Senior Living Advertising: Can Radio Work?

We’ve been covering a lot of ground with senior living advertising lately, including the following:

Now, let’s address a common question we receive from clients: Is there still a place for radio in senior living advertising?

Let’s dig in.

First, do people still listen to AM/FM radio?

Short answer: YES. Given all the ways for people to while away their hours online, it might be surprising to learn that more Americans tune to AM/FM radio each week than any other format, but it’s true, according to Nielsen. News/talk radio tends to be the most listened to format (followed by adult contemporary and country).

Statista reports, “In the first quarter of 2019, 92 percent of adults listened to the radio at least once a week” and that the “reach was highest among 35- to 49-year-olds and those aged between 50 and 64 years.” In fact, according to News Generation, 91% of adults 50+ are reached monthly by radio.

But it’s not just terrestrial radio that people are listening to. Internet radio and podcasts are growing in popularity as well.

OK, so Internet radio is a thing, too?

Yep. Marketing Charts reports that “In 2020, a majority (52%) of adults in the US reported listening to Internet radio at least weekly, up from 47.7% a year earlier.”

Marketing Charts goes on to note that “Although the bulk of internet radio listeners are younger, with those ages 18-24 being 17% more likely than average to listen to this form of media, the share of older people listening has grown. Cumulatively, adults ages 45 and older make up 48.6% of the total weekly internet radio listening audience.”

So you’re saying that it makes sense to advertise on the radio?

Not so fast! The above simply provides some insight regarding listenership. Yes, people are still listening to the radio, both AM/FM and online versions. But does that mean radio advertising works?

Like so many things in life, it depends. It depends on the stations you run ads on, the ads themselves, your goals, and your budget. For example, you can’t run a radio spot once and expect it to instantly convert listeners into buyers.

Effective radio advertising tends to be a marathon, not a sprint. And the adage about people needing to see or hear an advertisement at least seven times before it starts registering still holds true.

That’s why radio advertisers buy “flights” of radio spots that run in a concentrated period (like six to eight weeks) over various times of day. The repetition is critical to getting your message to sink in. Bigger brands might buy several flights throughout the year. (Some brands with deeper wallets might advertise year-round.) In these cases, radio is often used to increase name recognition/brand exposure.

All that said, for small businesses, radio can deliver a good bang for your marketing buck. The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) notes, “Radio advertising is less expensive than cable television advertising but often has the same reach. Because repetition is important to radio advertising, the low cost enables you to run multiple ads, which gets better results.”

The SBA also notes that it’s easier to get granular when it comes to targeting certain listeners: “Radio stations are constantly examining their listener profiles to see which demographic groups listen to specific shows, personalities and times of day.”

Speaking of money, how much does radio advertising cost?

This can vary widely depending on things like . . .

  • Location of the station (a Boston radio station will cost more than a Cape Cod station)
  • The daypart you advertise in (morning drive costs more than the middle of the night)
  • Spot length (30-second vs. 60-second spots)
  • Production costs (some stations include this, but if you hire a voice-over talent, this will be an additional amount)
  • Bundled-in elements (for example, if you add in digital ads on the radio station’s website or some other sponsorship)

Here’s an excellent article that takes a deep dive into radio advertising pricing. For a ballpark figure, it says, “Radio advertising costs range from $200 to $5,000 per week, on average, depending on location and the size of the listening audience.”

How should a senior living community approach radio advertising?

Follow these tips to help you get the most out of senior living advertising on the radio.

Choose stations wisely. You’re not going to advertise your senior living community on a hip-hop station. Stick to formats that cater to older demographics, like news/talk, adult contemporary, and country. Pay attention to where your competitors are advertising.

Keep your main buyer personas in mind. We’re talking about the two “main” buckets: seniors choosing for themselves (or a partner/spouse) or adult children helping their parents. If you want to reach both personas, you might end up running ads on different stations—and the ads themselves should be different since you’re talking to two very different audiences with different needs/goals.

Use website URLs rather than phone numbers in the ad copy. The benefit of using a URL rather than a phone number is two-fold: First, a URL is easier to remember. Second, a website URL will likely have your community’s name in it, which helps reinforce your brand name.

Provide the station with a creative brief. We can’t stress this enough. Radio station producers can quickly put together a radio spot based on your senior living website. And it will probably be OK. But you know your audience and goals better than anyone. So it makes sense for you to provide a creative brief that outlines the following:

  • A basic snapshot of your community: Where it is, who it services, what makes it special/different.
  • The most important copy points you want to convey in the spot. Think no more than five (and even that might be pushing it, depending on the length of the spot). Think in terms of themes. For example, maybe you have a spot that highlights the amenities that make you special.
  • The vibe you’re trying to get across. The ad that speaks to an adult child moving mom into assisted living should have a different feel from the ad geared toward the active senior you want to welcome into your independent living community.
  • The goal of the spot. Is your goal to get people to book a tour? Download a specific piece of content, like a guide? Increase name recognition? Create distance between a competitor? Invite people to attend an info session or some other senior living marketing event?

Make sure the copy is ultra-conversational. Make it sound warm and friendly. Radio stations will usually take care of the copywriting for you, but you should approve all scripts. If you’re not happy with the copy, you could always hire a freelance radio ad writer to draft some scripts (this will be an additional cost). Or if you work with a marketing agency like Senior Living SMART, you can have one of our writers draft a script.

Encourage people to mention your ad. Radio spots can be a little trickier to measure. Within the ad itself, consider adding in a line like “Mention this ad when you book a tour.” Or you could create an ad-specific landing page. The key is making sure the URL doesn’t become cumbersome. Something like “” could work.

  • On your website forms, add a drop-down that says, “How’d you hear about us?” The choices should include all the various ways people might learn about your community: social media, search engines, word of mouth, radio advertising, direct mail, online ad, or other.

Take advantage of value-added offers. Many radio stations bundle in other advertising options with your buy, such as running ads on the station’s website, running ads/features in email newsletters, social media marketing, and mobile marketing. Take advantage! This could be a great way to experiment with vehicles you don’t normally use, like text messaging. Pay attention to the copy/creative of these additional items. And remember to use unique tracking URLs in all digital ads so you can measure their effectiveness.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Over-the-air ad revenue took a big hit during the pandemic. Digital ad revenue took less of a hit. And while ad spending is most definitely picking up, the bottom line is this: There is a lot of room for negotiation. So don’t be afraid to negotiate or to ask for added value.

Monitor results. In order to gauge whether you’re getting a good return on investment (ROI), you must know the lifetime value of your customer. For example, let’s say the lifetime value of a customer is $100,000. If your $30,000 radio campaign results in twenty leads and two customers, you can do the math. This would be money well spent. But your mileage can and will vary. Let the numbers guide your decision-making.

Need more help with your senior living advertising? You’re in the right place.

Our team is passionate about senior living, and our team members have expertise in all areas of marketing, including advertising (both traditional and pay-per-click). Request a meeting and let’s discuss your community’s specific needs.

BONUS TIP: Work with us to manage your senior living advertising.

Our team members have expertise in all areas of marketing, including advertising (both traditional and pay-per-click). Request a meeting and let’s discuss your community’s specific needs.