Radio advertising lends you the consumer’s ear, allowing you to produce targeted spots that can be broadcast over and over again.

Indeed, radio ads can effectively deliver your brand’s message, promoting your product or service in a memorable and compelling way. Whether you use comedy, testimonials from your customers or music to capture your audience, you have the listener’s ear and an opportunity to market your business.

If you’re considering radio advertising, in this post we’ll dive into how much you can expect to pay for radio ads.

What’s the Average Cost of Radio Advertising?

The cost to advertise on radio stations isn’t as cut and dry as one might expect. It isn’t calculated based on the time spent on air at a fixed rate, but at a rate based on the value of the airtime.

The airtime’s value is determined by its reach (how many people are listening in) as well as audience demographics, the average age of listeners and the estimated income of the main audience base. An equation is used to calculate the cost based more quantitatively based on these factors.

Radio Ad Cost Equation

As with pretty much any product or service out there, radio advertising costs are based on supply and demand. The cost per each radio ad (each “spot,” as it’s called), is generally determined by this equation:

Cost = Number of Listeners X Cost to Reach 1,000 Listeners

Why do many radio stations charge per spot? Because the reach of a radio ad is not just based on the number of listeners and cost to reach them, but also based on the time of day (or night) when the ad is aired. This can vastly affect the number of listeners and listener demographics.

Not all radio stations charge per spot, however. When they charge based on another metric, however, you can always use this equation to check the pricing they are proposing so you know what it comes down to per ad.

Sample Costs by City

To give you an idea of the kind of local radio advertising costs you could be looking at, here’s a look at the cost per 30-second radio ad in 5 different cities.


CityCost per 30-second radio ad
Portland, Ore.$141
San Antonio$81
Salt Lake City$99

Factors Affecting Costs

Ad Frequency

Ad frequency is the number of times a person will hear the ad in a given period (typically a week). Radio ad stations want you to run your ads frequently, so they tend to provide bundle deals, whereby you can save more money by buying a higher frequency of ad airtime.

You can capitalize on this by running one ad at a high frequency per week at one radio station, while running a different ad altogether at a high frequency, too, at another radio station offering a similar high-frequency discount on a first-time ad. This way, each group that listens at each station gets a memorable impression of your message that is repeated to them for better retention.

Time of Day Aired

Do more audience members tune in at night or do more tune in during the day? It depends on the radio station and it will affect the price you pay. If the station gets more listeners in the day, airing daytime ads will cost more, and airing nighttime ads will cost less.

After looking more closely at a radio station’s listener demographics and timing, and then weighing your return on investment (ROI) outcomes, you can decide whether daytime or nighttime is right for you.

Competition and demand can easily play a role in the cost of radio advertising. 

Competition, Demand and Negotiation

Besides cut-and-dry factors such as ad frequency and number of listeners, nonmetric factors such as amount of competition and demand can easily play a role in the cost of radio advertising.

Many radio stations have more demand for radio ads than they have airtime to serve. These stations will raise their ad rates to meet increased demand.

You could try negotiating with the station: It might land you a discount. However, expect to pay a premium if demand is high.

Combining Reach and Frequency for the Best ROI on Radio Ads

How do you find the sweet spot that can help you get the best ROI from your radio advertising efforts?

You’ll want to target the right reach, which means choosing the busiest time when the station gets the most traffic. In combination, you want to run the ads at the right frequency for the highest ROI.

If there’s a very high amount of traffic, you might go for a slightly lower frequency to get the best value. Or, if there’s just an average amount of traffic even at peak times, you can go for a higher frequency for the maximum value and hence the highest possible ROIs with radio advertising.

How to Get the Best Price (and Value) for Your Radio Ads

Of course, cost isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to radio advertising. You’ll want to look at the value your ad will bring in, measured by its ROI. This will depend on how strategically your ad campaign was planned and executed based on the factors that matter, such as:

  •  The time of day
  • The frequency of airtime
  • The radio station on which it aired

You don’t want to just focus on obtaining the best price for radio ads, because that simply means you won’t get as much back.

You get what you pay for in radio advertising, much like other forms of marketing, such as online ads. By putting more into it by paying for busier airtimes and higher air frequencies, you end up generating more business from your radio advertising.

How much does it cost to advertise on the radio? There are various factors to consider. 

Radio Advertising Best Practices

To ensure you get the most out of your radio advertising campaign, make sure you follow the best practices for running ad campaigns that succeed. Here are a few tips:

Set Goals for Each Ad Campaign

Don’t start working on a radio ad campaign without having a goal for what you want it to accomplish.

Ideally, you’ll want to generate estimates or predictions from actual numbers that demonstrate ROI from your radio ad campaign. Set your ROI goal accordingly. Knowing this, you can determine the budget required to reach set goals with your radio ad campaign.

Hone Your Brand’s Voice and Message

What is the message you want to put out with your radio ad, and how do you want your brand’s voice conveyed?

Whether you end up working with a professional ad agency to have your ad made or you make it in-house, you need to first decide a few foundational details about the ad. What specific audience is it targeting? What is the primary call to action of the ad? To buy something? Is it to sign up or subscribe for something? Make sure it’s clear.

Work With a Professional Ad Agency

It’s always a good idea to outsource your ad to professionals who specialize in promptly delivering high-quality, attention-drawing radio ads that work to generate business.

Why hire professionals instead of doing it yourself? While you may feel like you can wear many hats or that your business is staffed with jack-of-all-trade types, you simply don’t have the same experience as a professional ad agency in creating radio ads that work.

If you want the best ROI for your spot, make sure your ad is professional-grade so it will pay off. Make sure you do your homework and research the ad agency you choose to work with, to ensure they have the experience that demonstrates the value they can bring you.

Research Local Radio Stations

Don’t just put your radio ad anywhere. Optimize your ROI by running radio ads only on radio stations with listeners in your target audience.

Have your team gather data on listener demographics and do research when and where you’ll find your target audience.

Many stations describe their demographics on their website, such as San Antonio radio station 99.5 KISS. If not, call the station and ask.

Bottom Line: How Much Does Radio Advertising Cost?

How much you can expect to pay to run a radio ad depends mainly on:

  • How frequently you want it to run
  • Whether you want it to run at a peak time
  • The number of people listening to the station

In general, there’s no way to cut corners when it comes to radio advertising. That said, expect to get the most out of radio advertising when you pay for more expensive spots. They’re heard by more listeners and can generate more potential business from a more lucrative demographic.