Thursday, 29 October 2009

Don't cut your prices. Increase them !

Seen the new ads for Marks & Spencer ? They say “quality worth every penny”.

Hooray ! At last, an advertiser selling products for their true worth !

To be honest, I’m getting really fed up with advertising that repeatedly tells listeners they can save money. In the Anne Robinson Watchdog age, even ordinary members of the public can work out brand owners cannot genuinely slash their prices all of the time. The public are also aware of how expensive advertising can be. Many will be saying: “Why do advertisers spend millions of pounds telling me they have cut their prices ? It doesn’t make sense !”

Advertising price cuts during a recession is obviously tempting. But as I have said many times before, people will only buy a product or service if they have a genuine need or want for it. Sure, price cuts can speed up the process, but they are not 100% responsible for creating that feeling of want and need.

I have just come back from a meeting with an old client of mine. Like many other companies, life has been tough over the last year or so. But he said to me today that at last, business was nicely picking up and that his company would definitely be stronger as a result of advertising heavily during the recession. Furthermore, throughout the slump, my client never promoted a single price cut. In fact, he didn’t cut his prices ! Words like ‘value’ made an appearance on the odd occasion, but ‘special offers’ were an absolute no-no.

The new M&S strategy, “quality worth every penny” shows that good things are still worth paying more for. In times when treating yourself is good for the soul, people will always spend a little more for a comfort fix. Perhaps that’s why sales of make up have actually increased during the recession ? (Incidentally, I love M&S including the word ‘penny’ in their new line. The perception is that their products only cost a few pennies more, rather than many pounds more !)

So how many radio adverts actually exploit the value of a product or service, rather than the price ? How often do advertisers focus on the huge emotional dividends the product or service will bring, rather than how much it actually costs to buy ?

A quick plug here: Go get yourself the book ‘Buy-Ology, How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong’ by Martin Lindstrom. It covers the science of Neuro Marketing and how brands are discovering it’s not conscious logic that effects how and what we buy. It’s something a lot deeper. To find out what, read the book. It’s fascinating stuff and has confirmed to me that ‘price’ only has a small part to play in our purchasing decision process.

I really really hope that many radio advertisers start to wake up to the fact that there’s more to their brand than just price. A brand can be made priceless providing effort is invested in creating the perception that’s it’s worth...Every single penny.

John Calvert.

For radio commercials that really are the business, contact Airforce here.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Recover from the Recesssion faster: Advertise !

Every business should advertise. I am often perplexed when company owners say "we don't need to advertise".

Really ? Well Mr Businessman if that's the case, you know something that other businesses would pay you shedloads of money for. Trouble is, because you don't believe in advertising, no-one will ever find out about it. Ah well.

Because I am constantly telling businesses to spend their hard-earnt cash on advertising, it only feels right Airforce should do the same too !

2009 has seen us spend more money on marketing and publicity than ever before. The next phase is a regular appearance in the Radio Magazine. In addition at Christmas time, a publicity campaign that started in the spring comes to a climax. At a time where 'feel good' stories get more prominence, our PR company will be making sure that Airforce gets a share of the column inches, airtime and web space allocated to these kind of stories.

Spending money during a recession is scary. But it's been proven that maintaining a public presence during a down-turn helps to keep the wolves away from the door. The fact is, just because there's a recession on, it doesn't mean the whole world has stopped spending. Consumers are still spending on stuff they want and need. Radio advertising has that wonderful ability to sell an idea to a highly-influential public. And as we all know, once that seed has taken root, the mind will work overtime to find a way of buying it.

Want to recover from the recession faster ? Talk to Airforce about making radio commercials, radio adverts and jingles that get your tills ringing. Visit our website here.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Radio Adverts: Create that new habit !

This is a typical Wednesday in the Calvert household:

I get up at 7am. I go downstairs to feed our cat Archie with a special food to stop him getting even fatter. In the office by about 7.20. I download all emails on my HP PC and print off the scripts on my Epson printer for an ISDN voiceover session I regularly do every Wednesday with the BBC. I could get up later, but if I do, I think I sound slurred. About 45 minutes is enough to fully wake up and catch up with things that need my attention.

After the session, the wife is usually awake. Dan, my 3 year old son will be tucking into Coco Pops and a drink of Tomato Juice. (It’s the only thing he’ll drink other than water.)

After tidying up the kitchen, it’s back to work. My wife drops Dan to Pre-School and returns to work on the accounts for our two companies.

I work solidly without any break to about 2pm. It could be anything from scriptwriting to recording voices via my Audio TX and mixing commercials on Pro Tools. From there, I gather some documents and jump into the BMW and head to a meeting. I always stop at the Esso station in Wootton Basset to buy a pasty and a can of ‘V’ energy drink.

At the meeting, I present the document and play audio from my Bose Acoustic Music System. In my opinion, nothing sounds better.

After the meeting, I check emails on my Iphone. On longer trips, I bring a small hard drive of all the radio commercials and music Airforce has ever recorded in the last 3 years. Then it’s off home. In Lyneham, I will usually stop at Tesco to buy wine for me and the missus. I drink white, Mrs C drinks red. She used to drink Rose, but now after drinking just one glass of Rose, she’ll get a migraine the next day.

