'Have a break, have a Kit Kat' is one of the most famous and enduring advertising slogans in history. It has helped make Kit Kat the most popular chocolate bar in the UK for more than 18 years. For most of that time, the brand was advertised almost solely on TV, on air for about a month every quarter.
In 1999, Nestle Rowntree's then marketing director Andrew Harrison sanctioned moving some of the ad budget to other media - including radio. By 2001, Kit Kat was on the radio for 16 weeks of the year, compared with TV's 22 weeks. Harrison said at the time: 'The multiplier effect of moving a small part of our TV spend into radio has proved attractive. Radio is building awareness for Kit Kat as a supplement to TV ... yet our radio costs are about one-seventh those of TV.'
The decision to promote an FMCG product using radio was a daring, and somewhat pioneering, move - as Harrison told the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) Advertiser Conference in 2001: 'Radio is usually the domain of phone companies or dotcom start-ups that can't afford TV.'
Yet he recognised that the ability to slot ads into a particular station at a particular time, and among a certain kind of music or programme, made for very targeted marketing.
Other FMCG producers are now catching up. During 2003 two of the top six radio advertisers in the UK were FMCG companies: Procter & Gamble at number two, and Lever Faberge Home Care at number six; and both doubled their spend on radio over the previous year.
Three years ago, according to Nielsen Media Research, P&G spent £4.3m on radio advertising. The next year this increased by nearly 40% to £6m, and last year it jumped by almost 95% to £11.6m - equivalent to 6.2% of its entire ad budget. Four brands were supported: Max Factor, Olay, Bounty and Sunny D.
Lever Faberge has allocated an even bigger share of its adspend to radio.
From a budget of £2.2m in 2001 and £2.5m in 2002, last year its allocation on radio rocketed by just under 140% to £6m, or 10.1% of total adspend.
The brands it advertised on radio were Persil, Surf, Comfort Vaporesse and Cif.
So what has sparked their sudden love affair with the airwaves? It is not as if commercial radio has suddenly attracted millions more listeners - in fact, BBC audience figures have been growing slightly faster than commercial radio audiences. And BBC stations still command a bigger share of the market - 54.7% in 2003 compared with commercial radio's 45.3%.
So why the shift? Perhaps not surprisingly, the senior marketers at both organisations seem determined not to give much away. Bernard Balderstone, advertising director at P&G, insists that there was 'no great strategic view taken that we need to increase radio dramatically'. Instead, he says, 'we found more things in a particular 12-month period where radio could play a part'. He adds that whether P&G's radio spend would remain at the same level in 2004 'remains to be seen'.
'Our advertising activity goes in waves. Some years we do lots of certain things around our brands and other years we do other things,' says Balderstone. 'If you look at P&G over the past four or five years, there has been a greater focus on radio. It can work well for our brands, mostly when supporting other activities, such as promotions or retailer initiatives.'
He adds that no particular significance should be attached to the four brands chosen for radio promotion last year. 'You could argue that in principle all brands can be supported on radio. It depends what else you are doing with the brand as to whether radio is appropriate.' Lever Faberge media manager Niamh Corcoran is just as circumspect. 'Lever Faberge brands use a range of media channels, depending on the best fit for the brand and the campaign at the time,' she says. Yet she does give a clue as to the main motive behind the upsurge in radio advertising for brands such as Persil and Cif: housewives.
'Radio is an important media channel, due to high listenership, especially when housework is being carried out. It is an ideal fit for our home care brands,' says Corcoran. 'The current Cif Cream campaign, which communicates the brand's versatility, makes wide use of radio for this reason.'
Lynne Springett, marketplace manager for the RAB, says the proportion of housewives with children that listened to commercial radio during the last quarter of 2003 was 74.8%. 'We have done a lot of research and vox pops with housewives, and they say radio is a part of their daily routine,' she adds. 'It plays the role of friend, keeps them company and keeps them informed. It doesn't encroach on their time as TV does - they can do other things while listening.'
Springett says many housewives have a special relationship with the radio because they can usually choose which station to listen to, whereas they are often second or third in line behind their partner and their children when it comes to deciding which TV programme will be watched.
