What’s the Biggest Problem with Radio Stations?

If I may quote Bill Koenigsburg, President, CEO and founder of Horizon Media: “Radio’s Creative Sucks” 

Back in September 2012, Mr. Koenigsburg hit the nail on the head. Radio’s creative does suck. 

In his scenario, Mr. Koenigsburg starts with the premise, “How many times has somebody at your station written an ad, recorded it, and had it on the log in under an hour? How good could that spot really be?” 

I agree wholeheartedly. Mr. Koenigsburg’s scene sets a candle next to the problem. Make sure you have your rubber shoes on and you’re not standing in water…I’m going to flip the switch on the spotlight. 

I’ve been a cast member in that scene too many times myself. In fact, I got a call from an agency just last Tuesday who had two clients that needed to be interviewed, scripts written, revised and approved, and commercials produced in less than twenty four hours. It still happens – not just at radio stations but with agencies, too. 

Let’s start with the opening question: “How many times has somebody at your station…” Stop right there. Here’s the scenario: someone at the station is walking down the hallway, and is seized with an uncontrollable compulsion to write and produce a commercial, and they crank it out in less than an hour…?

No, and here’s the reality. 

Days if not weeks of meetings, phone calls, preparations, research, miles behind the wheel and hours stuck in traffic have been spent by the station account executive which culminates in a presentation made to the client which concludes with the follow dialog: 

Client: “Wow, this looks great! When can we start?”

AE: We can have it on the air by tonight!”

or, this slight variation… 

Client: “Wow, this looks great! Can we start it tonight?”

AE: “Sure!” 

…and that’s how we get the “one-hour-commercial.” 

I’m not blaming the AE. Because it starts even before the AE was employed by the radio station. In fact, the AE was taught to say, “Sure!” in the blink of an eye. 

One of the “greatest advantages of radio” is it’s flexibility – even the Radio Advertising Bureau lists “Creative Flexibility” as one of radio’s top ten strong points. It means, if an advertiser needs to change or create an ad, it can be done easily, quickly and have the changes hit the air before the ad plays again. 

Provided everyone involved in the ad – sales person, production director, 1, 2 or 3 voices, and traffic at the very least – drops everything else they’re doing for all the other clients that deserve their attention just as much, to live up to the promises of the industry. 

If the “one-hour commercial” isn’t in the best interests of the new advertiser, how is it in the best interests of the other advertisers who get put on the back burner? 

The one-hour commercial doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

It has been cultivated and nurtured since the beginning of commercials. David Ogilvy said something to the effect, and I paraphrase, “It has taken the R and D department two years to come up with the product and now I must give it life in just three months.” 

The “one-hour commercial” is nothing new. It has been perpetuated by radio stations, management and trainers. Executed on a daily basis by account executives. Reinforced and adhered to by creative services and production directors. 

It is up to the entire, cooperative industry to get this ship to change course. We laid the original course, so plotting a new course can be accomplished. And it starts with one word, “No.” 

No, Mr. Advertiser, we’re not going to do that to you. Just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should; case in point, butter popcorn flavored jelly beans, but that’s another discussion. If I go back to the station, and give this to our creative services director – who can write and produce the ad in less than an hour – how good could that ad really be? Is that what you really want?” 

Koenigsberg said radio should start its own own creative agency.” 

A company that creates radio advertising, coordinates event marketing opportunities (commonly referred to as “NTR”), designs banner advertising (for clients to go on the station websites), and even in some cases, designs entire websites for clients – is that a “radio station”? 

No…I say, radio stations are already ad agencies. It’s an ad agency that owns one of the media outlets in town. 

Now, it’s up to the radio stations to start acting like it.

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