(MONDAY FLASHBACK) Radio Plays Too Many Commercials


    That’s the opinion of many including Chris Kampmeier (pictured), although there are many others who would disagree with that statement. The veteran programmer of 47 years is retiring December 31. His final position in the business was Region VP of Programming for iHeartMedia’s North Florida Region. We spoke to Kampmeier at length about his extremely successful run in radio, his management philosophy and, of course, programming. We’ll be sharing that with you over the next several days. On of the questions we asked Kampmeier was about radio’s commercial load. Here’s what he had to say about that…

    RI: Does it worry you that radio might be playing too many commercials?
    Kampmeier: Of course. We are absolutely playing too many commercials. So are my competitors. We are all around the same number. I get a report every week that shows me the length of my stop sets and my competitors stop sets. We are all in the same ballpark. Yes, we are playing too many commercials. Frankly, the process that began in 1996 with consolidation resulted in the consolidation victors having paid extraordinarily high prices for the properties that they were able to amass under one roof. I think that’s created a financial challenge for the industry ever since, coupled with the fact that there are, not withstanding the remarkable stability in radio’s reach, there are on the other side of the ledger, so many, many more outlets for advertisers to spend their money. That creates a challenge on the revenue side.

    RI: What kind of damage is it doing to the business?
    Kampmeier: That’s a little hard to quantify as our performance has been not only terrific but has been going up over the last 2 to 2.5 years. There is a segment of people that are simply unwilling to endure commercials, whether we have a five minute break or a ten minute break. So those people probably have drifted away from us or are not giving us anywhere near as much usage as they used to. For those that remain regular and routine listeners to over-the-air radio, you can’t get away from the commercial content by moving from one radio station to another since we are all pretty much in the same boat in terms of the amount of inventory we are carrying.

    We’ll have more of our interview with Chris Kampmeier in our headlines Tuesday morning.


    1. I have learned – over the years – that engaging locked-in simpletons is an unfulfilling exercise.
      “Get help”, indeed.
      I AM the help.
      But, I won’t be getting close enough to pull out the thorn. 🙂

    2. Has anything I have been promulgating have anything to do with “production”? Nope.
      It has everything to do with more sophisticated and effective forms of broadcast communications – something that radio has been sorely missing.
      But, at some level, a demeaning of the messenger might also allow for a fatuous and superficial satisfaction.

    3. Seems that “salesguy” has yet to make the distinctions between Print and Electronic.
      “Effective”, to be sure.
      However, radio’s current and future mandate is to become MORE effective – and significantly so!
      Audiences can only tolerate so much more of what is presently being foisted off as “actual advertising”.
      Radio has, over the last decades, become a sewer of shabby, local advertising.

      • I normally don’t talk to you Robinson because I consider you a phoney who has never sold advertising and preaches from the safety of the production room, but I’ll match my advertising knowledge with yours anyday. I have a career filled with billing to prove my point-you have swamp gas. Please don’t talk to me again.

    4. All this drivel about too many ads on radio. I maintain that there aren’t enough.

      Leave it to dumb radio guys to complain. Years ago, the FCC removed per-hour limits on minutes of advertising permitted and the dumb radio guys want a cap put back on.

      Do you demand that newspaper ads be “entertaining” as Schwartz opines? NO.
      Do you demand that billboards be “entertaining”? No.
      The only place that ads need to be entertaining is TV ads on the Super Bowl and, have you noticed, after the game, those ads are never seen again.
      Ads need to be EFFECTIVE-that’s all.

    5. In response to Rod’s (and others) laments:
      Over the decades, particularly since the amalgamation proclamations, radio owners have been treating both audiences and advertisers as fodder – worthwhile only for exploitation.
      So long has this been the case, I reckon there would be those who would claim the opposite – and do so with a straight face.
      Does anyone really doubt that, at some point, “a hard rain is gonna fall”…?
      A river can only handle so much raw, toxic sewage. Radio is a prime polluter.

    6. Same old, same old.
      We’ve been having this same discussion for the last 30 or 40 years now. Why haven’t we changed?

      How many listeners do you think hit the button when Tom Bodett comes on for Motel Six?
      None, right?
      Instead, they turn up the volume. They smile. They like Tom. They like his ads.

      Don’t you think that a commercial break filled with equally engaging spots would be unlikely (or at least less likely) to irritate listeners?

      Wayne makes a good point about “hard-sell annoying commercials.” And Roy Williams (among others) has been telling us for years that our commercials need to be more entertaining. This doesn’t mean that the sales message must be sacrificed. It just means that we (or sellers and writers) must receive better training and act on it.

      Remember this spot? https://www.radiomercuryawards.org/audio2010/3330-6083.mp3

      Writing and producing better radio commercials isn’t out of our reach. Our biggest problem? Laziness.

    7. There was a time before deregulation that radio delivered a quality product for the LISTENER…and a quality product for the ADVERTISER. Those days are long gone. And the NAB wants further deregulation! Are you kidding me??? I drive around Seattle and listen to various music formats…and and it seems seven or eight minute stop-sets is the norm. And of course, the radio station seems more often than not to take the first position in the stop-set for their own self-promotion. I’ve recently sat through stop-sets as long as ten-minutes in length, with 14-15 units in the the break. It easy to loses count. Thank God I’m retired from a once-great industry that now is nothing more than a cesspool. It is absolutely shameful the disregard ownership has for the LISTENERS and the ADVERTISERS!