Last year the RAB commissioned a study of the effect radio advertising has on sales. The Radio Sales Multiplier Study was conducted by dunnhumby Retail, the customer-marketing consultancy that manages Tesco's Clubcard data. It surveyed the sales of 17 brands advertising on radio between summer 2000 and summer 2002 to gauge the sales uplift afforded by the addition of radio advertising to a marketing campaign.
Dunnhumby collated the sales figures in areas where the brands had been advertised on radio, and compared them with sales over the same period in areas where they had not. Any other media activity was the same in both the test and control areas, as were in-store activities such as price promotions.
While results were kept confidential, they were all well-known FMCG brands.
The ads were classic brand executions with dramatised scenes, comedy, dialogue and voiceovers, rather than highlighting on-pack or price promotions.
Three of the 17 brands recorded no uplift in sales while the radio advertising was running, but the other 14 did. The highest sales growth was 31%, and the average uplift was 9%, meaning that the value of sales for the brands in the areas where they were advertised on radio was, on average, 9% greater than in the areas where no radio advertising ran.
Most of the brands that saw sales grow recorded an uplift of between 4% and 8%. Only four had double-digit growth, ranging from 23% to 31%.
So what was it about those campaigns that drove sales so well?
According to Springett, the length of the ads does not make much difference to the impact on sales, but creative execution is crucial. 'The higher achievers were clear in their message, well-branded and often had a common theme across different media,' she says. 'The ads for the lowest-achieving brands were generally more complicated and required the listener to work hard to make the ad come to life - without sufficient reward in terms of entertainment. Some also had phrases and ideas with little connection to the brand and its values.'
Harrison, who left Nestle to become managing director of Muller Dairy, is amazed at how much radio copy is 'truly shocking'. 'It is as if seasoned, professional marketers and experienced ad agencies forget what makes a good ad when they write for radio,' he says.
He adds that like all good ads, those for radio require 'strong branding to engage the listener's attentions - drama, humour or intrigue in the storyline that is relevant, not borrowed interest - and a clear selling line that sums up the strategy'.
Harrison acknowledges this is not easy to achieve and says experience is essential, along with creative devised for listening: 'For Kit Kat, we looked for situations that everyone hears, and only hears, such as recorded messages or enquiry lines.'
Finally, he says, great radio ads have what the RAB calls a 'sonic trigger' - in Kit Kat's case, the breaking of the fingers in the bar. 'Just as TV needs a single-minded visual image to anchor the ad, great radio has a sound that sums up the ad.'
Another important contributor to success is radio's use as part of a wider campaign. Balderstone says that nearly all P&G's radio advertising is used in conjunction with other media - and this seems to be a common strategy among most FMCG advertisers. In the RAB's Radio Sales Multiplier Study, only two of the 17 brands tested used radio alone. The rest used various combinations of TV, press, outdoor and cinema.
Dunnhumby also measured the effect of radio advertising on price promotions - for the advertised brand and its competitors. When radio advertising began for one of the brands studied - let's call it Brand A - there were several competitor price promotions running in-store. As a result, both Brand A's volume of sales and the average spend per customer fell compared with the preceding period.
But this negative impact seems to have been stemmed by radio advertising in the test region. Spend per customer fell by only 2% among those exposed to the advertising, whereas those that did not hear the radio campaign spent 15% less than before the price promotion.
When the competitor's price promotion ended, Brand A offered a discount of its own. In the control area, with no radio ads, sales rose by 76%.
In the test area, where radio ads ran while the price promotion was on, the increase was more than 80%.
Question of timing
Springett admits the study had its limits, particularly in that it measured only short-term sales uplifts. 'While shorter, medium-weight campaigns tend to be slightly more efficient in generating short-term sales, longer heavyweight campaigns are better for building brand awareness, improving brand loyalty and enhancing the brand's image,' she says.
