A few weeks ago, I received a call asking if I would like to be nominated as a judge for the radio advertising panel at the Cannes Lions Awards held in Cannes.
I was flattered, but due to various commitments I was unable to take the project further.
Fast forward a few weeks and i read this article.
It is true, in recent years respect for radio advertising has gone through a rather iffy stage. There are a lot of reasons. Firstly, the recession hasn't helped. Thousands of advertisers are playing safe with their creative. A few days ago, I presented a new creative concept to a major client of mine. "We love it !" They said. "But it's just too much of a risk to change". And there lies the danger. By not moving with the times, your marketing blends in with everything else.
Another reason is...And for goodness sakes, I don't know how many times I've said this ! But on a local level, nmany radio stations are selling their medium wrongly. Far too much emphasis is being put on selling airtime rather than proper advertising. Airtime is a commodity. It is purely the portal for the message. Because of this, a creative strategy doesn't get a look in. If stations sold Advertising, then everything would be taken into consideration in equal measure.
Thirdly, the value of radio is being undermined. There are radio stations selling some airtime packages that are shockingly cheap. At face value, they appear to look fantastic. But dig deeper and you'll discover these packages will only work for a small amount of advertisers. I've had numerous station Sales Execs tell me they have to sell these packages and they hate doing it. They tell me they are time-consuming, high maintenance and because little-to-no money is allocated for creative, the majority of the ads sound crap. A few years ago, I published my views on some of these packages in an article for an industry magazine. A few days after publication, I was at a radio event and a station boss came over and gave me a complete bollocking. "You don't realise how much revenue these packages bring in for us !" he blurted. His rant lasted ten minutes, but during that time there was no mention of any benefit of these packages to the advertiser.
The fact is, many of these cheap airtime packages don't work sufficiently well for the advertiser to re-sign. The result ? Another business disillusioned with radio advertising. If they DO work, then the station faces another problem. You have a happy client, so you present to them an advertising package that's bigger and more expensive. The client responds by saying: "I'm not interested in that. I'll stick to the original cheap package I booked thank you."
And of course, there's another reason why radio advertising may not be as attractive as it used to be. Could it be because of the quality of output of some of the commercial radio stations ? Don't get me wrong, there are lots of stations that have some great output. But there are LOTS of radio stations who constantly pump out bland and unimaginative output. (Notice I don't say 'programming' ?) The presenters talk, but they have nothing to say. The music is repetitive, unbelievably safe and predictable. The 'localness' is pseudo-local. And where is the engagement ? How often does something amazing being broadcast on a commercial radio station put your life on hold until the item has finished ? When Chris Evans was doing the breakfast show on Virgin, there were countless times when I was late for work because I was still in the car listening his breakfast show.
Sure, many of these stations have good audiences, but the public deserve a lot better. I cannot accept that the only way to attract audiences is to just keep pumping out music with the presenter saying "That was...This is...Katie Price...Coming up next...Brought to you in association with...Lady Gaga's dress...More ways to win"
I am hoping with the embarrassing news that there were no UK finalists in this year's Radio Lions will be a wake up call. Not just for agencies, but the entire commercial radio industry.
John Calvert. Airforce.