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Radio Advertising – Back to the 80s

radioThis rant was prompted by a recent blog from Seth Godin in the US. Seth is one of the world’s top marketing gurus and published author with a huge following. To quote: “There are just a few radio stations in each market……. Scarcity of spectrum, inflexible consumption (listen now or it’s gone forever)…”  (read more)

The listen and it’s gone forever summed it up for me. This is the issue with radio advertising. You’ve got to capture the audience attention and close the deal in an instant. It’s an almost impossible task, confirmed by small business owners I know that have spent a fortune in radio ads over the years, with almost nothing to show for it.

As mentioned in earlier, somewhat similar articles on traditional yellow pages advertising, the reason radio survives at all, could be the fact they have a skilled team of telemarketers or sales reps pushing it. If Radio, Yellow pages or printed classifieds were based upon actual sales results for their customers, they’re be dead in the water….

conservativeThe other thing that helps radio (and Yellow) survive is that business owners, large and small, are inherently very slow to change their ways. In many markets much slower and more conservative than their own consumers who are often more online and mobile ‘savvy’.  Put simply, just because their existing radio ads aren’t actually working, does not mean they are looking to change things. Their internal business systems, people and processes are there to maintain the status quo. (There’s ample evidence of this sad fact across society – It’s our ‘fear of change’ at work).

Just show me the numbers!

Radio sales reps also spout out the numbers and stats just like eager Yellow pages reps. They mention these huge figures off some ten-year-old survey which sounds comforting, coming to the belief that there’s huge numbers of ‘listeners’ out there today, eagerly waiting for the next commercial ad break. Yeah, right…

But Radio will survive, in spite of itself

adspendA recent analysis in the US has it that radio advertising, in spite of it’s ineffectiveness in terms of results, will continue to stay around 10% of media spend over the next few years. Local studies reveal similar trends here (read more)

Although sales skills and relationships are major factors, I think there’s also a ‘feel good’ factor here too for the paying advertiser and business owner. Just hearing their ad on air gives them a psychological boost. – We all like to hear about ourselves, right? And therefore happy to pay for it each month. It’s somehow ‘classier’ than print ads.

But the problem with radio as Seth mentioned, aside from the fact that it’s intrusive ‘push advertising’ that most consumers hate, is that for the listener, the message is fleeting.

Unless the individual has that exact need, the moment they just happen to be listening, it’s gone. Few will make a note of it for future reference. Some will think, that’s okay, I’ll Google it when I get home. But because the advertiser has no cross-channel marketing strategy in place, little useful comes up in a search result. (see page ref links for these tricks)

The worst, lease effective radio ads are those where the call to action is vague and/or hard to recall. Most seem to rely upon providing a phone number, which few people will remember or write down.

Certainly there are several things radio ad creatives could do to help, like sending clients to an easily remembered website address. Perhaps a directory off their own radio website would help if the client has no website or can’t easily alter it.

This, somewhat ironically, would also help the stations online profile and ad income stream.

Better still, have them use mobile text messaging to make the contact and have a record of the event. e.g. The radio ad could include “Text TOYS to 456 on your mobile for more details and chance to go into a prize draw” The text messaging system would automatically respond, sending through added information or website links at minimal cost. That link could theoretically go straight to the advertisers online store to purchase immediately via mobile, or capture their email address or Facebook details. The advertiser would also now have the customers phone number, from the initial contact, allowing instant follow-up. This is interactive advertising (and selling) at its best.

Sorry Small Business Owner – The old school ways win out

But these little tricks certainly won’t be covered or suggested by the ‘old-school’ radio sales rep or station manager. Like others who work in the agency, design or print sector, aside from the old telephone number, they dislike including other competing media channels as part of any client promotion. These third party ‘extras’ around the web and mobile would certainly boost end results and leads, but are also perceived as unnecessary ‘impediments’ to closing the ad sale (i.e. it’s a harder sell), needlessly delaying the reps sales commission.

phoneOn top of this, it’s all part of the established ad provider strategy. If you’re hooking up a client, make sure you get as much of his/her annual ad budget as possible. Make sure they don’t share it with someone else, especially another competing (often lower cost), media channel.

What may be good business for the client, is often not for the radio station, Yellow pages, newspaper or magazine publisher. This self-serving attitude will ensure that print, radio, TV and general advertising strategies will remain locked into the 80s for many years to come – A time when costly promotions were proudly displayed (or said), and the customer expected to pick up the phone.

N.B. The integration of online with offline advertising that provides real returns for business owners certainly seems a long way off. This article helps explain why is there so little consideration for the business owner, listener, or reader in today’s business advertising -  Why 90% of NZ businesses, agencies and advertisers appear reluctant to connect with consumers beyond yesterdays secular tools. Why a change for the better using lower cost, super-effective, new media and cross-channel tools is being held back…

Ref: Cynics sanctuaryChanging the Channel;   Integrating Radio and Offline with Google Search

Discussion

One comment for “Radio Advertising – Back to the 80s”

  1. Whow! Fighting stuff. The truth always hurts. But expect a nasty legal letter from an old-school radio station any day now…

    Posted by Dale | November 13, 2011, 12:59 pm

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