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Is Your Station a Brand or Are You Milk?


Our lead story yesterday featuring marketing guru Al Ries sparked a bit of a debate over whether or not radio is damaging its brand by saturating the airwaves with so many commercials (among other things). Some, like industry vet Walter Sabo, argued that cable TV was playing more ads than radio. "Watch any cable channel and COUNT the ads. You'll count more units than any radio station." That seems to avoid the question of whether we are playing too many commercials. Or the question of how many is too many? Or the biggest real question of, does this really serve our advertisers well? Ries' comments about on our brand were unprovoked. He was giving us his honest opinion as a listener. He's not crazy caller number seven, the guy knows a thing or two about marketing and branding.

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One of our readers, Stephen Williams, writes, "Comparing radio's spot load to TV/Cable only shows that heavy spot loads and long commercial breaks are proven to diminish a medium —especially in a culture that gets what it wants free on the internet right away. Radio has to stay competitive, raise rates, lower time spent in commercials, and deliver better creative. Otherwise, we are strangling the goose that lays the golden eggs."


More importantly is the question about how we serve our partners. Are advertisers really getting a fair shake when they are the 4th, 5th or 6th spot in a pod of 8 or 10. And doesn't it defy logic that as consumers move toward devices that entertain more and interrupt less something we are doing may be slightly amiss? Just for discussion purposes if you are a music station (outside morning drive) and you go from a song to a long stopset and back to a song with nothing entertaining or local whatsoever, how do you win with that? How does radio win with that? Doesn't that just become a battle of who has the better music, and the music is all the same!

To enlighten us and educate us on the subject of radio's brand, we wanted to get the opinion of someone not afraid to offer up an honest opinion. That person is the 2012 Radio Ink Executive of the year Saga CEO Ed Christain. In the upcoming 40 Most Powerful People in Radio issue of Radio Ink, Ed Christian makes his 15th appearance on the list. We've been publishing the definitive list of radio Power for 17 years. And, Christian has been running Saga for 27 years now, so it's safe to say he knows the business. "What are the storm clouds on the horizon for radio?  The scary trend of commoditization of radio.  If we don't watch out for ourselves we will lose our brand and become a commodity.  Think MILK...national advertisers already treat us like milk.  Ask yourself a question:  Do I know the brand of milk that I buy or do I even care. It is MILK..all the same isn't it?  (nope..but that's another story).  That's what national thinks about us, and we must guard against complacency so that we preserve the brand with local advertisers, as they are and will continue to be our mainstay."

To subscribe to Radio Ink in time to read more from Ed Christian and in time to receive the 40 Most Powerful People in Radio issue, GO HERE. Or call 561-655-8778

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(7/1/2012 12:07:19 AM)
Step 1. Learn how this medium actually works.
Step 2. Apply these new learnings to the production of commercials in particular and programming in general.
Step 3. Take these new, improved elements to the street and teach the advertisers. Demonstrate same.
Step 4. Collect on invoices rendered to happy, repeat clients.

Indeed, would a reasonable person denigrate and attempt to hide the products and services (commercial campaigns) that represent nearly 100% of income? No, they wouldn't. But we do, But, only because we are both sick and crazy.

Much of some of the offered comments (below) suggest that Step 1 really is Step 1. and we do need to get on with that.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(6/28/2012 5:50:17 PM)
If you define a "radio commercial" as simply an announcement of a product or service, then yes, there are way too many; however, if you define a commercial as a message designed to help the listener personally identify and relate to the product or service, there are way too few! And the latter is what effective advertising is all about! To believe that an effective radio commercial can not entertain the listener (who is listening to an entertinment medium) is a bit short-sighted.

- Sandy Orkin

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