What Radio Can Learn From The Super Bowl: Ineffective Commercials Are Costing Us A Lot of Money!
January 14, 2014
...and the six keys to money-making effective commercials for radio.
A study from research firm Communicus, highlighted by AdAge, found that 80% of Super Bowl ads fail to increase sales of their product, mostly because companies get too creative for their own good. That's irrational because the one thing every advertiser wants is results.
The opportunity for radio today is that our promise to clients must be to provide excellent results for their advertising expenditure. However, even the best of radio commercials, just like Super Bowl ads, simply don't deliver the results that clients expect today.
Our company works with radio stations on behalf of their clients to test the effectiveness of their radio commercials and deliver a strategy for their dramatic improvement. We have found that most radio commercials, even the good ones that people remember, are simply not well received by listeners – resulting in them being ineffective. That may not surprise most readers, but the consequence of this is devastating for the radio business. Without the competitive edge for radio of being the best medium to deliver results for advertisers, other more sexy media usually attract today's advertising dollars.
A station may have excellent writers and producers who create very good commercials. However, commercials will deliver much better results for the client with feedback from their target customers – just as program directors discovered what listeners think of each of their songs they play using professional music research - and changed radio programming forever. Radio stations today must analyze their commercials to ensure the proper message is delivered with the proper frequency to stand out from today's crowded sea of media choices.
Here the six main problems with radio commercials we typically see in research for our clients and a simple solution for each.
1) Most radio commercials are not well liked
Most are either perceived as being confusing, silly, banal or simply unclear about their core message. Whatever the reason, they generally test low in "likeability" scores. Why is this important? It's like going out on a date with an obnoxious but very beautiful partner ... they look good but you really don't like them because they are not a good person. It doesn't make for a successful relationship.
So first, commercials must be liked by listeners to be effective.
2) Most commercial messages are not clearly understood
Clarity is the key attribute for a radio commercial. Only research can reveal what the commercial says to listeners and it's our experience that, for many reasons, the message sent out by a commercial isn't the one received by the listener.
Commercials must convey the client's message very clearly to be effective.
3) There are too many messages in each commercial
Advertisers can only get one message through at a time – if they are lucky. Listeners are inundated with thousands of commercial messages every day. People's Reticular Activating System is their 'social secretary" that cuts out all those messages and only allows certain ones to get through. Think about the way you drove down a busy commercial street the last time. You probably remember few, if any, of the businesses you passed - and there were probably hundreds of them. The ones you do remember have one thing that is of relevance to you; the rest are simply ignored. That's your Reticular Activating System at work.
Commercials must contain only one clearly understood message to be effective.
4) The messages listeners receive from most radio commercials are not relevant
At least not relevant enough to them to capture their attention. To bypass their Reticular Activating System, a commercial must have something of relevance to listeners. Moreover, the thing that is of relevance to them must meet three criteria: It must have a direct benefit to them; it must be credible to them and it must be different from other competitive offerings – if not the message becomes just another piece of useless information and is discarded. It's a cruel world when it comes to marketing.
Commercials must contain messages that are truly relevant to the listener to be effective -- and you can only get this information from target listeners themselves.
5) Commercials promote the wrong features
The other problem we see with radio commercials' effectiveness is clients' messages often promote the wrong selling proposition. Take, for example, a family restaurant chain we observed: Research showed that customers wanted a "wide selection of delicious food in a clean environment" from them. At the same time, industry research provided by the customer showed that the most important attributes for a family restaurant should be "good food, delivered fast at a low price." However, because others already owned that position in the minds of the target customers (hello, McDonalds, Wendy's, Burger King, etc.), if that message was what the client actually promoted, their commercial would not have been effective.
Commercials must promote benefits the listeners' desire and believe to be true to be effective - not merely what the client thinks customers desire or worse, what they want to "push."
6) The commercial's media campaign is inefficient
We have become conditioned to ensuring a commercial should get at least three repetitions to be effective. That's true, but unless you perform a frequency distribution analysis for the campaign, commercials probably are getting too much frequency or too little frequency to be effective for the client. That's because stations generally look at the average frequency a campaign delivers - not the effective frequency a campaign delivers. When our company does a frequency distribution analysis for campaigns, usually we can improve the effective reach, often substantially, over the original schedule planned.
Do not confuse average frequency with effective frequency when designing your media campaigns for clients.
Act on these six points and your station's commercials will be much more effective for your clients. This is not just altruism: your station benefits as well. Bad commercials are one of the top reasons for tuning out a radio station, so it will help your programming by providing relevant content for your listeners. In today's market, it's also vital to test and improve the effectiveness of commercials so your radio station will be much more effective for clients and you will stand out from others in today's wide sea of media options. Finally, testing and improving the effectiveness of your commercials will become a valuable point of difference in managing relationships with your customers and provide your station much more additional business for years to come.