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Geotargeting for Radio Could be a Game Changer

What if radio stations could split their broadcasts to deliver programming and ads to targeted geographic locations? That might become a reality. The FCC is set to take up review radio’s use of ZoneCasting technology, which would allow radio stations to divide their signal using boosters and deliver targeted ads and content to specific zones. 

For a broad-reach medium like local radio, this could be a game-changer. While advertisers have long valued radio’s ability to deliver large audiences, they’ve turned to other channels, including digital media and cable TV, for more targeted ad delivery, also known as geotargeting. While over-the-air radio can’t offer the same precision as those media, ZoneCasting could help radio reach narrower groups.   

If radio stations offered ZoneCasting, local and national advertisers would likely direct more money to local radio. If the technology was deployed, more than 90% of local retailers and about half of national advertisers said they would invest more money into FM radio, according to a new study by BIA Advisory Services and Ad Perceptions.

To help radio broadcasters and local businesses digest these possibilities, here is a quick primer on the basics of location-based advertising:

Geotargeting:  The ability to identify the location of a user, such as a city, state, zip code or IP address, and deliver content based on that information. 

Geofencing: The process of creating a virtual perimeter and delivering ads only to users in that area, including a radius around a specific location or set boundaries.

ZoneCasting:  Radio stations activate boosters at particular locations to separate their signal and transmit programming and ads to specific areas.

Traditionally, radio’s selling point has been its ability to deliver ads to a broad audience across a massive geographic area. This one-to-many formula helps raise brand awareness and motivates listeners to take action, such as visiting a retail location. With their digital channels, radio can offer targeting and location-based ads. The possibility to geo-target with on-air signals, which have much larger audiences, could attract even more ad dollars.  

Many local businesses are already comfortable with this concept and 80% reporting they deploy location-based advertising. If radio stations could offer geotargeting via ZoneCasting, they would add another option to their ad menus and possibly poach ad dollars from digital and cable. 

“ZoneCasting uses the existing radio broadcasting tech platform and existing consumer radio devices in cars, at home and work,” explained Rick Ducey, Managing Director of BIA Advisory Services. “Once approved, there’s no barrier to advertisers that want to tailor their advertising messages to the most strategic locations within a radio metro area.”

With the FCC’s decision expected later this year, radio broadcasters may soon have a powerful new product to offer ad partners, adding to radio’s value proposition as the most-used media in America and advertisers’ go-to partner for engaging consumers and growing their business. 

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Written by Paul Altman