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Advertising in Philadelphia: The Radio Century

Aug 20, 2020 7:02:00 AM / by Larry Julius

Philadelphia radio reaches more Delaware Valley adults every week than any other medium. During a typical seven-day period, according to Nielsen, 3.5 million local consumers tune-in to their favorite AM and FM stations. This is significantly more than those who watch broadcast television, subscribe to pay-TV, browse social media, read a newspaper, or stream music from Pandora and Spotify.

Radio's omnipresence in the life of Philadelphia consumers is remarkable considering today is the medium's 100th birthday.

Advertising In Philadelphia Consumer Media Reach 2020

On this day in 1920, radio 8MK in Detroit (now WWJ) began broadcasting. The station was operated by the local newspaper and billed itself as "Detroit News Radiophone."  The first programming consisted mainly of music from phonograph records interspersed with news announcements.

Within a few weeks of the inaugural broadcast, 8MK was airing live election results as well as play-by-play coverage of that year's World Series contest between the Cleveland Indians and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

On November 2, 1920, 8MK was joined on the air by a new radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The station was owned by Westinghouse Electric Company. Both stations that evening would provide live results of that day's presidential contest between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox.Advertise In Philadelphia

Local radio came to Philadelphia on February 8, 1922, when The Bureau of Navigation, Radio Services Division, of the United States Department of Commerce granted a license to station WGL. This station was the 42nd to be licensed in the county. 

Little is known about WGL except it was owned by Thomas Howlett who broadcast from home at 2303 North Broad Street near Temple University.

In March of 1922, however, the second radio license in Philadelphia was awarded to WIP owned by the Gimbel Brothers Department Store. Early programming included remote-broadcasts of live  music featuring Charlie Kerr and his orchestra from the Cafe L’Aiglon at 15th and Chestnut Streets.  

On Thanksgiving Day, 1922, WIP broadcast a football game between The University of Pennsylvania and Cornell from Franklin Field. This is thought to be the first-ever broadcast of its kind. 

Other notable radio stations that signed-on during 1922 included WFI, owned by Strawbridge & Clothier's department store; John Wanamaker's WOO; and WCAU. 

Advertising on Philadelphia Radio 100 yearsMost of these first radio broadcasters were pioneers aimlessly wandering through the electronic universe in search of a sustainable business plan. The path forward became evident on August 28, 1922.

At about 5:00 p.m. that day, radio station WEAF in New York (later to become WNBC) broadcast the first-ever radio commercial. The advertiser was the Queensboro Corporation. The company purchased 10 minutes of time for $50 to promote its apartment complex in Jackson Heights.

This first commercial worked so well that Queensboro renewed for more. Perhaps the ultimate testament to the power of radio advertising is the fact that the apartment complex still exists and is thriving, says the New York Times.

Early broadcasts could only be heard in people's homes using DIY radio sets. These were replaced in the mid 1920s with massive, furniture-sized receivers. In 1930, however, radio became the original mobile device.

The first car radios were built by the Galvin Manufacturing Company of Chicago. They named their invention, and eventually their company, Motorola. The first dashboard units cost $130 or $1300 in 2020 dollars.

Today, more than 3,500,000 car radios fill the ears of Delaware Valley drivers with music, news, sports, and information. Despite an abundance of dashboard options, however, consumers still prefer listening to local radio when they hit the streets.

Advertising On Philadelphia Radio In-Car Listening

For nearly a century, local small business owners have depended on Philadelphia radio to market their goods and services. By every key advertising metric, the medium remains the best way to advertise.

Over the past few years, Nielsen has conducted more than 20 studies to determine what type of return-on-investment (ROI) a business owner can expect from radio advertising.  Although the results varied by industry, the average company generated $100 in sales for every $10 invested.

The chart below shows the range of returns from each study.

Advertising On Philadelphia Radio Return On Investment

AdAge, a trade magazine for advertising professionals, calls these types of return "eye-popping".  The magazine goes on to say radio's ROI is superior to commercials on TV, online, and social media.

When presented with this ROI data, marketing expert Doug Schoen wrote in Forbes, "The implications of results like these are profound for the communications and advertising industries and as a marketing professional with over 35 years of experience, I found this data nothing short of fascinating. It’s quite clear that we should all be paying more attention to radio, its reach and potential to help our businesses. It’s doing the job with expert efficiency."

More Advertising Advice For Philadelphia Small Business Owners

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Topics: Best Way To Advertise, Effective Radio Commercials, roi, return on investment, best time to advertise, radio advertising, reach, reach and frequency, advertise on radio, radio commercials, radio history

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