maybe you’ll get it the next time. We’ve pretty much been able to work out all the [radio stations] we’re on,” says Pegley.

Once you have the station’s call sign, search the Internet or look in the phone book to discover its location. If it’s too far from your target audience, then it’s probably a waste of marketing dollars, and you may want to reconsider running ads on that particular format. Or, you could be running ads in the right market, but that market is so large that you’re wasting money on ads played in distant cities within that DMA.

Google doesn’t let you eliminate stations by name. “You can only cancel them off by genre and geography. I basically stopped running on, I think it was sports radio in Atlanta, because it wasn’t running in the right cities,” Pegley says.

-> Optional Step. Use call reporting

Google offers free telephone numbers for tracking response to your ad. The number can be either a toll-free number or based on your area code. The idea is to mention the telephone number in your ad. When listeners call, Google will forward the call to your company, make a record of the call and generate a report.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Google Audio Ads:

Past Sherpa article - 8 Tactics to Launch a Successful Direct Response Radio Campaign:

Google - Welcome to AdWords:

Google AdWords Help Center - audio ad policies:

Google Audio Beginner's Guide:

Sample ads: - free real estate advertising:

Kudzu - marketing consultancy

All Covered - information technology services for small business:

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