As evidence piles up that the digital ad market has become too fragmented and complex, are advertisers and agencies missing a prime arbitrage opportunity when it comes to radio? According to Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey, it looks like radio may finally be heating back up along with the housing market. “We’ve started to see a much greater buzz for the medium… It’s a terrific value for advertisers and they are starting to realize that.” says Dickey.

With Cumulus up 4% over Q4 2012 (politicals excluded) he may be onto something.

Although radio still reaches 94% of all adults 12-plus across the country, as an advertising platform it hit a snag with marketers in the early 2000s, losing attention and money to digital. This drop in dollars led to apathetic marketing and overly-safe DR ruled the airwaves. But now, according to Ad Age, radio is experiencing a renaissance. “We’ve managed to largely ignore a traditional medium that’s becoming increasingly sophisticated right under our noses. Radio has also evolved a lot to compete with digital platforms like Pandora and iTunes,” says Benjamin Palmer, co-founder and CEO of The Barbarian Group.

According to, radio’s quiet sophistication has resulted in the ability to “insert trackable phone numbers into your radio ads…tie back calls (and the revenue they generate) to specific ads, radio stations, markets, and even times of day. If you advertise on SiriusXM, you can also get the benefit of displaying that phone number on the LED panel of the satellite radio, making it easy to see and call.”

Radio is a dynamic medium that not only drives phone calls and website traffic but provides a platform for delivering engaging and entertaining content to a captive audience. Given the rise in complex digital campaigns, radio is produced affordably and campaign messaging can be quickly adjusted and tested against competing creative. According to Ad Age, “While digital agencies have been focused on capturing the essence of every emerging platform, we may be missing opportunities to combine new platforms with existing ones.” With radio’s growth into “radio-like” services such as Pandora, Spotify and iHeart Radio, combining radio with emerging digital technology is where the channel is headed.

For our agency, that moment has already arrived.

At Wingman, our roots are in radio. For the majority of our clients, we’ve been able to take advantage of radio as an undervalued medium to deliver surprisingly valuable cost-per-action results. Most importantly, we’ve continued to accumulate hard statistical evidence for the cliché that no media channel operates in a vacuum. We’ve seen our radio campaigns lift clients’ branded search traffic by as much as 200%. Given this “rising-tide” effect, our standard practice is to combine each of our radio campaigns with an accompanying digital experience. This educates a consumer who has jumped into the consideration cycle via radio and also converts this radio-originated prospect once she’s ready to become a customer.

Ten years ago, digital looked like it was going to kill off radio as a viable medium. Today, the radio/online one-two punch has proved that radio not only still has significant value as an advertising channel, but could be poised for growth over the next decade as well.

Don’t touch that dial, er, app button.