Radio Commercials

Latest wake-up call

“I read the news today, oh boy.” It concerns spot radio revenue’s declining performance through the first half of 2014 and the increased revenue for digital darlings like Pandora and Spotify (but not yet making a profit).

Concerned broadcasters believe business is soft in general and look to the encouraging signs of digital growth and non-spot revenue. But as social media and digital audio sources proliferate, terrestrial radio will fall by the wayside unless broadcasters truly address the major issues staring them in the face. Long spot clusters and other negative on-air clutter continue to drive younger listeners on a search for something better. Further, as those in the money demo age and a younger generation not weaned on radio continue their march to “audio consumption dominance,” the radio industry is indeed facing the crossroads. Radio needs to wake up pronto.

The industry knows that playing in the digital space is not a defensive strategy but where people expect to find information, entertainment and social engagement.  Radio is still searching for the secret to being successful at it. Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan exclaimed at a recent digital radio industry meeting, ”I’m still trying to figure out how to make money with my digital assets.”

We want radio to succeed. To grow and flourish.  We’ve enjoyed great relationships with radio stations because we try to provide for clients the type of content that makes people want to listen and listen longer:  new ideas, better prizes, new opportunities for personality / listener engagement, content.  Our campaigns provide radio stations with compelling programming – good for both the station and the brand.

The bigger picture question is what listeners want. Millennials want more music and fewer interruptions. But they also want fun, interesting content and a connection.  Everyone knows what they don’t want: those 10- or 12-unit stop sets. Engaging the listener with out-of-stop-set programming, fun contesting and desirable prizes, content that makes people pay attention and personalities who connect with them is what makes radio stand out. It’s always enlightening to hear a new advertiser say, “I didn’t know you could do that.”

Today more than ever, doing things differently and breaking from some traditional marketing staples will make a big difference in listeners’ perception. The latest industry numbers don’t lie, and how many wake-up calls do we need? The virtues of out-of-stop-set tactics: We believe making the client / product / service stand out is what successful radio marketing is all about, thus creating greater time spent listening.

Ron Pell, a veteran of the radio business, is Director of Media Relations for CRN International.

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.

How ideas happen

I recently came up with a good idea. What I did to make it better than my others, I couldn’t tell you. Transport myself to a state where thoughts readily manifest themselves? Wait for the stars to align? Be a good person?

I didn’t know it then, but I likely navigated a course described more than 70 years ago in a little advertising book called “A Technique for Producing Ideas”  by James Webb Young. Once I stumbled upon this classic, I was thirsty to understand the process I followed subconsciously and what marketers do all the time in the pursuit of ideas.

Just for the record, my good idea was to create our own theoretical Mount Rushmore for the radio industry, which quickly went viral on social media and eventually landed us on The Howard Stern Show live to present Howard with a plaque and tell millions about our company, CRN.

Step One. Young theorizes that ideas are nothing more than new combinations of old, existing elements, or pieces of knowledge. The first of his five basic steps is gathering raw materials—not only specific information about the project and product, but also general information about the world around you and the people who make up that world (and presumably might be a target for whatever you’re selling).

Step Two. Then Young recommends going through a mental digestive process, in which you take bits of material and examine them from every perspective. “Take one fact and turn it this way and that; look at it from different lights and feel for the meaning,” Young says. “Bring two facts together and see how they fit.” He suggests to “listen” for the meaning—don’t “look” for it. This places the mind in a very different vantage point.

Step Three. This is a step for which I typically feel great discomfort, so I was pleased to see Young list it as an essential part of the process. “Drop the whole subject and put it completely out of your mind,” Young says at this stage. “Turn the problem over to your unconscious mind and let it work while you sleep.” In his book, Young cites the example of Sherlock Holmes stopping right in the middle of a case and dragging Watson off to a concert. While it irritated Watson, author Arthur Conan Doyle, as a creator himself, “knew the creative processes,” he writes.

Step Four. Young believes ideas will appear and come to you when you stop straining to find them. The “Eureka” instant when the idea appears is his Step Four.

Step Five. This is a hard step to tackle, especially for those with inflated egos. The idea must be tested internally, and as Young observes, “It is not quite the marvelous child it seemed when you first gave birth.” Yet Young argues the process “requires a deal of patient working over to make most ideas fit for the exact conditions or the practical exigencies under which they might work.” Typically, a good idea has a “self-expanding quality; it stimulates those who see it to add to it.”

You’d think a book written before technology, before the Internet, and even before us would lose relevance by 2014. As professionals charged with developing new ideas and obsessed with the art and science of how they happen, Young’s book gives us much to think about as we stare at the bedroom ceiling insistent that the marketing Holy Grail is right in front of us, if only the lights were on.

Jim Alkon is Marketing Director of CRN International (www.crnradio.com), which uses radio differently to solve marketing challenges for major brands. It is based in New Haven, CT, and has offices in New York; Minneapolis; Detroit; Houston; and Hershey, PA.