Selling Effective Radio Vs Questionable Digital


(By Loyd Ford) What you are about to read is not a negative article about how radio is better than digital. In fact, this is an article about how digital advertising is different than radio and your role is selling the effectiveness of radio in a positive way and reserving the right to educate your clients on digital.

How effective digital ads are is overblown. Some advertisers have started picking up on this. In fact, some larger global advertisers paused their digital efforts while evaluating some of the untruths they had believed for a decade.


Sinan Aral, the Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy says, “Brand search ad effectiveness was overestimated by up to 4,100%. A similar analysis of Facebook ads threw up a number of 4,000%.”

WOW! That doesn’t sound like a silver bullet for advertisers, does it?

You know that some advertisers feel more confident to do ‘free marketing’ and to allow their own team to use Facebook and other social media to create cheap (or free) advertising. And there are many digital sellers out there online and some in person to tell them about the new ‘silver bullet.’ Yet, the truth remains the truth: If something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

Remember: I’m not the bad guy when it comes to digital. I believe every local radio sales team should have digital opportunities for their clients, but I think your real opportunity is to sell against other digital with educating your clients. Then, you bring them on-board with your digital in addition to their effective local radio advertising.

Digital opportunities are no longer new in the marketplace. But digital also isn’t an alien who has landed on Earth on the 4th Of July to take over mankind and get rid of radio. Radio isn’t like digital; digital isn’t like radio. Radio is well known and certainly our sellers should be pressing understanding about the effectiveness of relationships between our listeners and our radio personalities. Selling radio is about frequency for those who are often in their car on the way to shop or going to see a product.

And it works.

In the future, the most effective sellers will educate clients about more purposeful advertising campaigns where they can and should use the right tools for the right reasons to get ahead and grow market share vs. their competitors.

Clients and potential clients need customers more than ever. Not less. They need sales reps who listen to them and bring valuable solutions. They need sales reps who care enough to spend the necessary time to educate them about what they are buying in digital and all lanes of advertising.

The truth remains: Make yourself valuable to your clients and potential clients, bring consistent solutions, connect with your clients and potential clients and you’ll be amazed how much you can grow your business year in and year out. Yes, even during crisis.

That kind of balanced approach to listening, bringing solutions and constantly educating your clients will absolutely make you a consistent winner.

Loyd Ford consults radio stations, coaches personalities, and provides behavioral and strategic programming to radio with RPC. If you’re on the Clubhouse app, you can join Loyd’s radio pro encouragement group “The Encouragers.” Reach him anytime. 864.448.4169 or [email protected].


  1. Mr. Ford is right, maybe a bit too diplomatic, but all of us in radio sales knows he speaks the truth. He’s just trying to be nice and not offend.

    Digital is a competitor to radio. I once worked for a corporate group that was all about digital in the 00s or whatever we call that decade now. Back then, I protested “digital is a competing media not some new, billing source. The farther we search for this (dry) revenue stream, the farther we stray from the revenue RIVER.”

    The CEO called me a “luddite,” one who resists change. Maybe some truth to that. But remaining #1 biller in our market was something I thought we should try to preserve. So, I guess he was right. Today, that whole corporate digital effort and all those employees are gone (fired) at least three times over. The luddite was right.

    They pressured us to sell banner ads on our station web sites. Problem was, still is, our DJs post all the latest NOW content to social media instead of the station web site. Just click the “photos” button on most station sites and you’ll see a giveaway or fund raiser from five years ago, if that. But, click on your morning show’s Facebook and you’ll see smiling backstage inages from the big concert last night at the local arena.

    Digital is infinite. Radio is finite. That’s our strength. But, since the 50s when TV replaced the radio in the living room. Radio has suffered from a ridiculous inferiority complex. Singles, LP records, the telephone, eight track, cassette, walk man, iPod, satellite, iTunes, spotify, I can’t remember them all, but radio is still the #1 reach media in the land. That’s why Nielsen paid 1.3 billion for Arbitron! They know!

    I noticed over the past 20 years, most of the people predicting the demise of radio are digital providers trying to binge on radio’s revenue with some new, replacement product that doesn’t require an FCC license, tower, transmitter, optimod, exciter, air conditioners, real estate, generators, studio complex, air staff, production director, news reporters, sideline commentators, sales team, traffic, billing, tower climbers and that odd engineer with the flood pants and pocket protector. Love those guys! Nothing more fun than watching the nerdy engineer in the studio trying to fix something in the studio interacting with the DJ on the air. It’s like they come from different planets.

    Radio need not be ashamed of being RADIO. Radio needs to quit pretending to be some multi-platform, digital marketing solutions and, oh yeah, radio company. We’re not. We’re DJs and sellers and most have yet to master their own radio craft. Most Account Execs couldn’t write an effective local direct, retail script to save their lives. Not only do they not know the rules of written persuasion, they don’t even know there are rules! And they’re damn sure not going to learn anything from their employers or the corporate board of directors.

    In the 50s, radio feared teenagers weren’t listening as before. They were upstairs on a party line talking to friends on the newfangled telephone just installed in their home. So, what does radio do? “Call in your requests. Call me on the Love Line. Be the 10th caller. Call in for your chance to win!” Radio buys billboards, TV ads, Yellow pages, direct mail even newspaper, back in the day, but until digital, we never added those competitors to our rate card

    Yes, we should embrace digital like we have with past competing media, as a way to interface with audience and advertisers. Like we did with the telephone. But, to expend inordinate effort to sell digital over radio was, is and always will be a big mistake.

    I became a radio Sales Manager when I was 26 years old. I’m 60 now. I was a Journalism major in college, so, I feel qualified to say I don’t think any publication should post chicken sh_t responses from anonymous sources. But, I know “big brother” is watching, so in our industry, that maybe necessary.

    So, my advice to TheBiggerA: you are right to question this issue. Whoever is pressuring you to sell digital, well… “that emperor has no clothes!”

    Write and produce kick ass radio campaigns that drive traffic, move inventory, flow cash and build an indestructible retail image for your clients. Study Caples, Ogilvy, Rosser Reeves.

    Let others on the sales team run around burning tire rubber and shoe leather peddling some $175 geo fencing, banner button or half price trade deal that pisses off all your paying clients in that category.

    And don’t be fooled by corporate groups bragging about all their digital success. Virtually all of those sales include an on-air schedule. Then they cook the books to inflate digi-dollars.

    So, yes, BiggerA, I guess I do believe we have low or zero credibility selling digital! Digital is not what retailers want from a radio Account Exec.

    Radio is the #1 media choice for local direct retailers. Every dollar a local direct retailer spends on any other media, well he/she might as well throw that money in the air and let the birds poop on it!

    I don’t believe this because I’m in radio. I’m in radio because I believe!

    And I believe Mr. Ford is politely correct in his viewpoint.


  2. Did anyone else notice that this column suggests that radio salespeople “sell their digital, but sell against digital too” …??? What?????
    Talk about doublespeak.
    At the very least, a client will perceive that as negative selling, like selling against other radio stations.
    Many radio pundits such as the above column, show a dysfunctional relationship between “radio” and “digital”… while virtually every radio station in the country is pushing-pushing-pushing their reps to “sell digital”…So which is it?? Is radio a digital advocate, or not? And if not, then we have zero credibility selling digital.
    Radio cannot have it both ways.


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