Advertising avoidance may be lower on radio than is often assumed, according to a study focused on Canada that was published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Aaron Michelon, Steven Bellman, Margaret Faulkner, Justin Cohen and Johan Bruwer, all from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, addressed this topic in A new benchmark for mechanical avoidance of radio advertising: Why radio advertising is a sound investment.

The idea of “mechanical avoidance” involves audience members taking actions like switching to another station or turning off the radio in preference to listening to commercial messages.

“Overall, mechanical avoidance generally was low, with an average of 3 percent across the day,” the authors wrote in their paper.

That insight runs counter to widespread assumptions in the industry. “Many advertisers have believed as much as one-third of the audience switch stations during radio-advertising breaks,” they added.

Such a finding was drawn from 800 panel members from Vancouver, each using portable people-meters to track their behaviour while listening to the radio.

More specifically, the analysis spanned over 2.9m programming minutes, as well as 534,071 advertising minutes and 841,003 separate commercials.

Another insight from the research: “Talk stations had lower mechanical avoidance than music stations, because advertising (which often includes talking) has a greater audio contrast with music content,” the authors wrote.

Mechanical avoidance was also higher out of home, the authors discovered – “most likely because of the more accessible controls on radio devices out of home, such as in the car and on the move”.

Both these learnings replicated those of previous studies – but a “new discovery” involved the impact of light listeners on ad avoidance.

“Light listeners listen for shorter times than medium and heavy listeners, so they constantly are entering and leaving the audience,” the scholars wrote.

The stronger presence of this cohort during breakfast and daytime listening meant that advertising avoidance was higher during these periods.

“One reason for the high turnover of light listeners is that most radio listening is done while driving, and the turn-on and turn-off actions likely signify the beginning and ending of travel instead of advertising avoidance,” the authors wrote.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff