As traditional broadcast outlets continue to grapple with the competitive realities that come from new media players, their overall approach to advertisements really hasn’t changed a whole lot.
In fact, most radio sales teams are essentially selling the same products in the same ways they always have – 30 and 60-second spots. Sometimes, advertisers run 12 or 18 a week, and other times, they go for longer campaigns for 13-week flights.
But most of the time, the creative on these spots is essentially the same as it was back in the ‘70s or ‘80s. It’s the basic call to action, a simple dialogue, testimonials, fast-talking car dealers, jewelry store owners, mattress discounters, and other typical, timeworn approaches.
And we wonder why consumers do everything possible to avoid them.
We know that advertising works – certainly on a subliminal level. Even consumers, who tell you in focus groups that they never hear commercials because they are constantly switching stations, somehow know what to buy as they walk up and down the grocery store aisles.
Yet, from a tune-out standpoint, PPM confirms what really happens when commercials air – the numbers drop as many meters “migrate.” Of course, no one listens to radio for the advertising, and that's how it's been for decades.
But does it have to be that way? If radio took a different look at its commercial approach, might there not be a way to rethink ads in formats that might actually provide value for consumers?
One guy who is becoming famous for taking a different look is Jelli CEO Mike Dougherty. Jelli is user-controlled radio, which allows consumers to use online/social tools to vote songs up and down on participating stations.
Clearly, Mike sees the world of radio through a different lens, and that doesn’t stop with music programming and social media. During a recent meeting, we were discussing why radio ads are so disdained by listeners.
And Mike has opinions about advertising and how it is positioned with consumers. His idea? Increase the relevancy of spots by making more of them “deals.”
When you think about it, millions of consumers subscribe to services like Groupon and Living Social – and they look forward to receiving their daily deals in their email boxes. A study from Yahoo! Mail and Iposos OTX MediaCT back in February confirms this. Of those who subscribe to these emails, nearly half reported they "can't wait" to check out deals. We cannot fathom that kind of enthusiasm for radio ads.
The economy has toughened and changed all of us. We're always looking for ways to save some money, whether it's a coupon, discount card, points system, or any way to get a little rebate on the goods and services we use. Insane gas prices simply reinforce the need for great deals in whatever we buy.
So, repelled by spots, but attracted by deals. Shouldn't radio's DOS' be strategizing new and different ways to market their inventories and their content? Imagine radio reps working with traditional (and new) advertisers to convert some of their creative from annoying, repetitive messages that often shout at the audience into compelling, relevant deals? And in the process, create a rev share piece so that as advertisers (or "deal makers") prosper from listeners who take advantage of deals, the station benefits, too.
They might even envision creating an entire commercial cluster of deals instead of spots. Or perhaps an hourly deal that gets well-positioned, and perhaps even creates some tune-in rather than tune-out. Imagine listeners looking forward to this hour's deal.
As big online companies like Groupon, Pandora, and Google refocus their efforts on the local marketplace, radio is going to have to do more than stand pat and continue to cram 10, 12, 14 and more traditional spots down the gullets of American radio listeners every hour.
Mike Dougherty’s idea – “Deal with it” – might just be the beginning of a solution set for radio’s advertising challenge. Instead of plowing along, doing it the way we've always done it, rethinking what is possible and learning from the success of these online coupon companies could be a step in the right direction for broadcast radio. And with great cumes, solid production values, and perhaps even a fired up local sales team, radio might be able to out-Groupon Groupon.
It's time to start taking a hard look at innovators like Pandora and Groupon and dream up ways to combine some of their better features with radio's great content, reach, and brand equity.
Let’s make a deal.
Full disclosure: We consult Jelli.