Thursday, 18 February 2010

Government advertising

I can’t believe the amount of government advertising that’s going on at the moment. I’m not just referring to radio, but the whole media in general. It’s ruddy everywhere !

If you are to believe the newspapers, the spend on government advertising has increased from over £253 million to over half a billion pounds ! If you’re in media such as a radio station Head of Sales, you’ll be loving it.

...But how much is the public actually loving it ?

Two thoughts:

1: With so much advertising about health, safety and the like; does the public appreciate being constantly told what to do ? Without my Commercial Producer’s hat on, I personally don’t. A few weeks ago, a series of radio commercials told me that I had to be polite to road workers. But did I really have to be reminded of that ?

Don’t get me wrong, no one wants anyone to be verbally or physically abused in the workplace, but is the problem so enormous that it warrants an awareness campaign on the radio ?

I believe that with the huge presence of public service advertising around at the moment, the public will actually get irritated with it all and so switch off their eyes ears to it, so not making it particularly effective.

2: In a conversation with a radio station Sales Exec during the week, I asked him how much government advertising was on his station. “Quite a lot”, he said.

“That must be good for the coffers then ?” I said.

“Not really”, he went on. “Quite often, we get bugger-all money for these campaigns. Compared to what the local advertisers pay, we’re practically giving the airtime away to many of the national advertisers. We’d rather not have much of this stuff on air, because in many cases, it’s not worth it”

COI is one of, if not the biggest spenders on radio and I completely accept that with so much money being allocated to the medium, they will quite rightly insist they get excellent value for money. But bearing in mind Point One as well, do high doses of public service advertising actually help to get the message across for all the government departments at the same time ? Currently on radio and TV, there is SO much government advertising that it is not unusual to see or hear commercial breaks that feature at least two public service commercials. That’s just as annoying and uneffective as hearing two double glazing companies in the same break !

But there is a side to all this I can’t help admire: The creative execution. One thing we cannot criticise the COI for is giving us dull advertisements. If there’s one constant positive side to all this, it’s that the majority of the messages are very well crafted. Perhaps it’s the saving grace of this whole affair. There may be shed-loads of it on air at the moment, but it all sounds pretty good.

John Calvert

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Is getting a radio advert banned good for your business ?

Like many people, I am a subscriber to Google Alerts.

One of my keywords is ‘Radio Adverts’. A few days ago, an email came through giving me details about new posts on the web featuring the phrase. I was amazed to see a huge amount had been written about the banned Reed Online radio commercial.

In a nutshell, the commercial has been withdrawn from broadcast because it features a manic German-speaking man who is described as a ‘Tyrant’. According to, ‘the Advertising Standards Authority received 13 complaints that the ad was offensive to Germans because it used an outdated stereotype and implied that all Germans were tyrants.’

The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre, who cleared the ad believed ‘most listeners would regard the scenario as humorous and inoffensive.’

So the usual questions are raised again. How can a small selection of people be an accurate measure of the tastes of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of
listeners ? And is withdrawing the commercial from transmission actually giving the ‘offensive’ ad more exposure to the very audience that the ASA is trying to protect it from ? I heard the ad for the first time on the Guardian website; a location where radio ads aren’t usually placed. Friends and colleagues then told me the story was on websites all over the globe. So now, more people are hearing it than ever before, which does question the whole validity of pulling certain radio ads in the first place.

Admittedly, this whole affair must be a priceless, albeit unexpected international PR boost for Reed. With so much about this ad in the news, how ironic Reed’s agency is called ‘Contageous’.

Changing the subject, there seems to be big difference of opinion about whether over-catchy jingles are good for advertisers in the long term. I am referring to ‘We Buy Any’ track and the ‘Go Compare’ jingle. I have to admit (and I feel a little dirty when saying this) there’s something horribly appealing about both tracks, but I can’t help thinking that these kinds of ads can’t benefit a brand for the long term. Sure, they are hugely powerful mnemonics, but should we be irritating people into buying products ?

For many years, Cillit Bang’s Barry Scott’s over-enthusiasm used to push the range of cleaning products, but the story goes that after some research, the manufacturers decided that Barry’s big voice was simply pissing people off. Today, Bazza still appears in the ads, but he now talks TO us and not AT us.

By all means brand owners use attractive tunes and interesting characters in your radio adverts to get folks to remember things. But please treat audiences in a way that you would like to be treated. Thank you !

John Calvert