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The Trap of The Client Survey

Ronald T. Robinson

In my most recent, I asserted that conscious recall was not necessary for a Radio-ad campaign to be effective. Lucky for us, too, as hardly anyone remembers anything about the content of those ads. Only if the ad is sensational does a listener remember anything about the spots at all. Yet, Radio can work wonders. So, in my model-of-the-world thats just weird and shudder-spooky. Or, as when Elmer Fudd says, Theres something vewwy screwy going on heyew.

Since we have already covered the basic neurology about this, we can move on to other, related matters. Some years ago, when fashion furs were still in vogue and incredibly profitable to the suppliers and retailers, I was engaged to write and voice the radio campaigns for a local furrier. This relationship lasted for the years right up until the wearing of furs became as politically/socially correct as firing up a Camel in a hospital nursery.

For the years I worked for the client, he had an ironclad rule that applied to every one of his sales staff. They would not be paid unless they first produced a completed, detailed survey, which was pulled from every customer. For our purposes, the pertinent question was: How did you come to know of the client furrier and/or our current promotion?

Meanwhile, so flush and savvy a marketer was this client that he spread his advertising dollars around Radio, Print and Television and lavishly, too. He gave reach and frequency a whole other benchmark and throwing it against a wall another meaning altogether. It wasnt uncommon that a Saturday Radio remote consisted of either 3 or 4 stations broadcasting from the retail location simultaneously. (Often, the cut-ins were all going on at the same time!) All the announcers were excited as hell as the deals were, truly, sensational! Still, he would temper his ad investments based on the season and, occasionally, on his ability to maintain an ample selection of goods. What he would not do, however, is overlap all three media at the same time. He would go for strong buys on one medium at a time. And, of course there were the times where there was no media participation at all. The majority of the marketing budget, however, did go to broadcast.

Now back to the customer survey. How did you come to know of the client furrier and/or our current promotion? For all the years I was engaged with the client, the survey results were as follows - and in descending order:
1. I heard about the store/promotion from an acquaintance.
2. I read about it in the newspaper/magazine.
3. I saw the ads on Television.
4. I heard about it on the Radio.

An important element to this is that the Television and Radio client-reports were way down on the list. Way, way down. So much so that an otherwise reasonable client would be excused for canceling all broadcast advertising entirely. There was virtually no recall for the Television or Radio ads.

A further point is: this information from the surveys was being collected continuously and for years. He had crates of surveys. That there were also occasional, large gaps of time between Print, TV and/or Radio campaigns came to be of no arguable consequence. Nor did the surveys reflect what media was being applied at the time of the promotions. The results of the surveys were always consistently same-same, with Radio always coming out at the bottom!

Still and even as the Radio-reps were wandering around muttering and counting the easiest commissions they had ever earned, some did learn to stop pitching from the Radio = Recall-soapbox.

I think its safe to say that people experience themselves as being reasonable and rational human beings. More than that - they insist such is the case. They will reject emotional reactions as being of a secondary nature and also, to be of less consequence than their thinking capacities. My experience as a citizen and a radio-guy generally, and as a counselor and trainer, specifically, demonstrates that, when under stress or in emotion-generating environments - rational thinking and the consideration of evidence are the last capacities to kick in should they kick in at all. Reason is only an option.

Our responses tend to be knee-jerk and dependent on the tapes (unconscious programming and imprint experiences) that are consistently running in our heads. I further submit that those who support and promote dogma of any kind on any subject - demonstrate the lack of a primacy for reason and the attendant, limiting result of failures to apply rational thinking. When electronic media are influencing people at not only less-than-rational levels, but at unconscious, emotional levels of experience, it is easy for a person to reject such influencing as not even occurring. Thus, where recall is unavailable as it is for most electronic advertising - the choice to come to a defense doesnt even show up as a matter of any consequence to those being influenced. Most will deny it even when the idea is brought to their attention.

There are other factors, and Id like to mention just one more. It has always been the case that the public/consumers/customers have, over the years, been more and more unwilling to admit they have been moved to a sale by a broadcast commercial. For some reason, it just isnt cool to do so. Theyre not lying, either. The phenomenon just isnt in their awareness. The exceptions are rare, but they can be mighty, indeed. (Im thinking of the magnificent TV spots produced for Budweiser the ones with the bowing Clydes - that honored the fallen after the 9/11 attacks.) Emotional? Readers who are aware of those ads can consider them again and judge for themselves if their feelings for and the credibility of Anheuser-Busch didnt go up a significant notch.

Meanwhile, the evidence, I suggest, is quite clear and compelling. Radio works more efficiently when the elements that influence emotions and imagination are included with the content. Ill sum it up with: Ronalds Three Basic Rules of Radio Advertising.
1. Acquire and maintain the attention of the audience.
2. Develop and sustain an emotional response from the audience.
3. Introduce service or product. (But only if the client gets real snotty and absolutely insists.)

The immense power of Radio is an innate property. Exploiting the potentials, though, will still take the skills of reinvigorated and even more highly trained Talent and Creative Departments those that remain.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website

(10/23/2013 8:56:24 PM)
674CId Very good article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

- NY
(5/7/2012 6:51:48 PM)
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(12/12/2011 12:51:17 PM)
Quite so, and as Neil asserts: Radio is a personal medium where loyalties and familiarities are very much - factors.

Yet, customers have nowhere near the recall of being influenced by Radio as they would be by Print or real-life, organic conversations.

Really, Neil. Radio was so low on the hierarchy in those surveys, a newbie sales-rep could be forgiven if she thought she was selling Yellow Pages-ads in an area that had no phones.

Yet, the customers were lining up - waving cash and credit cards.

Our (Radio's) ability to deliver customers was based on two factors: The ads were emotionally stimulating and the Special Promotion-deals were... fantastic!

- Ronald T. Robinson
(12/12/2011 8:40:42 AM)
Regarding the furrier's surveys, I'd like to add one other thought for consideration. That radio is the “friend/acquaintance”. As Mr. Robinson mentioned, customers can refer back to a print ad, even carry it with them. Of course this is not so with broadcast. TV is an appointment media, whereas radio is a partnership. With several stations playing similar music, the listeners choice is often dictated by their (perceived) friendship with the station, the personalities. So when they hear the ads, they heard it "from a friend/acquaintance". (And while talk radio can also be an appointment media, it is also based on friendship and similar like/dislikes). Survey takers do not attribute influence to the “radio”, because on the emotional level Mr. Robinson spoke of, their relationship with radio is personal, it is a friendship. And that is why radio is the ultimate word-of-mouth. It is friend to friend. And on the furrier’s surveys, that puts radio at the top.

- Neil Holmes

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