Radio Advertising South Africa – Do the numbers work?

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Radio Advertising South Africa – According to an article in the City Press as at 2012 South Africa had 40 commercial/public radio stations and 256 community stations, making a total of 296 stations in the country.  38 additional stations were added in 2015.

Ukhozi FM is the biggest radio station in South Africa attracting 7.5 million listeners per week on average. The South African Research Foundation estimates that local radio had 37.6 million listeners in 2015 alone; making it the most consumed form of media in the country.

The top radio stations in South Africa based on weekly listenership are as follows;

  1. Ukhozi FM            5 million
  2. Metro FM            8 million
  3. Umhlobo FM 6 million
  4. Lesdi FM            4 million
  5. Mostweding FM 1 million
  6. Thobela FM            3 million
  7. Jacaranda            2 million
  8. Kaya FM 95.9 8million
  9. 5 FM             8 million
  10. RSG 7 million

Stats for radio listenership are generally garnered via door to door surveys and online marketing forms which make deducing the listenership and the charges around this advertising platform rather flawed.  To fill in their radio listener habits Highveld and KFM throw around figures of 20 – 30 minutes average listening time per listener.  That means an advertiser would have to take out multiple advertisements to have it repeated a number of times in order to have a chance of penetrating that station’s listenership.  It also explains why mainstream FM radios’ programming is so repetitive.  The average rate for advertising is around R580 for a 30-second advert. Pricing is also affected by the time the advert is run. Premium time slots requiring premium money with some time slots going for in excess of R2000 for 30 seconds.

However on the upside perhaps an SME can benefit from radio advertising even on a small budget by bargaining for better rates from the different stations that fit their target market.  Radio costs marginally less than advertising on television.  Radio ads that include an incentive such as a special deal or prize can draw attention to the brand.  This form of advertising can also serve as a means to tell the client about a certain service or product and how it can save time, enhance or enrich the listeners’ lives, as opposed to just describing what it can do.  This method may also be used to garner interest in a product for further promotions and or ads.

Radio is able to penetrate at a much more emotional level.  Appealing messages and audio features can transfer well and enable radio to perform both the role of driving people into shops whilst also building brand loyalty. Radio can also help with penetrating a niche market; most top television talk shows will also have their related radio talk shows. For example, a high-end company would choose to advertise on 702 or Power FM, rather than say Lesedi FM, where their intended market is.  The beauty of today’s specific stations is that you can narrow down to specific stations and shows that way zoning into your particular market and therefore reaching a larger audience for less money. Radio advertising is usually negotiable so never settle for the rate card price.

Radio also offers a wider reach compared to other methods as a result of frequency reach. Offering little no ongoing costs for the consumer (TV licence, purchase of newspapers, magazines etc.). It also helps that the consumer need not stop other activities like driving, working etc. to be able to receive the information. It is a passive but effective way of advertising. While as with any other marketing strategy it will not work for every product and service it can still be a very useful tool when applied correctly. Radio advertising works well in instances where the goal is market niche services or specific products.

Yes, with radio advertising, you do get brand marketing. I am a “direct results” based person and therefore brand marketing just seems like a nice term to use for wasting your money. Radio advertising can get great results, just remember to define your target market and stick to this when choosing a station, a show and the DJ.


Timo van Deventer is a SEO Expert in Johannesburg. He owns major ecommerce websites and businesses across the world in various industries. In 2016 TImo helped over 200 business rank on the first page of Google.

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