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Why Most Radio Campaigns Fail


More money is wasted in radio advertising than is spent wisely. And that includes award-winning commercials which, in my opinion, should never have been produced. Great examples of audio "creativity," yes, but lousy ads. Why do so many radio campaigns fail?

The purpose of advertising is to get an advertiser's message across to as many prospects as possible ("Reach") and to convince them through repeated reminders ("Frequency") to buy, try, shop, or to remember something that is important to the advertiser.

Next, contrary to the dated theory that advertising is a four-step process -- 1.  Awareness, 2.  Interest, 3.  Desire, 4.  Action) -- it's actually an eight-step process:

1.  Exposure (enough exposure to create…)
2.  Awareness
3.  Interest
4.  Comprehension (depending on message complexity)
5.  Conviction
6.  Desire
7.  Opportunity (to purchase)
8.  Purchase/Action 

Everywhere I go, someone in radio says, "Giff, we did everything right, but the campaign just didn't work!" Just as I am 100 percent dead certain the campaign in question did fail, I am also 100 percent dead certain they did not do everything right.

Fact: The success of every advertising campaign is totally dependent on the following:

1. The advertiser's credibility.
2.  The campaign's objective (advertiser's message and/or offer).
3.  The creative execution of that message and/or offer: a) Creative concept; b) Copywriting; c) Commercial production.
4. The target market's receptivity to the advertiser's message or offer.
5. How many ads run.

Now, let's break it down…

1.  Most local advertisers don't have what national advertisers have, a "consumer identity" (brand awareness), because 80 - 85 percent of local advertisers don't have a "positioning statement" that positions  them as the "Coke is it!" in their particular business category.

2.   What messages are advertisers trying to put into your listener's heads, and are they believable? What offer? A "compelling" offer? Face it, 10 percent is not a discount, and either is 15 percent unless it's 15 percent off a Porsche.

3.  Is the concept believable? Is your opening line arresting? Is the copywriting captivating and "ear-motional"? Is every word aimed at the listener's self-interest ("sticky-paper" words guaranteed to stick in the minds of your listeners)? And is the production attention-getting and professional? Produced so they can be heard clearly over the sounds of traffic and engine noise?

4.   Are your listeners "qualified" buyers? Test: If you stood at the front door of a given advertiser's business and forbid entry to listeners in your target demo, could that advertiser's business survive? Yes? Then the advertiser may not be a "qualified" prospect!

5.   Too few impressions have the same effect as none at all. Face it, what you say—multiplied by how many times you say it—is the only thing that works in advertising today. Which is precisely why so many of the stations I consult have "minimum order policies" based on what it takes to get results on those stations.

6.   Essential: Every advertiser's number one sales problem, is that they are reaching enough people, enough of the right people, with the right message, at the right times, enough times.

Bottom line: If your next campaign meets the criteria suggested above, chances are it will be a successful campaign.

Dave Gifford has been helping salespeople and sales managers improve their skills for decades. Visit his website or send a message to Giff at

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