    8. Tom Taggart is absolutely right on. As a former traffic director, I can’t believe how much added value we gave away. And if you confronted management, the reply was ” if we don’t do it, they’ll go across the street ”
      My answer, no they won’t, they’re already there. As an industry, we have to put our foot down and say no more added value. But that will never happen because some ” groups ” are 27 billion dollars in debt and have to get money on the books no matter what

    9. All great thoughts here-and the issues presented have been with us since day 1. Station “A” plays fewer commercials than station “B”. Station “A” wins. Then after station “A” increases the load, station “C” comes in and wins. The whole idea in the first place was to give the consumer what the consumer wants. While the industry was built on revenue creating possibilities, we’ve seen it get destroyed by the need to get “more” revenue. The big complaint about radio is what’s presented here. We were smart enough in the 50s to transition from network dramas to music programming. We’re smart enough in the 21st century to let the myriad choices in media drive us to better programming, more creativity and better planning. Aren’t we?

    10. Doesn’t Dan Mason – who was featured in an article saying that radio plays too many ads – now consult for Clear Channel?

      Maybe Dan will encourage them to run less ads. Or do you think he only said that when he had the luxury of irresponsibility?

      I can tell you one thing we don’t need in this industry – more hypocrites.

    11. More and more, radio salespeople are being compelled to stuff snakes up drainpipes = snakes that don’t want to go!
      That owners and managers refuse to even make inquiries as to the corrections that audiences and advertisers need to continue their participation in the radio scenario doesn’t bode well for any future prosperity.
      That radio is the architect of its own limitations is an untenable circumstance – worthy of derision and ridicule. What a waste of such a fabulous medium.

    12. To all radio gurus, college professors and program directors: Do you know where the revenue comes from
      that pays the salaries and operating cost? Its not subscriptions! Its sales! If you know how to make money in radio without commercials, there are a lot of stations for sale!

      • No one doubts your comment and no one here wants “radio without commercials.” However, we are driving listeners away from us with incessant and poor quality commercials and ads. As an industry, it’s not how many commercial we can sell, it’s how many cars, sodas and concert tickets those commercials can sell for our advertisers. Please show me the research that says a heavier commercial load leads to better advertiser results.

      • The only people who like more and more commercials on the radio are the sales force and the folks in charge of increasing the revenue stream. If it were up to them, and they thought anyone would listen, radio would be 24/7 commercials. If it were up to the programmers, there would be none.

        When the economy tanked in 2008, people weren’t willing to plop down a lot of money on advertising because people weren’t spending much, so radio lowered their spot prices drastically. But, to make up for the cash shortfall, they started running a lot more spots per hour. Unfortunately for listeners and the industry, the rates have stayed low and the spot loads high and it is going to stay that way until someone has the balls to say that they’re cutting the load and raising the rates because “too many ads per spot break are a disservice to our advertisers because listeners tune out for 5 minutes of commercials, so we’re cutting way back on the number of spots and raising the rates. Those who participate will have near exclusivity each break and not be lost in a flood.”

        Yeah, I know. Dream on.

    13. “There is a segment of people that are simply unwilling to endure commercials, whether we have a five minute break or a ten minute break.”
      A ten minute stop set? You’re insane. A five minute stop set? Pretty damned close. You’re not “all in the same ballpark”, you’re all in the same nut house.
      iHeart normalized what we all know are poor formatics. Everybody else was happy to follow.
      Why not just call it what it is – the Relentless Clutter format where advertising is worth virtually nothing, because it’s all just so much noise.

      • Agree 100%. Local radio advertisers stuffed into cluster breaks – radio’s equivalent of junk mail- are literally just throwing their money away. Radio gets away with this scam, because regional and national advertisers have no way to gauge the response (and the agenies like it that way)…Thank you Mel Karmazin, Bob Pittman, and some others for RUINING the radio industry by sanctioning this disgraceful and irresponsible business behavior of 6, 8, 10 or more commercials in a row. Disgraceful.

    14. Great Comments….but too bad people speak the truth when they are leaving the industry and not trying to make changes while they are still there! A year ago I published a sabbatical research study regarding the stop sets on music radio stations. The findings were printed in a national publication and the News and Observer here in Raleigh. My findings were conclusive. You have lost and are losing your college-age listeners due to the heavy commercial loads. For the most part, they are gone. I will be happy to e-mail anyone my report if you are interested. I am a veteran of TV/Radio for 30 years and now teach at Meredith College, Raleigh.

    15. Plus, we are discussing these phusterclucks with the understanding that the spots themselves, and for the most part, are second-rate presentations.
      These behaviours are those of folks who have lost contact with their environments – AND their responsibilities.
      At some point, men in white coats sporting butterfly nets will have to be summoned.
      But not this quarter.

    16. 1. Rate cutting is rampant…and the most guilty is Kampmeir’s former employer; and, as a consequence;

      2. The agencies want everything for nothing–remotes, bonus spots, all “added value.”

    17. Good fior Wayne for being candid in his comment. And Wayne is spot on. Nielsen PPM data FACTUALLY DEMONSTRATES that when FM music stations start into a long commercial cluster break, OVER 50% of the audience tunes out of that station before the second commercial has even finished. So if you are the advertiser running 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, or later in the break, you are getting screwed. Only a fraction of the station’s reported AQH in that time period is actually hearing your message, and you are not getting what you paid for. Long commercial cluster breaks is nothing but an irresponsible money grab. And this is exactly why the churn rated for local direct advertisers is well over 50% for many stations with cluster breaks.

    18. We are killing the golden goose with our commercial loads.
      The fact that “we’re all in the same ball park” makes the image, and use of, radio even worse.
      It’s often said that radio is a friend or companion….how many times can your friend pitch you on something before they cease being your friend?
      In marketing, perception is reality.The perception of high commercial loads is compounded when we air hard-sell annoying commercials telling us to Hurry in today….these deals won’t last.
      TOMA surveys consistently prove that an advertiser’s share of voice equals share of mind and share of market. The more spots we run, the lower the advertiser’s share of voice and ROI.


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