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In a nutshell, the commercial has been withdrawn from broadcast because it features a manic German-speaking man who is described as a ‘Tyrant’.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‘the Advertising Standards Authority received 13 complaints that the ad was offensive to Germans because it used an outdated stereotype and implied that all Germans were tyrants.’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

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