- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

February is a “sweeps” month for TV stations, and with the push for viewers being on, radio is reaping the advertising rewards. WTTG-TV (Channel 5) is leading the charge, spreading its ad dollars around 18 local radio stations.

It doesn’t matter whether you listen to talk radio on WJFK-FM (106.7), the news on WTOP (103.5 FM or 820 AM), or the mix of talk and urban beats on WPGC-FM (95.5), you have probably heard ads this month for local TV stations touting popular network shows and their newscasts.

During the 5 p.m. hour one day last week, commercials for both WUSA-TV (Channel 9) and WRC-TV (Channel 4) were played on CBS Radio-owned WJFK, which also runs spots for WTTG and WJLA-TV (Channel 7).

WTTG concentrates the bulk of its radio ad spending on sweeps months and on show launches, said Jim Ladas, vice president of creative services at the Fox station.

Compared with WTTG’s 18, representatives from both WJLA and Gannett-owned WUSA said they buy commercials on about 12 local radio stations. WRC has about eight to 12 stations per radio ad buy, said a spokesman for the NBC station.

With all that airplay on all those stations, does WTTG worry that its ads will be played next to a competitor’s commercial?

“The most we can hope is that we’re not placed adjacent to another station,” Mr. Ladas said. “We want some separation when we’re airing,” but there’s no guarantee.

And that’s the way it should be, because TV stations often air back-to-back ads from different companies in the same industry, said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, a trade publication.

“TV is not in much of a position to tell radio where it wants its advertising unless it’s willing to pay for it,” he said.

Allbritton-owned WJLA is running ads on WPGC, another CBS radio station, and on Bonneville’s WTOP, the main radio competition for local TV news.

Last year every local TV station except WRC bought ads on WTOP, said Matt Mills, director of sales for Bonneville’s D.C. radio stations.

WJLA bought the most airtime on WTOP last year, running most of its ads during sweeps in February, May and November. WTTG and WUSA also advertised last year, but have not signed up this year, he said.

A 60-second ad during morning drive hours costs about $1,500, roughly $500 more than a similar spot during WTOP’s afternoon drive, he said.

“Radio is a targeted, niche medium,” Mr. Harrison said. “TV stations can supplement their exposure by putting their ads on radio stations for newscasts or a specific show, and it’s very economical by TV standards.”

Mr. Ladas said WTTG places ads on radio programs that attract the same audience as the program it’s promoting, whether an action-filled drama like “24” or the karaoke hit “American Idol.” In addition to buying spots on CBS- and Bonneville-owned radio stations, WTTG runs ads on Clear Channel offerings, including country music stop WMZQ-FM (98.7).

“We try to go with stations that tend to lean toward the adult listener and news viewers,” said Darryll Green, president of WUSA, a CBS affiliate. He refused to name the stations.

Stan Melton Jr., director of creative services at WJLA, said the ABC affiliate runs more ads on local radio stations and cable providers during sweeps months when the network and syndicators provide extra funding.

“In radio, the aim is to reach as far as we can,” he said.

But Fox stations tend to get the most radio ad money in many markets so “it’s tough to get away from them,” Mr. Melton said.

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