Radio spots are a tune-out factor. Everyone knows this and it keeps coming up time after time. In fact, in the past week or so, many in the industry have been weighing in on the subject in The Media Online and on Facebook. I have been banging on about this for decades.
I have written about this previously, but it warrants revisiting.
Radio is fighting for its survival against the mother of all media, the internet. More than ever, radio needs to play to its strengths.
Advertising is the lifeblood of radio, so you would think that this issue would receive the attention it warrants. However, what receives most of the attention is the practice of flogging discounted spots without much thought for the message and how it is conveyed.
Let’s face it, the only thing that works in advertising is what you say and how you say it, multiplied by how many times you say it.
I regard this topic to be of such importance that I devote two full chapters to it in my book on radio advertising. I also spend much time and effort on it in the Ultimate Radio Sales Course, including examples of award-winning spots and how to create them. It also features prominently in my in-person workshops and seminars.
People don’t inherently dislike radio spots. They dislike dull, boring, irritating or irrelevant spots. In the words of the legendary adman, the late David Ogilvy, “No one was ever bored into buying anything.”
Let’s unpack the problem. Firstly, radio spots are more difficult to create than ads in just about any other medium. You’re dealing with one sense only and you have a minute or less to grab someone’s attention and get your message across in a way that persuades them to take action, all the while painting the advertiser in a favourable light.
Read more: Put some creativity into radio ads, please
It’s called Theatre of the Mind and it requires real talent. In effect you’re creating pictures in the listener’s imagination; pictures that are more powerful than in any other medium because they are personal to each individual listener.
There’s even a time-worn formula for creating effective advertising. It’s acronym is AIDA: Attention. Interest. Desire. Action.
In my workshops on creativity, part of the workshop involves participants creating spots according to a brief. These spots are then judged using the AIDA formula. Will the spot grab the listeners’ attention? Will it spark their interest? Will it create desire? Will it lead to them taking action?
If the spot ticks all these boxes, you probably have a winner. The next time you’re listening to your favourite station, apply that test to some of the spots you’re exposed to. Chances are, you’ve flipped the dial to find out what’s on another station, or taken a “comfort break.” If you’ve switched to another station, you might not come back until they do something to irritate you.
The AIDA test
Very few of these spots, I’m sure you’ll agree, will pass the AIDA test.
Another problem is that most of the spots on air come from ad agencies. It’s common cause that agencies suffer from time-poverty. It’s easier, quicker and cheaper to knock something off that conveys the offer, the brand and mentions that Ts and C’s apply. What’s more, it doesn’t require the involvement of a creative heavyweight.
Also popular, are the ubiquitous live-reads, even though they attract a premium over the prevailing rate. One of the reasons for their popularity is that there is a perceived endorsement by the presenter who takes on the role of an influencer, even though very few presenters deliver live-reads with any sincerity or conviction. Many of them resent having to do live-reads.
There’s not much one can do about spots emanating from agencies. As long as they don’t compromise format integrity, or run afoul of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission’s rules, stations are only too happy to accept them. After all, if they don’t achieve the desired result it’s not the station’s fault. Although, trust me, the station will probably be blamed by the listener and the advertiser.
Even where they’re tolerated, they detract from the overall quality of the programming content. Your programming is only as strong as its weakest link. Don’t let this link be the spots on your station.
As far as ad agencies are concerned, the best thing to do under the circumstances, is to educate agency creatives. Remember, agencies love to win awards. Anything that your station can do to help them should be most welcome.
The Radio Advertising Bureau in the US runs the annual Mercury Awards with the first prize of $100,000 going to the creator/s of the winning spot or campaign. That’s how seriously they take it. There are similar awards in Australia and the UK and, I’m sure, they exist in many other countries. The industry in South Africa would do well to consider something similar.
The chance to shine
I have been engaged by stations in the past to conduct these types of workshops for clients ranging from Discovery to SAB. Anything that improves the quality and production values of spots is in everyone’s interests. Even if they cost a bit more to produce, although with today’s technology, production costs have come way down.
In my workshops on creative radio, I have heard excellent spots produced on cell phones. It begins with an insight, leads to a concept and translates into a script. Everything flows from that.
Where stations have just about complete control is in the creation of spots for direct clients. Here’s a chance to really shine. You have an opportunity to create Theatre of the Mind spots that entertain listeners, keep them locked on your station and contribute to the overall quality of your programming.
This does entail hiring talented creatives, but it’s money well spent. Best of all, you can create a demo spot that allows clients to get an idea of how they’re going to come across on air. In my experience, pitching a campaign that includes a demo can increase the closing ratio to seven out of 10 or higher.
And that’s worth big bucks! When it comes to creating content that eliminates tune-out factors and adds to listening pleasure, you owe it to yourself, your clients, your listeners, your station and, not least, your shareholders. It’s that important.
Stan Katz is an acclaimed radio mentor and coach. In conjunction with fraycollege he has created the Ultimate Radio Sales Course, a 10-module online course for maximising sales. Find out more here. He also writes a weekly newsletter packed with business advice for radio. Subscribe here.
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