Responsive Advertising Blog

Why Radio is Immortal

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Technology has a way of mercilessly replacing the old with the new. DVDs made VHS tapes obsolete. Computers crushed typewriters. Cell phones decimated landlines. People abandon the old when they discover new things that are more advanced or more efficient. 

Well… not always.

Radio as we know it has existed for nearly 100 years. It’s taken on all challengers and it has somehow remained one of the most steadfast media channels for advertisers. Nielson’s most recent Audience Report revealed that 91 percent of U.S. consumers over the age of 12 and 91.3 percent of adults ages 18-34 listen to radio weekly. Put another way, 243 million Americans tune in every week.

For advertisers trying to maximize the ROI of their marketing, knowing that radio is stronger than ever is less important than understanding why.

Why didn’t video kill the radio star? Why didn’t the iPod erase the demand for radio the way everyone expected it to? Why have we seen the popularity of radio rise while other mainstream channels like cable TV and newspapers have buckled under the weight of digital?  

Knowing the secret to radio’s immortality is crucial if you want to make every advertising dollar count. It can mean the difference between a fully optimized omni-channel marketing campaign and blowing your budget chasing fads. Beyond advertising, radio’s survival and ability to actually thrive in the face of unprecedented innovation serves as a blueprint for lasting success in any business.

As America’s No. 1 radio advertising agency, it’s our honor to finally reveal the secret to radio’s longevity. It’s the reason why Marketing Architects has proudly championed the power of radio for more than 17 years. Radio’s secret weapon can be summed up in one word...


If you’re not familiar with the word, (and you’re sitting at your computer) take a look down at your fingertips. The keyboard that’s on virtually every device, including Apple’s groundbreaking iPhone, utilizes the same configuration of keys, beginning with Q-W-E-R-T-Y, hence the name, “The Qwerty Keyboard”.

Have you ever wondered why? The answer may surprise you.

It isn’t because it’s the most efficient lineup of letters. Anyone who has watched Wheel of Fortune would know that that the letters R-S-T-L-N-E are the most frequently used letters in the English language. To be more efficient, they should be the keys directly under your fingers on the home row.

It isn’t because it’s the most intuitive arrangement. Logically, it would make more sense if they appeared in alphabetical order.

It isn’t because it’s the easiest to learn, either. Some argue that having vowels on the left and consonants on the right would make learning the keys quicker and easier. Since all words consist of both consonants and vowels, both hands would work in concert together to construct every word on the page

The reason we landed on Qwerty was because having the most popular letters too close to one another would cause the early typewriters to jam up. Typists were getting too fast and the hammers would jam and get stuck. To solve for this, designers had to spread them out, deliberately slowing down the typists, in order to prevent jamming.

Qwerty was designed to solve that critical problem way back in the 1870s. It solved that problem so well, that it’s the stand alone design today. At this point, so many generations have been trained to use it that it’s become ingrained in our culture.

Once something becomes a cultural staple, like Qwerty, it’s almost impossible to replace. Anyone who remembers the push in the 1970s to get America to adopt the metric system knows that. The metric system has certainly taken hold in some ways, but there was one key reason why it was never fully adopted nationally: the problem the metric system offered to solve wasn’t big enough to persuade enough people to take the leap.

Radio, like Qwerty and unlike the metric system, solved a concrete problem extremely well. Unlike TV, print, or even the internet, radio can accompany virtually any activity. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in the garage, shopping at the mall, hosting a barbecue or driving in your car—it’s almost always welcome because it doesn’t have to be your primary focus. It can deliver vital information to local audiences and provide quality programming 24/7.

There’s nothing on earth that can do everything that radio does. Video didn’t kill the radio star because you can enjoy the radio star while you’re stuck in traffic. Newspapers aren’t built into every car in America. People don’t want to waste their cell phone data streaming music while an FM station can deliver the same hit music for free. Not everyone wants to listen to the music on your iPod, but they can probably agree on a radio station. Besides, when you get tired of listening to your own music, it’s easier to change the station and let new music come to you rather than actively paying to seek it out on your own.

If you’re wondering how Qwerty and radio can serve as a blueprint for success in any business, the answer is twofold.

First, know that as an advertiser, the radio audience is bigger and has more buying power than ever before. If incorporating radio isn’t already part of your game plan, you’re leaving a lot on the table. As long as you can steal your audience’s attention, radio can be a goldmine. In the last 17 years, we’ve discovered a few secrets to help with that. You’d be amazed at the level of performance you can enjoy with accountable results reporting and tremendous opportunity to scale.

Second, beyond advertising, remember to keep front and center in your mind the problem your product or service is destined to solve. Fads will come and go. Trends will rise and fall. But if you can create something that decisively solves a problem for your customers, you just might have a Qwerty on your hands.

If you even think you’ve got one, we should talk. Last year Marketing Architects invested more than $8,425,000 in our clients to ensure rapid success. Because when we think an idea has what it takes to be the next Qwerty, we go all in.

Chuck Hengel

By Chuck Hengel

Founder & CEO

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