Radio’s Ad Buffet


(By Ronald Robinson) One of the more dependable and respected individuals who is continuously working on the creation of effective radio ads is the wily veteran Roy H. (“The Wiz”) Williams. In a recent article, Roy, once again, points out the efficacy of including sensory modalities in the copy – those things that stimulate the attention of, and elicit emotional responses from, the audience.

These two elements (attention and emotionalism) have been touted as the two most important factors required for the writing and production of the most effective ads. Very few can mount any cogent argument at all that is contrary to these premises.

What radio does do, and on a consistent basis, is ignore both of these factors.

Roy, at the drop of a hat, has often been supplying pertinent information, explanations, and examples of what an effective ad requires in order to, as has been said way too often, “break through the clutter” while motivating and influencing audiences to take a course of action as a result of advertisers’ messages.

Most of the other relevant material that has been offered in this particular space has, likewise, been ignored. Ignored by an entire industry. I may be somewhat confused, but the industry’s position, and it is a concocted position, strikes me as a fully integrated and accepted delusion.

Setting aside the maudlin and inarticulate ramblings of the majority of on-air presenters that permeate commercial radio for a moment, the more important and dangerous element is the literal rejection of the responsibility radio has to its advertisers. To my knowledge, very few steps are being taken by ownership and management to either acknowledge the situation or to take action to make the required improvements. Where I come from, that’s called a dereliction of duty. There are few other ways to put it.

When “The Wiz” prepares a piece for radio professionals, some would exclaim, “Way to be, Roy!” And then the materials are heaved out a window and end up fluttering in the breeze as they twist to the wet pavement below where they are run over in traffic, unused and forgotten.

“But wait! There’s more!”

While Roy or other experts are preparing sumptuous and attractive buffets of communications feasts, loaded with multiple choices of tasty strategies and appealing methods, the displays have been located on the other side of the river!

Other commentators have put the obvious to print. They are operating on the wrong side of the river. Their canoe is fragile and leaky and they don’t have the paddlers that would be necessary to make the trek to the shore where all the really good goodies are available.

I am reminded of the individual who was responsible for writing spots for a cluster of five stations, was brand manager for one of them, and also pulled a daily shift. In spite of an assumed excitement for, and a desire to remain in, the business, he is still chained to a post while expected to run laps for the owners.

Is he the one to take up the sword, gird his loins and charge off into The Land of Sweet, Sweet Improvement? Not unless he is willing to martyr-up in the process.

During my tenure in this space, I have been arguing for massive improvements in the communicative skills of both on-air and creative participants. I have also been providing tested, proven strategies and methodologies for accomplishing just such improvements. I have been offering to train staffs in the basics and the nuances of professional broadcast communications.

Then, it hit me. Who am I going to train? Radio is not only running on skeleton staffs, it is running on staffs of skeletons. They are overused, exhausted, unmotivated, and undernourished. More people with better skills are necessary immediately. However, what are the chances?

Roy’s wonderful contributions become tasty treats that are, practically, unavailable to the working stiffs on the wrong side of the river. But, from a distance, they all seem, and really are, fantastic. So, what? Again, what are the chances?

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 counselor. E-mail him at [email protected]


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