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Spots Clutter On The Rubble

4-8-2013

Pro sales guy, regular blogger, and good friend of Radio Ink, Sean Luce, recently made some compelling arguments for having radio generate superior creative. This would be a noble and worthwhile effort, he contends, to produce advertising with better recall for the ad and the advertiser. My dad had a line that covered this circumstance: Nice dodge if you can pull it off!

The (factual) story Sean used to demonstrate the point was of an advertisers somewhat bland billboard that was naughtily defaced and, as a result, drew more attention and awareness than spending multiples on straight advertising ever could. By accident, the ad did indeed rise above the clutter. The advertiser enjoyed (?) a couple weeks of higher visibility in the market. There was no mention of any increases in the advertisers business.

While Seans point is well taken, there is still that niggly problem left over. That issue being: In todays contemporary radio, almost every one of the spots written and produced locally will not be rising above any clutter. They will not be rising to near the top of the clutter. They will continue to be the clutter.

Practically, asking radio to start offering listenable and effective messages is like asking precocious, undisciplined kids splashing in the shallow end of the pool to swim Olympic times in the deep end. It aint gonna happen.

To continue the analogy: If radio is determined to swim with the big kids in the cant-touch-the-bottom section, we will have to 1.) Learn to stay alive in water over our heads, 2.) Learn to swim, and 3.) Learn to do water tricks.

At no time has anyone ever come up with evidence that radio does not produce some of the worst examples of advertising ever to grace a professional, commercial, mass medium. When it comes to providing sophisticated, effective, advertising messages, music radio is still a stifled, third-rate jukebox.

As to generating conscious recall from an audience for the ad, the advertiser, and the content: It aint gonna happen. Accomplishing recall isnt even a worthy goal. It is not necessary. The entertainment value and emotions that might be produced certainly do add to the listenable qualities and efficacy of the spots. Recall, however, is not a factor. And, why is that? some skeptical broadcasters might inquire.

Before continuing, I do acknowledge the exception. This is the occasion when an advertisers message reaches the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. These are consumers/customers who are already in the market for the advertisers product or service; who hear a spot about a great deal from an advertiser, and have hundred dollar bills hanging out of their jeans. Only a slight nudge is required to take advantage of that advertisers offer. Even that is not about recall. Its about triggering immediately available behaviors.

Meanwhile, any spot that has entertainment value or is producing a powerful emotional response in an audience does have extraordinary advantages over the (usually innocuous) content-heavy commercials. It perpetrates extended listening as opposed to immediate tune-outs. And it starts or reinforces the feelings necessary to drive a visit or a sale. But, expecting this particularly entertaining spot to increase [I]conscious recall[/I] is about roaring down a blind alley with an expectation that a hole is going to open up just in the nick o time. Just as well then, that recall is not required because, again, it aint gonna happen.

Now, for another woo-woo example: Since we are discussing a linguistic technology, it is valid to mention Arthur C. Clarkes famous comment: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Properly executed radio commercials are generating and influencing desired behaviors without the necessity for, or assumed benefit of, conscious recall!

Plus, and this is absolutely a critical distinction, radio does have an advantage. Because radio is an electronic medium, the signal is accessed by an audience and processed (primarily) at a subdominant a right brain level. Any messages delivered through an electronic medium become speeding freight trains careening directly to that portion of the brain responsible for emotions, creativity, and pattern completion. Critical, information-processing capacities are snoozing over yonder in the left brain the dominant hemisphere and getting bypassed. Hence, the lower priority of content material in radio commercials.

As savvy marketers and their agencies have known for generations: Buying is an activity influenced by emotions. These emotions are often already tainted by individuals experience and influenced by cultural elements including advertising. Evidence can be provided that demonstrate how most of our emotions and the decisions generated through their influence take place at an unconscious level outside of our awareness. (This, I appreciate, is unwelcome information to those who insist their decisions are made only on the facts, the numbers.) It aint gonna happen. Not with humans, anyway.

Still, Seans admonition to get above the pile is not without merit. Its just that my part of the radio team (programming and commercial production) is not even close to being well enough equipped to start launching four-baggers out of the yard on anything resembling a consistent basis. For us, a bloop single is cause for high-fives all around and towel snapping in the showers after weve been soundly thrashed 95-5 a reference to our share of ad revenues.

Further, digital is nobodys game saver either. Our responsibility is to improve our product. Processing our standard-issue crap through a different strainer will still not produce a better pate. It will be the same crap on a different plate.

Meanwhile, Seans profession of training sales folk to up their individual games is an essential element of the radio business. The same cant be said for the communicative aspects of what we do a legitimate reason for despair. After all, if we cant/wont provide the training to drastically improve our product, including commercial production and programming, Seans better-trained colleagues will still be going to the street with a leaking, or worse, an empty sample-sack of radio clutter.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website www.voicetalentguy.com




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(4/8/2013 4:21:07 PM)
It's true, there are many talented writers (and producers) who are putting out extremely entertaining work at stations all over the place.
This, however, is not synonymous with EFFECTIVE.

My goal, Daniel, is to get us (radio) up to the next notch - above and beyond that which has been considered satisfactory.

This is not about available talent or creativity per se, but rather about another level of communicative knowledge and skills.

By those heightened standards, we have a long way to go. And that's a good thing. Otherwise the argument could be made that we're already topped off and tapped out.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(4/8/2013 11:38:10 AM)
Ron I read your ideas and laughed. Have a little faith in your fellow broadcaster. I have been doing local radio commercials and sales since 1959 starting in South Bend Indiana and recently in Palm Springs Calif. In every one of these years I have heard some great creative done locally. Everyone is in radio basically because it is just fun and so are the commercials when fun people write and produce them.

- Daniel P. Mitchell
(4/8/2013 10:09:57 AM)
True enough, "Dude". Management has yet to conclude that it is the commercials that represent our (radio's) Product. The rest are audience-services.

But, please do remember: There are no prizes for hype-typers who suffer for their employers when it is the employers who bring the pain. The world has enough martyrs.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(4/8/2013 9:18:56 AM)
Lack of creative in local direct is a result of low-value on the creative. Thus, creative people in local radio are drawn to more agency-type creative jobs.

ADVERTISER: why should I pay YOU more than Joe Voice at the other station that can produce "radio vomit" for less?

STATION OWNER: you can write/produce Quality Ads...tell me again why that is worth more pay?

- Creative Dude

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