How much radio ads cost in Calgary

Updated: Feb 10, 2020



The first thing many business owners ask about Radio advertising (ads) in Calgary is, how much does it cost? If you've ever sent an email or called in to discover some quick info, you know that most station representatives are hesitant to share this information and usually have a lot of questions. All you want to know is how much does it cost for a radio ad, right? So why are they making it so hard?


The answer is that there really is no one-size-fits all campaign, and rates vary widely depending on the commercial length, the campaign length, what time of day you are targeting listeners at, and what you have to offer. Asking how much it costs for a radio ad in Calgary costs is like asking how long a piece of string is - the answer is largely dependent on what you need to accomplish with it.

Radio campaigns in Calgary start from $250/wk for smaller stations and modest campaigns, but the best plan is to get a custom tailored campaign that fits your business objectives.

The other part of the answer is that radio advertising sales representatives are hesitant to give a price because they are intrinsically motivated to help you succeed as a client. Think about it, what does a Calgary radio advertising rep really want from you? They want a long term relationship where you are succeeding, because when you see the power of radio creating opportunities for you, you're more likely to stay on the air and possibly even increase your spend. You may even introduce that radio representative to other business owners if they do a great job connecting you to the right audience, because everyone wants to recommend a partner they trust and who is helping their business get to the next level.


So what exactly goes in to the pricing of a radio advertising campaign in Calgary? There are a number of factors, but here are some of the biggest:


  1. Agency Bookings Advertising agencies book stations for national brands like Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, General Motors, etc largely based on ratings alone because they have a fairly universal audience. That means the biggest radio station audiences are often targeted first, and when they are it puts pressure on their inventory which can create scarcity. When spots on those stations are hard to come by, the price can go up. That doesn't mean they are over priced, it means they are market priced, but you will see a higher willingness to negotiate rates and give "deals" when stations have more inventory.

  2. Campaign Term Like so many industries, the volume you purchase can have an effect on the rate you are paying. If you want to try radio advertising for the first time it can be tempting not to commit to term because you want to test the response, however, one question I always ask is: If this campaign works, will you continue? The answer is almost always "Yes" (with some exceptions being closing of stores, one time events, etc). If you plan to continue if you get results, then your best course of action may be to look at a longer term package because you will receive the most aggressive pricing. Most Calgary radio stations have a cancellation policy you can review before making your commitment. So, if you must cancel, you can. It's not like a cell phone contract that you can't get out of.

  3. Commercial Inventory Types Most radio stations have advertisements in standard lengths, including :60, :30, :15, and :10 second ads, and then there are also usually traffic or weather report sponsorships Choosing the type of spot you need is important because when you're introducing a new concept to the market that may take some time to educate people on, you may need a longer spot like a :60 or :30 to introduce, educate, and compel. You also may want longer spots to present value when advertising a big ticket item like new homes, furniture or vehicles. Advertisers with simple, easy, and low commitment purchases like restaurants or tickets to concerts can get their message across quickly and simply. The shorter your ad, the less it costs per unit, but often the more it costs per second.

  4. Radio Advertising Campaign Type What you're looking to accomplish from your campaign may factor in to your costs as well. Radio stations are always looking for ways to increase listenership, and often they will consider rewarding listeners as a great way to gain or galvanize listeners. For example, just advertising hot tubs on the air will have a market cost according to the factors outlined above, but if you GIVE a hot tub away on the air, the station may be willing to give you more aggressive pricing because you're rewarding their listeners by offering a prize for their tuning. There are other benefits to "promos" as they're called, such as lead capturing and having listeners sample products which can turn into up-sell opportunities, word of mouth, and repeat business.

  5. Endorsements and Branded Content Some advertisers have great success with on-air endorsements from station Jocks or other celebrities, and these can take various forms. For a car dealer for example, getting a station voice can be great because it sets the table for branded content, which is a huge trend in advertising because it creates an authentic connection between the audience and the produce. These strategies can be high cost but high reward - and the cost is usually higher because the station is bound to offer the endorsement as an exclusive - meaning if that popular Jock is driving your Cadillac, he can't talk about Lincoln in the next commercial. That reduces the dexterity of the Jock and therefore, the advertiser must mitigate some of the opportunity cost (they need to pay more because they eliminate an opportunity for Lincoln). Branded content can be a product of endorsement but not always- it's the art of story telling surrounding a product VS talking features and benefits. Branded content is a more authentic brand connection and is extremely powerful, but almost always comes at a higher cost, be it offering free product to a Jock or simply being charged more for an on-air interview or something to that extent.

When it comes to your campaign, there are many factors to consider before thinking about price, because a decision based on price alone is uninformed, and the thrill of cheap wears off long before the regret of a poor choice. Talk to a radio expert who can explore your target audience, your products, and uncover the right fit if there is one. It's not just about demographics, it's about the behaviors of the audience. It's about stacking the deck in your favor to put you in the best position possible to make a great return on your investment.


Want to learn more about radio advertising pricing in Calgary? Reach out to us and we can explore some starting points according to your business and who you need to reach, and offer some options for a "good, better, and best" campaign that may reach your audience and bring your business more sales opportunities.

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