A Career-Long Lesson
December 9, 2014
I grew up in small-market radio on an AM day-timer (we went off the air at sunset each day) and it was at this early stage that I learned a career-long lesson ... if you control the creative, you control the client relationship. That held true as I moved from small to medium, then medium/large markets. Once I got to what is considered a major market (top 25), the correct creative message seemed to give way to "just get the buy" and move on to the next one. There was enough low-hanging fruit (clients) in large markets that you could just sell another one. You didn't have to worry if your campaign didn't work for the last one because there was always another one.
Forty years after I started in this business, "creative" and "fixing the ad problem" is amazingly a hot topic of conversation at conventions, in trade magazines and Radio-Heads' speeches -- as if it's a new problem to be dealt with. Every conference is filled with meetings and group talk about how important "fixing the ad problem" is. Today, I own a research company with my business partner Neil Gallagher (ResearchWorks.info) that specializes in identifying product benefits, message effectiveness and optimum frequency distribution of the ad schedule. The tools to address this much-discussed issue are affordable and readily available. Radio however, has been reluctant to act.
Why is no one attacking the ad issue in radio?
Could it be no one really cares as much as the discussion might indicate (it would delay the buying process and closing business is more important), or could it be that everyone is afraid to do the work (great creative and great user research could cost money and there is none) -- or both? Then there is the fact that the research might show this great creative is, in fact, not that great after all and surely, no one wants to call someone's baby ugly. That's a completely new set of relationship problems that can be avoided by simply not doing anything.
That's where we are today. Stack the spots, eight minutes or more at a time, and give away your stream or website to get the buy. In the meantime, digital is the pretty girl at the dance and siphoning off radio's former revenue with new ideas and a fresh approach while radio stands pat selling spots.
As the RAB says on its website, when it comes down to it, three primary variables determine the effectiveness of a media campaign:
- The appropriateness of the station or programs
- The schedule (impact, domination and frequency)
- The message (compelling copy/presentation that sells)
If the station or program does not reach a desired potential clientele, chances are the schedule or message will not matter. If the schedule is not designed for impact, domination and frequency, the message will not be heard enough to make a meaningful difference. Finally, if the commercial message does not influence buying behavior, the campaign will not succeed. (Source: Michael Guld, Pres. of the Guld Resource Group)
Bottom line: There is no low-hanging fruit, the market is flush with inventory -- and that inventory is being marked down faster than Christmas decorations on Dec 26th.
What should stations be doing?
Think different. Act different. Employ tools no one else has. Have fewer clients and the clients you have should love you. If they love you they will spend more; there will be less "churn" because they see the value and advantage you and your stations provide in connecting their product or service -- in a relevant way -- to your unique audience. They will feel the R.O.I. at the register.
There are tools that can give you the relationship advantage (control the creative and you control the client relationship) if you're willing to do the work. We know; we do it for a living. That's our career-long lesson.