Saturday, 20 March 2010

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Radio Adverts that will do you wrong.

It feels like the last two weeks has taken me squillions of miles around the country. And whilst driving from one destination to another, it gave me the chance to listen to a number of commercial radio stations along the way. In particular, their radio commercials !

There is no doubt that radio adverts are beginning to sound interesting again. Throughout last year, there was a definite leaning towards simple-sounding commercials. But now it’s good to hear some more interesting stuff returning to the airwaves.

Having said that, I am still hearing things that really don’t help the advertiser’s cause. One thing in particular: Asking questions in radio ads has loomed it’s ugly head again – big time.

“What’s stopping you from coming to our sale ?”

“Why not treat yourself ?”

“Thinking of buying XXXXXXX ?”

I know I’ve covered this area a number of times, but the sheer amount of ads I have heard over the last couple of weeks has prompted me - once again to bring this subject up again.

The reality is, phrases like "Why go anywhere else ?" and "What's stopping you ?" etc, simply bring to mind all the things that remind folks why they shouldn't be buying a particular product or service. The result ? Businesses spending a ton of money inadvertently inviting listeners to think of a reason for why they shouldn't buy their products or services.

Of course, it’s sometimes difficult to avoid asking questions in radio ads, but it’s worth pointing out to advertisers that questions should be put in commercials only if
the answer the audience gives is the right answer.

The other area that pricked my ears up were sponsorship messages. In many many cases, they sounded incredibly drab and predictable. I am sure it’s not the case everywhere, but I believe many sponsor credits are not doing the paying client many favours. I have said it before, TV really leads the way on sponsor credits. They look good, they have an idea behind them, they keep in line with the TV station’s branding, they are sympathetic to the sponsor’s branding and most of all; appear to have a justifiable presence.

I am aware of what you can or can’t do on radio sponsorship credits, but I really do think it’s time they went beyond the rather predictable “Brought to you in association with Xxxxx. Great service, whatever the weather” kind of credit.

Worse still, some of the sponsor credits I heard actually gave no clue to what the sponsor’s line of business was ! I know this isn’t the norm, but come on, everyone has a duty to ensure that advertisers get something in return for their investment.

Finally, in a conversation with an agency chum I met up with on my travels, I was asked the question: “Whatever happened to the Sonic Logo ?” Interesting point ! A few years ago, a number of radio experts predicted that short sharp pieces of music and/or sounds would be the way forward for radio advertisers to brand themselves on air and so create recognisability. Of course there are a few radio advertisers who do use Sonic Logos well, but in the great scale of things (and taking out of the equation those hoppity-skip kind of jingles you hear) there aren’t as many around as everyone thought there would be. Perhaps in the real world, it shows us there is still a big gap between a Commercial Producer’s and advertiser’s expectations of what good radio advertising should be.

John Calvert.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Everything has it's value...

Mr K is a delightful man. As the owner of a very successful Indian restaurant, he has been a client of my production company Airforce for over 17 years. Yesterday, in one of our get-togethers, we had a catch up. I learned that considering all that is going on in the economy, Mr K and his restaurant are doing fine.

Over a superb meal, we discussed (amongst other things) the new scripts I presented him, the explosion in Social Networking and the price of his food. He explained that 2 new Indian restaurants had opened up in his area, but despite this business was still good. He took me through one of the new restaurant’s menu.

He was surprised at how low the cost of certain dishes were and went on to explain that his business would never go into a price war in order to get business. I agreed with him. In a lot of cases, reducing your prices just because someone else has is putting yourself on a very slippery slope to doom.

“Everything has a value”, Mr K said. “If it is good, people will pay the proper price”.

Rewind 3 days to a presentation about the Creative Sell to a station sales team not a million miles away from Airforce HQ. My brief was to give the sales team a short, sharp overview on all things relating to commercial production. One person had a worry that some of his advertisers would not buy more expensive ideas because they were used to paying entry level-priced commercial production. I explained that I should be the one should be worried ! The advertiser is signed to the station. It’s just a matter of who is going to make the commercial ! Therefore I have to work harder to get the production gig. And I have no problem in doing that.

Rewind another 5 days. I am having lunch with a highly talented radio sales exec. (I love my job. Free lunches, stimulating conversation and some business too !) We were reflecting on how much the way radio has been sold has changed over the years. We touched on the current phenomena: Clients being able to share in unsold inventory. To many stations, this approach has become a vital part in keeping the coffers well-stocked.

But in my lunch, the sales exec was wondering if it had all been good. I made the point that across the UK, there were probably a whole load of advertisers who should not have been sold these packages and because of it, some stations may be losing out on a larger pot of gold. The exec agreed and went on to consider how difficult it was going to be to switch some of these advertisers to more planned and structured campaigns which costed more.

Today as I write this article, Mr K’s words are still rattling around my head. “Everything has a value...If it is good, people will pay the proper price”.

If a product or service is better than everyone else’s, many people will still be happy to pay more for it. If an idea for a radio advertising concept is good, people will pay more. If an advertiser sees the benefits behind why a proper structured advertising campaign is better than a ‘one size fits all’ package, he will understand why he has to pay more.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s still bloody tough out there and it’s very tempting to take any money that’s on offer. But when the good times come back, it’s vital that our clients are conditioned to understand the true value of what they are buying. If we don’t start changing some people now, the products we are selling will never give us a proper return.

John Calvert