It’s back into the office until about 6pm. Then it’s family time. Having said that, I keep the phone on because I know a few clients may call after 6. Dan will have had his tea, (he loves pasta) and will watch Waybuloo on C Beebies. Me and the wife will be discussing some business (She co-owns Airforce) while we crack open the wine.

Later, I will bath Dan. He likes Matey bubble bath, but we wash his hair with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Dan will then rest on the sofa with some milk and usually drop off. At 7.30ish, I will cook dinner and then watch TV on our Samsung TV. Later, I check emails on more time, then it’s off to bed.

So what’s the point behind me telling you my daily routine ?

We all have one. Every day, we go through the same routines, rituals and habits. You may not be aware of it, but you’ll have superstitions as well. You’ll do things in a certain way because you’ll believe your day will be a better as a result doing things ‘your’ way. You may avoid walking on cracks in the pavement. You may never walk under a ladder. You won’t buy a pastry from the bakery on the street corner because you heard someone got food poisoning there. You may think that if you buy a Lottery ticket with a specific set of numbers, you stand a better chance of winning. You will stick religiously to certain personal hygiene products because you believe they are more effective than others. You will always park in the same area every time you visit your local supermarket. You may think Christmas isn’t Christmas without a tree and a Turkey. The list goes on and on.

Our days are dominated with routines, rituals, habits, beliefs and superstitions. Some will be very subtle, whereas others you will be completely aware of and apologise to others for them. We carry them out to make us feel comfortable and in control. Many national advertisers know this, so they create products that help to maintain and enhance that feeling of well-being. Think about it. For hundreds of years, the human race survived perfectly without mobile phones. Today, if we leave our mobiles at home or the battery runs out, we feel vulnerable. The mobile companies have us where they want us.

As for local advertisers, I think they are missing out on a trick. They too should be encouraging listeners to create new habits and rituals with their product bang-slap in the middle of everything. So today, as you sip your daily Starbucks Frappuccino (because you believe it’s the only way to wake you up), think about making your advertisers products and services a way of life, a comfort zone, a ritual or dare I say...

...A pleasant and welcome addiction.

Fof help on making your radio commercials tap into the minds of your audience, visit

Friday, 2 October 2009

And the winners are...

There’s a great ad kicking around at the moment. Having a dig at John Lewis, it reads: “Step into middle England’s best loved department store, stroll through haberdashery to the audio visual department where an awfully well bought up young man will bend over backwards to find the right TV for you.

...Then go to and buy it”

It made me chuckle and instantly gave me one of those “I wish I had written that” moments.

The above is a press ad. Yet thinking about it, I can’t understand why there isn’t more comparative advertising on the radio. Many business love to hark about how good their prices and service are. But if we are new to a brand, it is hard to gauge just how good the prices and service is. Comparisons are a great way of doing it and providing you’re 100% accurate on the facts, you should go for it.

Nowadays, we are seeing major supermarkets comparing each other’s prices. These companies yield great power and in many respects this gives smaller businesses a licence to play the game too. However, many local advertisers feel reluctant to go up against their national rivals, but I think providing no one exaggerates the truth or berates the competition, the audience will love the banter. Experience has also told me that many national companies won’t change their pricing and marketing strategy just because one independent local business is saying they are better. There will be exceptions of course, but generally local businesses will always have the upper hand.

Changing the subject, you may have noticed the results of the Radio Advertising Awards. I was thrilled to see that the event wasn’t 100% dominated by ad agencies. The category ‘Best Use of Radio to Drive Awareness’ was won by Global Ideas Birmingham for ‘Death Calling’. Congratulations to all involved.

The Grand Prix winner was for ‘Search’ by the Department of Transport. A great commercial with a very simple message. Well worth a listen at the RAB website.

My favourite was for ZSL London Zoo. Winning the ‘Best Sound Design’ catagory, there isn’t a wasted moment in this commercial. A Clear, fun, clever and compelling message. Great stuff.

The Radio Advertising Awards prove that there is still some great work out there. Though I know many Commercial Producers working on more ‘local’ campaigns will feel frustrated that many of their good radio scripts have been let down by their client’s insistence to include phone numbers and other meaningless twaddle. Hence there is a reluctance to enter the work. On the odd occasion, I have heard of producers creating two versions of the commercial. One a ‘client-friendly’ version complete with the twaddle and another which is the ad as it should be: A finely-crafted piece of radio advertising. If radio stations could persuade more of their clients to run the latter for a short while, then I reckon we would see more radio stations winning in the Radio Advertising Awards.

My only niggle about the Radio Advertising Awards ? On the impressive list of judges, there wasn’t anyone who works full-time in a commercial radio station or radio group. The inclusion of such a person would add another interesting perspective on the proceedings.

Regular readers to the Ad Vantage column will know my other awards niggle is the organisers of the Sony Awards not including a Station-Produced Radio Commercial category in their awards list. The UK broadcasts millions of hours worth of radio ads (more than promos AND there’s a category for them !), yet radio adverts have been completely ignored.

2010 Sony Awards perhaps ?