But radio's flexibility makes it a must-have on any FMCG media schedule, she adds. 'Brands are not just reaching the right people, but in the right place at the right time. They can get the message out to someone driving to the supermarket or to workers about to go and buy lunch. Just before the point of purchase, brands can get the message across at the crucial time.' Perhaps the reluctance of Balderstone and Corcoran to show any enthusiasm about radio's value as an advertising medium for FMCG brands speaks louder than anything they do say. When you stumble upon something this good, you want to protect your advantage as long as possible.
TOP 20 RADIO ADVERTISERS 2003
Radio Change Radio's
spend yr/yr budget
(pounds m) (%) share (%)
1 COI Communications 27.5 21.3 18.2%
2 Procter & Gamble 11.6 94.9 6.2%
3 Sainsbury's 10.8 25.0 22.1%
4 News International 6.7 -20.4 17.1%
5 BT 6.1 -31.0 6.3%
6 Lever Faberge Home Care 6.0 139.6 10.1%
7 Telewest 5.8 -1.8 60.2%
8 Orange 5.6 49.1 8.9%
9 Camelot 5.5 113.5 25.9%
10 Vodafone 5.5 -26.0 11.2%
11 Ford 5.1 15.7 6.5%
12 Carphone Warehouse 4.6 63.2 43.2%
13 Renault 4.5 18.8 7.5%
14 Hutchison 3G 4.3 n/a 8.7%
15 Toyota 4.2 -17.5 8.8%
16 Specsavers 3.5 274.1 16.2%
17 MG Rover 3.3 -14.5 16.0%
18 Vauxhall 3.1 42.0 5.3%
19 EasyJet 3.0 158.9 17.5%
20 DFS 3.0 29.3 4.8%
Top 20 total 129.7 25.6 11.3%
Source: Nielsen Media Research
CASE STUDY - COLGATE-PALMOLIVE
Colgate-Palmolive historically used TV in the spring and summer to promote its Soft & Gentle deodorants and anti-perspirants, but diverted some of its budget to radio in the hope of finding a more cost-effective way of keeping the brand on-air for longer periods.
Soft & Gentle is aimed at women aged 16 to 24, and in any given week 81% of this group listen to commercial radio, rising to 95% in a month.
The test enabled Colgate to compare the impact of using radio ads alone in Nottingham with running them alongside TV in Birmingham, and using only TV in Stoke.
Three different 40-second radio ads were on air for about a month, with the target age group hearing the ads an average of four times a week.
The radio ads ran every day, between 6am and midnight, but with extra focus on Friday and Saturday evenings - when young women often get together to prepare for a night out.
In Stoke, sales of Soft & Gentle products increased by 8% and remained 7% higher after the campaign. In Birmingham, sales grew by 14% and remained 12% higher afterward.
Brand awareness research by Millward Brown after the test revealed three more key findings: awareness of TV ads is higher when there is also radio advertising running in the region; TV together with radio delivers higher proven recall levels; and radio advertising increases people's regard for the brand.
TOP 20 PRODUCT SECTORS 2003
Radio Change Radio
spend yr/yr share
(pounds m) (%) (%)
1 Retail 83.8 11.2 10.0
2 Entertainment/Media 77.5 5.3 11.6
3 Motor 75.1 3.3 8.2
4 Telecommunications 39.7 19.5 9.0
5 H/hold furnishing/equip 39.2 -2.2 12.6
6 Finance 36.7 -3.3 4.7
7 Government institutions 34.6 21.2 19.5
8 Travel/Transport 32.3 -3.8 8.4
9 Food 16.8 -6.4 3.0
10 Business services 15.8 -2.7 18.6
11 Cosmetics/Toiletries 15.3 87.9 2.8
12 Leisure equipment 13.2 -12.2 3.0
13 Pharmaceuticals 12.8 -19.4 4.6
14 Household stores 12.0 83.9 4.5
15 Internet retail/services 11.3 17.2 6.3
16 Industrial/Utilities 7.8 28.7 8.1
17 Education 7.6 17.3 14.8
18 Computers 7.2 -0.8 2.1
19 Alcoholic drinks 5.2 17.0 2.7
20 Charities 4.9 -5.3 10.5
Source: Nielsen Media Research