Targeting And Treatment - Two Lessons For Radio From The UK's Election
April 7, 2015
We're in the middle of an election here in the UK. In May, all of us - well, some of us - will go out and vote. We each vote for our local Member of Parliament, and the party with the most amount of seats ends up running the country, with the party leader becoming Prime Minister. Its one vote, and we do it roughly every five years or so.
Unlike in the US, it's against the law for political parties to buy advertising on the radio (or TV). It's also against the law for broadcasters to be biased in any way. During an election period, the amount of coverage each major party gets will be timed with a stopwatch, and measured carefully in terms of sentiment. If any broadcaster shows any sign of bias, they're operating against the law.
On the TV, broadcasters try to get TV debates between the leaders. They deliver good audiences, though coverage is normally shared between the broadcasters (more arcane rules) and the politicians normally try to wheedle their way out of them. This time we'll have just one leaders' debate. It was two hours long, and last week; and was 'owned' by ITV, the big commercial television broadcaster. As such, it contained an ad break - just one - which was just before 9.00pm.
In that ad break, an ad ran for voter registration - you can only vote if you've registered. It linked to a government website, and you can see the statistics of the site. The site usage changed, suddenly, from about 1,600 people to over 10,000.
Listening to some radio advertising, sometimes I wonder whether they've considered the station they're advertising on, or the message they're giving. If the message is targeted and carefully crafted, it can do amazing things for advertisers. For this kind of advertising, the advertiser can easily tell, too, because the stats don't lie.
Are we helping advertisers target their messages correctly, and giving them this kind of data to show them how well our advertising is working?
Meanwhile, music radio covers the election too, and occasionally, they get the political stories as well. Eager to come over as real people, the party leaders will sometimes accept an invitation to be on music stations too; and so it was that Ed Milliband, the leader of the opposition, did an interview with Absolute Radio's Geoff Lloyd. Geoff's a good and funny broadcaster, and Ed Milliband came over as much more human than he's ever managed to in previous interviews on news channels.
You can watch it, in full, on YouTube.
Two things I'd like to highlight from this YouTube clip: First, it isn't in a radio studio; and second, it doesn't have big microphones, massive headphones, and all the other paraphernalia from radio clips. The station put it in a decent-looking (if cheap) set; used lapel mics for a better video; and filmed it properly. It was radio with a TV treatment. The sight lines for the cameras are great, rather than peering over the top of a mixing board. Geoff and Ed were talking to each other, not talking into microphones. It looked great, as well as sounded great: and the resulting video has been watched over 140,000 times.
Sometimes in radio we think of the studio, the big mikes, the headphones, and everything else as an integral part of the experience. At the end of the day, they aren't. The integral part is the content. This video's a great reminder of that.