(By Ronald Robinson) Given all the generally accepted assertions of radio’s superior reach, along with the serious implications offered about the lack of efficiencies of digital advertising, radio practitioners could be forgiven when they demonstrate even a little confidence in some upcoming surge in radio’s fortunes.
So, maybe in spite of the systematic gutting of radio’s ability to produce meaningful commercial messaging, its suppression of talent that could be attracting and holding greater audience numbers, and its callous treatment of advertisers by forcing the ads off to multiple-spot gulags, all that is really required is… a little more patience! Is that it?
As the self-described leader of the Hopa-Hopa Clan, I am well aware of the wholly unsatisfactory results generated by the practice of “wishful thinking.” But, we continue to gather and don our funny hats. We then do our secret, mystical dances around the altar of The Big Ear. That’s when we drone our desired fantasies, including the overhaul of radio’s communicative methodologies and strategies, as if they were already accomplished realities. These activities are utterly frustrating and knowingly useless.
What these jolly practices do accomplish, though, is to release our membership of any responsibilities to find and examine any contrary evidence, or to come up with more viable alternatives. This works well for the group, as what most of us really wanted was just an excuse to throw a party and trade business cards. Except for me. The leader is a non-believer – an apostate.
Radio just may be in a position to surge. Anything is possible, I guess. But it’s a little early to unfurl the flags and uncrate the pom-poms – not unless the band shows up. This is unlikely as radio’s band quit rehearsing decades ago. It hasn’t learned a new tune or perfected a new maneuver for eons. As such, radio is not in any practical position to surge. After all, the purge is not over.
For too long, the (mostly unspoken) position of radio’s own operators has been that radio’s locally produced messaging has dropped to the lowest examples of advertising messaging available on any professional medium. Every day, radio pumps in the most banal and annoying ads that any amateur could provide. I constantly make the observation that the spots I read last week are exactly the same as the ones I read in the ‘60s. The only difference is the placement of the decimal on the price points.
As much as I agree with them, too many pundits rave on about the need for more “creative” ads. You know, the ones that are attention-getting, are generating desired emotions in the audience, and the ones that are motivating more of the required results for the advertisers. Practically and unfortunately, these desires are a portion of what my Hopa-Hopa Clan celebrates, but are still secluded in the “wishful thinking” category.
Radio, because of the disgusting dearth of available talent that can produce these creative pieces of advertising art, is still doomed to cranking out an overwhelming proportion of “direct response” ads in all their flat and vacuous glory.
Still, there are opportunities available – even in this stagnant pond of flotsam and jetsam. Yes, even these ads can be reconstructed and presented as more listenable and more effective. A combination of more carefully crafted copywriting and more finely tuned and more expressive vocals can turn a pig’s ear into a silk-like purse. But, it is going to take some re-education and practice to accomplish anything more powerful, and thus more effective. The same methods and approaches to writing and voicing copy also apply to on-air presentations, as well. Fathom that! Bonus!
Any “surge,” meanwhile, depends on the generation of power that is not available. It really is unfortunate that radio has not even begun to power-up. To the contrary, radio has been and continues to be in the powering down process. What is even more tragic is that radio refuses to accept that description and, instead, denies it all. As a result, radio remains unaware of another spectacular opportunity – floating on by. This state is a sick form of industry-wide schema – a group delusion. We suffer similarly in the Hopa-Hopa Clan.
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. Contact Ron at [email protected]