Readers Respond to Our Interview With Bob Hoffman


Bob Hoffman was the CEO of two independent advertising agencies. He’s now a writer and speaker, and last week he spoke in Las Vegas at the NAB show. Hoffman says people are just plain delusional when it comes to digital and our readers are reacting to his comments.

We caught up with Bob after his presentation and asked him to go into detail about his philosophy, and he sure did. In this audio interview, Bob also said radio needs to take the gloves off because digital is on the ropes. Listen to the 13-minute interview below. Note: Our morning headlines had an incorrect last name for Bob and we apologize for that.


  1. What a remarkable interview. If broadcasters really believe digital is a delusion, their $17B in revenue is at even greater risk. Three of radio’s most loved 2019 attributes – song-skips, infinite-variety & personalization – are all technically impossible on FM. That’s why for modern radio’s innovators – Apple, Google, Amazon, & Spotify – #FMisTheTARGET

  2. Obviously digital doesn’t work or perform the way broadcast does. It’s an apples and oranges comparison that misses the point entirely. While Hoffman mentions the big three, Google, Amazon and Facebook, he speaks of them as if they were always part of the digital landscape. Those brands were built for the internet and were meteoric in their growth precisely because they’re digital businesses that provided services consumers around the world clamoured for. It took P&G over a hundred years – using traditional media – to become a packaged goods, brand juggernaut. Compare that to how rapidly Amazon turned itself into one of the most recognized and rich brands we’ve ever seen and it’s apparent that Bob Hoffman knows not of what he speaks.

  3. Thanks, Mr. Hoffman. Good to hear from someone who has accomplished something-unlike the swamp creatures who inhabit the comments section. Few, if any, are employed in radio.

  4. This story is a recap of the highlight Radio Ink gave Bob Hoffman in August of 2014, which was related to his video “The Golden Age of Bullshit” –

    My response to his view has not changed: “In my opinion, Bob Hoffman was talking of advertising from a position of not understanding the analysis of online data.”

    Transitioning from one mass media to the next takes decades. Think “Music of Your Life.” It’s audience died out, like radio’s eventually will. Radio Ink has reported the move to digital a variety of times. To give credence that digital is a delusion today is, in itself, a delusional statement.

    “Relativity” is the measurement of a media’s proven effectiveness. In ad serving it’s how effective can a digital platform be delivering ROI, not his inflation of digital’s inability to attack fraud in delivery.

    If Mr. Hoffman knew analysis of online data he would not spend so much energy trying to protect the only item he’s familiar with – traditional media.”

    Let’s not forget Bob Pitman’s 2011 declaration that “…broadcasters shouldn’t become too hung up on digital revenue.” Where is that company’s digital position now?

  5. One of radio’s monster advantages is to pre-empt and catalyze (or even interrupt) the buyer journey at any point – pre-need, pre-search, pre-purchase – capturing consumer consciousness.

    That’s by having the advantage of making an upfront, 15/30/60 second case – an appeal to the customer – based on irrefutable evidence. That case gets the listener/customer to take the desired actions along their buyer journey: to, through and past the purchase.

    For example, here comes summer. Should families consider a destination resort, renting a cottage, an RV, a trailer, or a houseboat?

    Radio can place any advertiser at the front of the line of any range of competitors (even before they go online); so the advertiser wins more than their fair share of the customer’s wallet.

  6. Radio “staying in its lane” is an interesting concept.
    It might even be a useful strategy, except for one thing:
    Radio, especially local radio, doesn’t really have a lane.
    What it does have is an overgrown game trail featuring the remains of frequent washouts, sink holes and a bevy of predators in the underbrush.
    Radio is hardly a finely-sharpened tool, but more like a dull hoe with all the (apparently unexpected) attending limitations, particularly when local audience and advertiser needs are factored in.

  7. Let’s talk about quality.
    I think Bob was just talking to talk. No substance. Ad money is created by programming. If the programming is not there the ad money will be hard to find. Listeners respond to programming not digital. digital is just a vehicle. If you are going to be on line or terrestrial radio or TV your popularity is created by, programming not whether or not it is digital. Programming is the key; . Ask yourself, why do you listen or watch programs? The key is content. Worry about your programming. Amazing double talk.

  8. I see where Bob is coming from and agree that nobody is going to build a brand with digital only unless they’re an online-only brand. However, most of our work is growing local businesses who need to be everywhere their customers are. This includes our air time, websites and social media platforms.

    Will we promise that every banner ad will get hundreds of clicks? Certainly not. However, their message is being seen and it’s building top of mind awareness just like our radio ads.

