Advertising On Public Radio. Should Maine Small Business Owners Do It?

Portland Radio Maine Small Business Advertising Public BroadcastingConfession: WMEA-FM, 90.1, is one of the Portland radio presets on my car radio.

WMEA is one of the 13 Maine stations that comprise Maine Public. This network provides listeners from Kittery to Fort Kent with programming from NPR (National Public Radio); local news; and classical music.

Each week, 17% of all adults living in southern Maine, tune-into WMEA. This, according to Nielsen, makes it the most listened to Portland radio station. So, does it make sense for a Maine small business to advertise and market its goods and services to this audience. Here are some things considered:

First of all, a business can’t advertise on Maine Public Radio. A business can only underwrite programming. Underwriting includes short on-air mentions of support. For example: “Support for this program comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at R-W-J-F dot org.”

Some businesses purchase these underwriting announcements as a charitable gift not, necessarily for advertising. In 2018, these contributions are projected to reach $1.7 million dollars or 13% of the network’s operating revenue. Most of the network’s money comes from memberships plus state and federal funding.

From a pure advertising perspective, however, investing provides some challenges for Maine small business owners. Some impediments are legal, others are financial.

What You Can’t Say On Maine Public Radio

As a government supported entity, Maine Public complies with the sponsorship guidelines set forth by National Public Radio. These guidelines are actually a list of tactics business owners can not utilize. The list includes some very powerful advertising hallmarks:

  • Messages can NOT include a call-to-action.
  • Messages can NOT include qualitative language (favorable qualities, benefits and claims)
  • Messages can NOT include comparative language (e.g., “leader,” “largest,” “the only”
  • Messages can NOT include inducement language (e.g., rewards programs, warranties)
  • Messages can NOT include price and value information
  • Message can NOT include awards, favorable reviews, endorsements, testimonials
  • Messages can NOT include health claims
  • Messages can NOT include personal pronouns such as “we”, “I”, or “Us”.
  • Message can NOT be longer than 15 seconds

If a Maine small business can craft a compelling message that can fulfill this stringent criteria, then advertising becomes an issue of value.

Maine Public Radio is simulcast on its network of 13 radio stations serving just about every town, village, city, nook, and cranny of the state. This is an all-or-nothing proposition for Maine small business owners.

If a business, for instance, draws customers primarily from a 10-mile radius of Portland, that business cannot choose just to reach the listeners living in that area. They must also pay to be heard in Bangor, Houlton, Dover-Foxcroft, as well as Maine towns along the Canadian border.

Paying For Wasted Audience

For enterprises that have statewide locations or a robust online sales platform, utilizing Maine Public Radio can make sense. But for smaller, geocentric business owners, the price for advertising may by very inefficient.

For business owners that are looking to reach the Maine Public radio audience without the overwhelming policy and financial burdens imposed by the network, there are options.

For example, a business owner decides to invest in an underwriting campaign on Maine Public Radio to reach college-educated, professionals with a household income of $100,000+ and live in Cumberland County. Remember, this business owner needs to pay for the entire statewide network, even though she only needs to reach just one county.

The business owner could, for about the same price, use two radio stations that target the same demographics but whose primary audience footprint is in Cumberland County.

In addition to greater cost efficiency, the two station station scenario would be much more effective. Because, unlike on Maine Public, the two station campaign would allow the business owner to employ longer commercials containing calls-to-action; qualitative language; inducement language; comparative language; plus price-and-value information. These are all components of the most successful radio commercials on Portland radio.

Finally, Maine Business owners need to check their perception of the Maine Public radio audience. It might not be what they think that it is. According to Nielsen, the Maine Public radio audience is

  • 51% over the age of 55
  • 27% less likely to have graduated high school than the general population
  • 37% more likely to be retired or only employed part-time than the general population.

Knowing When To Advertise On Maine Public Radio

Given all of this information, we have determined under which circumstances a Maine small business owner should purchase an underwriting sponsorship on Maine Public Radio

  • The business owner is looking to support the mission, goals, and values of Maine Public Radio.
  • The business owner’s best potential customer is over the age of 55
  • The business in question has appeal to statewide audience
  • The business can craft a powerful, 15-second commercial that con comply with the networks rigorous regulations.

More Advice For Maine Small Business Owners