On October 20, 1938, Columbia Broadcasting System aired a one hour program that would cause “panic” across America. It was reported that an unusual object had fallen from the sky and landed in Grover’s Mills, New Jersey. From this cylindrical object, Martians emerged and started attacking, releasing clouds of poisonous smoke across New York City. The second half of the broadcast included “interviews” with survivors of this attack. This fake newscast, of course, is the 17th episode of the CBS Radio series The Mercury Theater on the Air with Orson Welles narrating the H. G. Wells novel. America believed they were under attack from Martians based on a radio program. That’s a pretty strong validation for power of radio!
In 1909, Guglielmo Marconi received the Nobel Prize for the invention of radio. It was through this medium that advertising would discover a new way to promote products to the consumer. The first broadcasts to contain advertising would happen in the 1920’s. The earliest form of a “commercial” was through sponsored programming, thanking sponsors for making it possible for the programs broadcast. Theaters were named for products-Lux Radio Theater, Kraft Music Hall, Hallmark Hall of Fame, among others. Stations still use this today.
In 1926, Wheaties made history and was saved by broadcasting a singing commercial-the jingle. General Mills noticed that in the markets where the Wheaties jingle was used, sales of their cereal were up. It was suggested to air in more markets to test the theory that the jingles were helping sales. Sales improved in all markets and Wheaties become one of the most popular cereals of it’s time and today is still known as The Breakfast of Champions.
There have been a lot of changes through the years, but radio still continues to be a powerful medium for advertisers. It is reported that 95% of people listen to the radio a week. People find an emotional connection to the radio. Therefore, listeners find radio ads to be personally relevant. This connection drives traffic to businesses that use radio advertising to get their message across to consumers.
The bond that Americans feel for radio may have taken on a different form since the 1920’s. We don’t sit around the together listening to programs like we did. We still listen. In our cars. On our computers. On our phones. But we listen. And we hear. Advertising on radio is one of the most powerful ways to grow your business.