Commercials Are Content, Too: SBS’ Jesus Salas On Ads


    You’ve heard plenty of them: radio ads that suck. Forget about making you remember the client, they make you remember the other preset buttons exist. They’re all over radio and hurt the perception of the great reach medium an advertiser could hope for. Every day this week in Radio Ink‘s headlines, we’re talking with a different expert – from local production to agency veterans – on how to stop the “suck.”

    In Part 4 we talk with Spanish Broadcasting System’s Chief Content Officer Jesus Salas. During his panel on content at Radio Ink’s Hispanic Radio Conference in June, Jesus gave a fiery speech on how quality control for radio advertising is too often thrown to the wayside or ignored entirely. Today, we explore that in depth.

    Radio Ink: Let’s set the tone – what percentage of ads running on the radio today do you think suck?

    Jesus Salas: I couldn’t give you a precise percentage, but I’ll tell you what I do hear – sound quality issues. Sometimes I’ve heard spots out of phase, but mostly I’ve heard a lot of compression. Maybe an MP3 gets converted into WAV and then back to MP3 and it muddles the sound. You really can notice it on the station, especially when you tune into an HD station.

    When spots come from agencies, most do a fantastic job. Then its followed by a spot that didn’t have a lot of thought put into it. On cable, sometimes you see a national brand ad run back to back with a local spot, and you can immediately tell the difference in quality. That’s what I’m talking about. At SBS, we sometimes have to remaster the ads we’re sent. We have to sound pristine.

    Radio Ink: So to you, is bad sound quality the worst crime that an ad can commit?

    Jesus Salas: Yeah, I think the sound quality is vital, but so is the voice. Is the message in the language or in the style of the station? How about the market? We’re not all homogenous in how we relate and speak to each other. Doing a little extra research will go a long way for us and the advertiser.

    Radio Ink: You’re the Chief Content Officer at SBS. I’ve got two questions. First, are spots content?

    Jesus Salas: Absolutely. Everything that we air is content. If it’s a great spot, it’ll entertain you and it’ll keep you going. It’ll make you chuckle if it’s good. It’s going to give you social currency. But it has to come out organic and natural and authentic. What do you look at when you’re going to buy something online? The reviews. Reviews are testimonials. So I focus not only on listener testimonials for our stations, but on getting testimonials to air for our advertisers.

    If you’re the top car dealership, yeah, you wanna boast, “I’m number one,” but here’s Mary. She says when came in, she was so overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do, and along came George. Friendly, no pressure. It was the first time Mary had a positive experience with a car dealer. Those messages always reach further.

    Radio Ink: Second question – if the majority of managers had a morning show on their station that people think are awful 90% of the time, they would help them change or get rid of them pretty quickly. If 90% of the ads on that same station are awful, there’s an incredibly low chance that issue would be addressed. Why?

    Jesus Salas: Go anywhere, to any station. Do a true poll and ask anyone at that station if they actually listen to their own station. That answer would very much surprise and disappoint you. I see it in the major markets. Unfortunately, some in sales or the business side or GMs, they’re not listening. They just saw numbers blindly, like, “Hey, these are the ratings.”

    The pastries are in the oven, they’re coming out, and they’re being put out to be bought, but if the pastry chef isn’t tasting it they don’t know if it’s any good or not. That’s why I consume our product all day. My air talent, my program directors, we’re all obsessed with it. We have an obsessive monitoring system.

    Radio Ink: When it comes to overseeing spots as content, what goals do you give your production leaders and teams?

    Jesus Salas: Make it as fun and musical as possible with the format. We are PPM oriented, so every minute counts for ratings. If the spot is entertaining, it captures the imagination. People will listen to it. They’ll consume it. The commercials at the Super Bowl are actually an attraction. People know they’re going to be entertaining, innovative, fun, and memorable.

    I also tell them to go out of their way to help clients. I heard a client who recorded something through the phone, and that’s not good enough. I said get them a microphone. Tell them to connect to this app on the phone. Send it over, and we’ll fix it up and make it work. We do the extra work to make it work for the client.

    Radio is as strong as ever. Radio’s mass reach has increased beyond all other platforms, because we know how to do content well. Radio knows how to produce content that is compelling in any language.

    How many podcasts are out there? Millions. How many really stand out? Maybe a handful. I’ve tried using a lot of influencers on air that have great numbers on social media, but when you put them on air, they can’t cut it. Radio isn’t an absorbing medium, it’s a companionship medium.

    Creating content that’s compelling is part of our DNA. We have to create must-listen radio and content – and that includes the ads. So hopefully we’ll keep making history and be history.

    In tomorrow’s installment, we talk with “Radio’s Storyteller,” Jeffrey Hedquist. He’s a marketing consultant & commercial creator who’s won more than 700 advertising awards for clients in 45 states, and an outspoken voice in the fight against ads that suck.

    Read Part 1 of “Why Do So Many Radio Ads Suck?” with iconic adman Terry O’Reilly here. Read Part 2 with Seven Mountains Media’s TJ Hower here. Read Part 3 with Rahul Sabnis and Jill Belloma from The Studio at iHeartMedia here.

    To get the most out of your copy, ads, and sales, check out Radio Ink’s Radio Masters Sales Summit – September 13 and 14 in Cincinnati, Ohio.


    1. Jesus – great points. Commercials and imaging are about 17% of a station’s aired content. If we make them effective, interesting, compelling stories, we’ll not only get better results for our advertisers, but we’ll increase TSL. Can you tell a great story in a :30 or :15 spot, or a :07 promo? Yes, with the right techniques and practice and a passion for this amazing business.

    2. this is one of the most ‘real’ takes I have read on the state of radio advertising, unfortunately it is missed by most broadcasters, spots are content.


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