once viewed radio as a purely tactical medium. But case studies such as Carphone Warehouse, whose regular position at the top of Radiowatch comes after years of brand-building radio, have forced a change.
Store groups now use radio to win new shoppers and retain customer loyalty.
Plus, of course, radio is a perfect vehicle for exploiting the sonic brand triggers which most retailers now use as branding devices.
As Matalan and DFS prove, radio remains a good way to promote sales and special offers. But retailers such as Specsavers not only use local radio for store openings and revamps, but also use national radio to extend branding campaigns like its recent two-for-one initiative.
Andrew Molle, marketing director at Specsavers, says: "Our research has taught us that radio, mixed with appropriate local activity such as posters, has a greater effect. It is also a cost-effective way to reach specific audiences, such as younger groups."
The Radio Advertising Bureau claims that radio can move people into a market by exposing them to the brand message even if they are outside the core group of responders. And because radio listeners rarely switch stations, advertisers can capitalise on that loyalty and build a greater affinity with their consumers.
Radio is famously effective at communicating with audiences on fixed days and at fixed times. An example is the traditional Thursday-to-Saturday strategy of many grocery brands such as Sainsbury's.
But Sainsbury's has increased its ongoing radio activity, which is often part-funded by suppliers, in order to achieve proper econometric modelling and to get precise return-on-investment figures.
More significantly, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO has been running a series of Jamie Oliver 'recipe-mercials'. The 60-second ads, which feature Oliver talking his way through a recipe, have run nationally in solus slots around the 3pm news break, promoted by ten-second trailers.
While reflecting the mainstream TV branding campaign, the ads also extend the core message. And initial Millward Brown research has revealed a spontaneous recall of 55%, with a third of the sample claiming to have visited a Sainsbury's store after hearing the ads.
Rival Tesco is also extending its use of radio with local awareness-raising work, national promotional campaigns and brand-building activity. During August, Prunella Scales made a rare 'Dotty' appearance in Lowe's radio advertising promoting Tesco's back-to-school products.
During the same period, Marks & Spencer promoted its school clothing ranges with poster and radio work through Rainey Kelly Roalfe Y&R. Continuing the 'exclusively for everyone' theme, the campaign aimed to make M&S' quality accessible to a broad parental audience.
Q: Which of the following radio commercials do you remember hearing
Prev Advertiser Agency/Media buyer %
1 (1) Carphone W'house Radioville/Matters Media 57
2 (2) Vodafone WCRS/OMD UK 45
3 (3=) T-Mobile Bartle Bogle Hegarty/Starcom Motive 43
3= (-) AA M&C Saatchi/Zenith Media 43
5 (5=) Orange Lowe/Media Planning Group 42
6 (3=) BT Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/Zenith Media 40
7 (-) Specsavers In-house/Carat 37
8 (-) DFS Furniture Phillipson Ward Longworth Camponi/
Brilliant Media 36
9 (9=) Sainsbury's Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/PHD 34
10 (-) Virgin One TBWA London/Stream/MSI 29
11 (5=) Tesco Lowe/Initiative Media 28
12 (9=) Matalan Stores M&C Saatchi/Feather Brooksbank 27
13 (14) Cold Seal Huet & Co/Media Edge: CIA Manchester 24
14= (-) Barclaycard BMP DDB/OMD UK 23
14= (21) Renault Publicis/Carat 23
16= (18=) Vauxhall Lowe/Initiative Media 22
16= (-) Lunn Poly WCRS/Media Planning Group 22
16= (9=) Diet Coke Wieden & Kennedy/BBJ Media 22
19 (-) Marks & Spencer Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R/
Walker Media 21
20= (-) Telewest, Talk Saatchi & Saatchi/Media Insight 20
20= (-) Volkswagen BMP DDB/Mediacom 20
Radiowatch research was conducted from August 30 to September 1 by NOP
Research Group (020 7890 9000) as part of a weekly telephone omnibus
survey among 472 commercial radio listeners. Advertisements were
selected by Xtreme Information (020 7871 8080) and RAB (020 7306 2500).