Another Opportunity Lost 

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(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]

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Ron Robinson
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. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to talent and creative, have yet to be addressed.

12 COMMENTS

  1. That radio refuses to address the sorely lacking communication approaches in both on-air and in commercial production represents an entire industry swimming in delusions.

  2. As a comrade from Canada:
    Do I detect the machinations of a Russian bot here?
    Let me see. An anonymous troll attempts to muddy the waters and draw attention away from the issues.
    Naw, not likely. I suspect more of an intense traditionalist at work
    Yes, this is more about a delusional member of the Hopa- Hopa Clan that I might have dismissed some time ago.

    • I very directly addressed the issues in your article, and that’s all I did. If there’s anything false in what I said, just point it out. No troll, no bot, and no delusion.

  3. Let me make this easy for TheBigA:
    Lousy spots at cut-rate, bargain basement prices.
    Whether they are homegrown, agency-provided or shipped in from Taiwan, they are still lowest forms of professional communications.
    This has been the case for decades.
    Likewise the prattle coming out of the talent at the vast majority of stations.

  4. I nominate TheBigA as the poster-boy of radio apologists.
    Just leave your name with the nice lady at the front.
    And, thanks for comin’ out.

  5. So, BigA, we can just claim complete impotence, blame everybody and anybody else, buy the jury a drink and suggest to the judge that we just forget the whole thing.
    That still leaves radio’s sales folk going to the street – with an empty sack.

      • BTW the top radio stations, the ones on FM with big ratings, usually don’t have direct response ads at all because their local time is sold out. You usually hear direct response on weaker AM stations, the ones with conservative talk.

  6. Is that an argument, BigA? A justification? Or maybe it’s an attempt at shifting the blame.
    “The advertiser makes me do it.”
    “The agency makes me do it.”
    What that constitutes is: a failure to take responsibility or make adjustments – radio’s standard operating procedure.
    The damage continues to be done – all day and every day.
    Locals who would be better off were they to re-create the spots – with permission, of course – still don’t know how to go about that.

  7. FYI Almost all of the direct response ads you complain about are not produced at local radio stations. They’re produced by national ad agencies, and are distributed by national ad networks. Local stations can’t “recreate” the ads without permission of the advertiser.

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