A Productive Rant on Bad Radio Advice: Choosing Only Prime Dayparts


We see it all the time and we understand the temptation. There is an allure to using only prime dayparts when you place your radio advertising. Primetime (or drive time) refers to those dayparts of peak listenership which are: 5a-10a (Morning Drive or AMD), 10a-3p (Midday or MID), 3p-8p (Afternoon Drive or PMD). Those are the times when there are the most listeners. However that does not make it the best option for advertising, and here’s why.

First of all, let’s agree on a few things: 

Radio Fact #1:

Radio stations have the most listeners during peak drive times. 

Radio Fact #2:

Radio stations have an audience that listens at all times of the day, 24/7/365. 

Radio Fact #3:

Stations charge more for advertising during drive times.

Radio Fact #4:

Stations charge less for advertising during non-peak times. 

It's important to also keep in mind that drive times are also usually very busy with a lot going on during those shows. There are air talent conversations, contests, promotions, news, weather, interviews, and more. Because those times are considered “prime” it also means that the available commercial inventory fills up quickly. It’s important to remember that radio stations have a finite amount of available commercial inventory. Because they are so popular, those programs are highly regulated in terms of how much time is allocated to commercials. Advertising rates are therefore appropriately based on supply and demand. 


For advertisers who have a large enough budget to be able to reserve commercial inventory at a frequency that will drive success during peak times only, the opportunity to do so is there. But for most advertisers, especially those with limited budgets, there must be a way to access prime dayparts at an affordable price.

Fortunately, there is. 

Every advertiser with marketing budgets of any size should have equal access to prime dayparts for their campaigns. Looking logically at how a radio station operates, there is a smarter way to place your advertising, do it for a better price, and reach even more people.

It’s called the Total Audience Plan. 

Introducing: The Total Audience Plan (TAP)

Total Audience Plan or TAP scheduling gives you an even rotation across all dayparts for a given schedule. It means you’ll have ads airing during prime times, evenings, overnights, and weekends. It reaches a radio station’s complete audience and does so more efficiently than any other option. 

To understand this option, remember the radio facts listed above. Most high-quality radio stations employ a team of consultants and talent coaches to ensure that their station is programmed to attract and serve audiences 27/7/365. Those decisions are strategically made and monitored by ratings to ensure results. The best marketing choices, then, are to leverage that work for your business’s campaign. 

A TAP schedule is a computer-generated algorithm monitored by a station’s traffic department (the department that schedules ads on the stations). With a TAP schedule, your ads are evenly distributed across all dayparts so that, over the course of your schedule, you have equal access to all 5 of a radio station’s audiences: AMD, MID, PMD, Evenings (EVE), Overnights (OVN) over all 7 days a week. 


Another benefit to this schedule is that, because listening habits are varied, listeners will hear your ads at different times giving the illusion that you are on the station more often. That’s beneficial because ultimately, it’s the number of times a listener hears your message (frequency) that drives your business's message home in a listener’s memory and helps your brand stand out from the competition

What’s more, the math just makes sense.

Here’s a sample scenario: 

Sam’s Furniture Store has a budget of $12,000 over a 3-month period.

Option 1:

Let’s say the station KXYZ charges $60 per ad for placement during prime dayparts (Mon-Fri 5am-8pm). Let’s say their listening audience during prime dayparts is about 175,000 listeners. 

With this option, Sam can purchase 200 ads (200 ads at $60 per ad = $11,700) which, over 13 weeks, comes out to 15 ads/week. So basically, that’s a single ad in AMD, another MID, and another in PMD. And these ads are placed each day, Monday - Friday.  

Option 2:

Let’s also say KXYZ’s TAP rate for Mon-Sun 5a-5a is $35 per ad. Their total number of listeners during all dayparts including evenings, overnights, and weekends is 235,000 listeners. 

With this option, Sam can purchase 325 ads (325 at $35 per ad = $11,375) which, over 13 weeks, comes out to 25 ads/week. Important note: 25 ads/week is the minimum amount needed to achieve awareness campaign status. 

To get the same number of ads (325) and only place them during drive time, you'd have to invest $19,500...$7,500 more than your budget allows.  

What Do the Numbers Say...

So, for running a TAP plan, you actually spend slightly less money and get 125 MORE ads. You also get to share your business's story with more people (235,000 listeners as opposed to 175,000). 

So in a nutshell:

  • TAP gives more ads for your money
  • TAP gives you access to a larger audience
  • TAP gives you an overall more effective and more efficient campaign

action and awareness campaigns

Turn Non-Prime Dayparts into a Prime Strategy for Growing Your Business

In fact, many successful advertisers with smaller budgets start by “owning” the dayparts they can afford. 

Utilizing non-prime dayparts gives you a killer strategy for successful radio advertising on a limited budget. Working with your account manager,  determine what dayparts you can afford to “own”. If you can afford evenings and overnights, then run an appropriate schedule and lean into that audience. When your business grows and you start getting results, add to your budget. Next, consider adding weekends to your schedule and ‘own’ that audience. Then, as your business grows over time, work toward a true TAP campaign for just a few weeks a month. Using that start campaign as a base, keep growing until you can afford a true 24/7 TAP plan for every week of the month.

It takes time, dedication, guts, and persistence…but it does work. 

It Works So Well, We Have Proof 

We’ve put together highly successful campaigns with clients who started out only airing their commercials on weekends. That’s simply all they could afford. As their business grew, so did their capacity to do more advertising. We added days and peak times as it made financial and strategic sense. Check out our Case Studies and read these real stories of real advertisers for yourself. 

The bottom line, we want success for your campaign as much as you do. Our entire business model is dedicated to helping your business grow. Experience in working with advertisers since 1956 and experience in literally helping tens of thousands of businesses flourish has taught us that Total Audience Plans are the most effective and efficient way of advertising your business on our radio stations. 


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