The World According to Ad Week

Hold on. We’ve heard some 300 sessions X 13 years at Advertising Week preaching the glory of content marketing. Yet there was the moderator of a radio industry panel asking her CMO panelists what final message they’d like to leave for a room full of potential radio advertisers.

Creating effective campaigns

When you use radio beyond the conventional advertisement stop set, your brand radically increases its chances of achieving results far beyond expectations.

Two recent developments speak further to the ineffectiveness of lengthy stop sets and the effectiveness of non-traditional radio marketing.

The first was Entercom’s gamble to experiment at a Seattle radio station with fewer ad slots per hour and shorter stop sets as well. The intent, of course, would be to draw listeners with more programming, and in turn appeal to advertisers via a larger engaged audience. At the same time, advertisers are questioning more than ever the ROI of their messages appearing at the tail end of long stop sets. Good for them.

The other development was a random poll CRN conducted in which a majority of 75 marketers said they feel a combination of non-traditional advertising tactics such as branded content and promotions generate stronger results for their brands.

Think of these non-traditional marketing tactics as the antithesis of conventional radio. They take salient product communication points and place them inside programming segments when consumers are actively listening to radio. Radio as a marketing medium works here because it provides listeners with compelling communication they seek, enjoy and believe.

When working properly, this strategy accomplishes three things: (1) it removes the message from the clutter of many ads; (2) it creates the right content to capture listeners’ attention when they are primed for it; and (3) it effectively helps consumers engage and relate to the brand, hopefully to buy something. We’ve seen time and again how this avenue of translates into consumer response.

Good companies spend lots of money on radio advertising – in the billions of dollars – with the optimism and confidence you’d give any medium that delivers 244 million Americans every week. Their expectations should be high.

CRN uses radio differently—way beyond advertising. By taking brand messages out of the stop set and delivering them to consumers in ways they want to hear, we are able to change consumer behavior, make people fall in love. That’s the power of radio.

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.

Pandora or dinner?

Is it me, or has anyone else noticed that new smart phone pricing policies could alter the listening landscape and force marketers to rethink how to reach their targets?

I recently contacted my cell phone provider to question an unusual charge on my bill. It seems I went over my data plan limit. Limit?  I thought it was unlimited. I quickly learned that when my contract renewed, unlimited was no longer part of the plan. Ah, the fine print.

Adding up the ramifications, I spent the next 24 hours monitoring exactly how much data I was using. I listened to Pandora during my daily 80-minute roundtrip commute, watched a couple of YouTube videos imbedded in e-mails, downloaded a few apps, and did some miscellaneous stuff I do every day while out of the office and home. I was spending money without realizing it. It was insidious, and the next thing I knew, another twenty bucks appeared on my cell phone bill. Cha-ching!

Knowing that my unlimited data plan was no longer limitless, I immediately started tightening my usage budget. That got me thinking how other users might change habits as well and gravitate to lower-cost (free) listening options instead of those that suck up megabytes and dollars. And that got me thinking how marketers might be the next in line to change their spending habits if audiences tune in elsewhere.

Lately, we’ve been hearing lots of talk about the connected dashboard coming to a car near you. Eventually, we’ll have a major fuel leak, but with data and dollars, because it will be so easy to check e-mail, send text messages, listen to streaming audio or video, and get hooked on anything that’s possible on a smart phone or tablet. But, we’ll be in the car, where we won’t have Wifi to cover us all the time.

It could be a rude awakening when that first bill arrives under the new limited data plans. Many consumers will have to question the importance of personal listening preferences when there is a hefty cost factor that didn’t previously exist. Imagine it: What will it be tonight, Pandora or dinner?

 Maybe that sounds extreme, but it’s highly likely that if listening patterns change, so might the advertising dollars associated with them. There’s always the chance that many will pay the premium to keep doing what they want, but not all.

Do I see dark clouds on the horizon? Not yet. But you can bet people will be a lot more judicious and the number and length of sessions will decrease for Pandora, Spotify, broadcast streaming, and other “data eaters.” As marketers, it might mean that you’re not getting the message exposure you think you are. It may result in people spending even more time with broadcast radio, particularly if more tuner chips are activated beyond just the phones we have today.

I took a personal poll of four Millennials, all working and paying their own way. On the issue, they all said they would watch their bills. Two said they would not change their data use unless it got a lot more expensive, and the other two said they wouldn’t pay more, even if it meant they had to change their habits. Hardly scientific, I know. Only time will reveal the true impact on media consumption. But I can tell you this—it really caught my attention. It affected my behavior, and you can bet it will affect others as well.