I remember the first radio station I worked for doing an experiment with one of their best clients, a men’s clothing store, to prove the power of radio advertising. Back in the 60s the dominant advertising vehicle in my hometown was the newspaper. This clothing store used both radio and newspaper, but felt it was the paper that drove their sales.
What the radio station did was create an imaginary character, a store mascot, using radio’s “theater of the mind.” The plan was to have the store’s clerks ask listeners where they learned about the store’s character when they shopped the store. This imaginary character was only featured in radio advertising.
What shoppers gleefully told the clerks when asked where they learned of their store’s mascot was “in the newspaper.” Virtually no one said they heard about the character on the radio.
What the store learned was how powerful their radio ads really were. What the radio station learned was how BIG the problem was in the perception of the customer as to what influenced their shopping decisions.
Fast-forward to today. Sean Luce moderated a panel at Radio Ink’s Convergence 15 conference in San Jose in May 2015. Sean shared the radio industry’s gross revenue estimates as compiled by Borrell Associates for 2008 ($14.9 billion), projected 2015 ($10.6 billion) and the projected 2019 ($9.5 billion). For an advertising medium that today can claim not only the best advertising frequency for advertiser messages, but now claim to be number one in reach in America too, this is a very disconcerting trend line.
Meanwhile, the online industry’s gross revenue looks like this for the same period of time: 2008 ($12.2 billion), projected 2015 ($50 billion) and the projected 2019 ($94 billion). Yikes!
As Mark Twain remarked, “History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” I believe what we are seeing is the problem my hometown radio experienced in the 60s only now instead of the newspaper getting all the credit it’s Google or some other online search algorithm or App.
People learn of your product or business over-the-air and then make a mental note to find out more later. They don’t need to remember your phone number (most can’t anyway, so why do radio ads still include them?). They don’t need to remember much of anything but your name. And the next opportunity they have to go online they Google your name to learn more. And Google gets the credit.
Great radio ads will engage the listener, cause them to see themselves doing or using the product or service you envision. Effective ads will stimulate people to know more and they immediately go online and Google you. (Google is now 18 years old. Google dot com was registered in September 1997. It just seems like it’s been around forever.)
Sophisticated advertisers will know what kind of traffic they were getting before they began their radio campaign and when the traffic through online increases they automatically credit your radio station, right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, doing things like “tell them you heard it on WXXX” or “mention this ad and get 10% off” are ineffective because so many variations on these types of Pavlov-type tricks are only confusing and annoying radio listeners.
Radio is intrusive advertising that, used effectively, tells stories, builds brands and makes your business something people will want to go online and search for.
Create radio ads that are unique, like Bud Lite’s “Real Men of Genius” (http://budlight.whipnet.com/) and you will never have to ask if they heard about you on the radio. And maybe that’s the real problem. Radio’s copywriting. It can’t be an afterthought done by your sales reps or one-armed-paperhanging production person who’s banging out spots for multiple stations and the web. Creating great radio commercial content is a specialized skill (don’t try this at home) and done right will not only benefit your advertisers, but your radio station’s TSL and the advertising rates you can charge for your service.
It’s time radio spent as much time worrying about the content of everything that isn’t considered entertainment as it does its personalities, its records, its news/talk programming.
We don’t have a minute to waste.