    It really stands out to me between 7:45 and 9:10 where he says traditionalists marketers will only live about 90 days and later advises radio to just sell radio. So, are we to tell our advertisers to buy our radio but take a portion of their budget elsewhere for digital? I believe we will be the ones with a 90-day expiration if we “stay in our lane” and don’t evolve to meet our advertisers where their needs are.

    • Jim- 100% agree. The days of staying “in lane” have gone the way of the dodo bird. If you’re going to be a business developer (which traditional media sellers should be) than finding and providing a full set of solutions to clients is the only way to survive let alone grow. According to Borrell, 90% of local SMB’s buy a combination of traditional and digital media so why wouldn’t you want to be doing both?

    • Broadcasters are following the time-honored tradition of Smith Corona typewriters. In the early 1990s, a few years before the legendary typewriter company went bankrupt and as personal computer sales soared, Smith Corona CEO Lee Thompson said, “…We strongly believe in the continuing need for the typewriter…” When asked what new products/services it planned to produce, Thompson said, “Nothing right now”.

  9. I’ve never encountered a brand or advertiser or marketer who is under the “delusion” that digital media by itself “creates” brands. On the other hand, there are plenty of brands that use digital media effectively and exclusively to sell product and brand build at the same time.

    Any brand, whether it’s a P&G product or the supermarket that sells the product knows today that consumers are impacted in a variety of ways and it’s their responsibility to walk the consumer through the purchase funnel effectively. In the case of a CPG product, part of that is brand building through traditional sources. Part of that is promotion done on retail levels. Part of that is shopper marketing in some cases. Part of that is social media. Part of that is search.

    Point being that digital media has developed not as a single source destination but as a significant piece of the consumer experience. “Google hasn’t created any consumer facing brands” (2:22-2:26). As a search engine that is probably true but YouTube certainly has and if I’m thinking about going on vacation, I don’t necessarily need a traditional ad to tell me I’m interested in going somewhere. I know I want to travel so I go online and start researching the where, the what, the when, the how, etc. Google and Facebook are monster brands and destination sites unto themselves so the notion that they can’t or don’t help with brand building is incorrect. Both platforms are part of the brand building experience as others are today as well.

    Case in point, I want to build a patio but I don’t know what to do. I decide to go to Home Depot because I want to talk with a human being. Did I make that decision because I heard a radio ad, saw them on TV, got a display ad because I purchased a set of tools, saw a pre-roll video ad when I went on YouTube to watch a video, got an ad on my phone when I came out of a hardware store? It’s all part of Home Depot’s strategy to be wherever I am in the marketing funnel.

    “AH”, you say, “but Home Depot is huge and they built their brand in traditional media and now can use digital to enhance the brand but they didn’t build the brand in digital”

    Let’s take a different example. I am working with a small client right now who makes customized embroidery items (linens, Duve’s, etc). They also monogram merchandise for businesses. They love using social media for their brand because it is specifically targeted to the exact group of people they are trying to reach. Their engagement rates continue to improve, their site traffic is up and their sales of the items they market are up. So, with no traditional media we have helped them build a brand effectively and much less cost than traditional TV or radio and because social media is trackable, we can show a trajectory of results. So a small company with a small budget CAN build a brand using digital media.
    Is it the only way? No. Is it the best way? Sometimes. A good brand marketer knows this. It’s up to those people that work in marketing and advertising to know the whole picture today in order to now where things fit.

    There’s no one size fits all today and to think that brand building only comes from traditional media or to think that digital media can’t help build a brand is “delusion

      • Gary, the name calling is from Bob Hoffman, when he attacks digital and uses the word delusional. This has been an ineffective technique used over and over by some radio people for years– to negatively attack other media. This approach is foolhardy, and makes radio look defensive and often unprofessional in the eyes of the client.
        …Digital is here to stay, and represents a tsunami of change. … And the big corporate owners like iHeart and Cumulus while run by Lew Dickey, have expedited the increasing irrelevance of AM/FM by firing top personalities, and increasingly using voice tracking, and putting in absurdly long commercial breaks that literally have driven away listeners to other medium. THAT is what is killing radio– the removal of it’s very strength– live, local compelling personalities– and the insane commercial loads.

        • So to clarify, hiring lots of local personalities and running two spots an hour will cause millennials to throw away their phones, give up their Spotify subscriptions, and buy transistor radios? Just checking. Maybe they’ll wear leisure suits and mullets too.

    • Name calling – now there’s an intelligent response. A lot of what he said deals with the fraud and the consumer stalking taking place. He’s absolutely correct when he encourages the radio industry to “take the gloves off”. And the fact that he’s been in the industry for years doesn’t make him a dinosaur. It makes him an experienced veteran who understands the creativity it takes to make campaigns work well.


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