Focusing creative in the right place?

Years ago I applied for a job as an ad copywriter. As I started to dig out my portfolio during the interview, I was told not to bother but rather to open a blank Word document and listen up. “If you claim to be creative, well then, be creative—now. Here’s your assignment. Take a look and get started.” I loved it, although I didn’t get the gig.

I admire creative people and have the utmost respect for the creative process. That’s why I was so intrigued by this recent item in Inside Radio: “Agencies and broadcasters work to raise the bar on radio spot creative.” It declares, “Some broadcasters have made improving spot creative a priority, from Clear Channel and CBS Radio to smaller owners like Jerry Lee and Zimmer Radio & Marketing Group.” When it comes to spot creative, the newsletter quotes respected agency executive Matt Eastwood in observing “there’s good, bad and ugly.” Others in the industry pointed to limited resources and a lack of training as issues compromising today’s creative quality in general.

Two thoughts:

  1. What exactly do we mean by quality creative? Ad copy doesn’t have to be witty, clever, or informative. It simply has to do what the client has set out to do.
  2. You could have the most creative creative in the world, but if it is placed, say, as number six in a commercial stop set, it’s unlikely many people will stick around to hear it. Ads can’t find their way through this black hole. So I have to ask: Why all the fuss about the quality of radio spot creative?

I posed this question on social media: “As more broadcasters place a priority on upgrading their radio spot creative, do you really think this is the secret to future radio marketing success?” We got some interesting replies:

“Today’s audience is ad-averse,” said Steve Moffitt of Oratory Consulting in Portland, OR. “They hate being marketed to. I hear dozens of ads daily trying to convey too much information in a short 30- or 60-second spot.”

David G. Stern of Iola Broadcasting in Iola, KS said, “Spot creative seems important, but even more so is giving listeners things they can’t get anywhere else. ‘Local’ sells, and people will flock to the frequency if they think they’re going to hear something that relates directly to themselves.”

“Research shows listeners tune out when commercials come on,” said Jeanene Delph-Thompson with WFAE 90.7 FM in Charlotte, NC. “Listeners cannot recall the full content in a 30-  or 60-second spot with four or five clients per break.”

So if you buy into the last point, how can improving spot creative have a major impact if most people don’t listen to most spots?

The focus from our perspective should be in getting away from the stop sets altogether and using your creative assets to develop non-traditional strategies that separate clients from the commercial clutter, meet stated objectives, and maximize ROI. It’s a simple answer to what might sound like a complex issue, but we’ve been practicing it for years.

“Results for clients will build bottom lines faster than a new jingle package,” said Mark Margulies of BENMARadio Inc., Greenwood Village, CO.

Well said, Mark. To that end, bring on the blank Word document, and let’s get creative.