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(TALENT) Letter To Auto Retailers


The following is a letter intended for auto retailers. Since it is also a letter extremely unlikely to ever be forwarded, I offer it as an in-house consideration for the leadership of radio. While the circumstances, evidence, concepts, and suggestions are real enough, I am not satisfied that radio is in a position to implement much of what is discussed.

Dear Automotive Retailer:

As we both know, the radio industry receives an enormous amount of revenue from the auto business. In fact, we have become dependent on that revenue. That dependency, as you may or may not know – or agree with if you do – has lead to a relationship that has become toxic and serves neither one of us.

Let us, then, consider some facts and realities.

1/ While you are rightfully proud of your dealership, the services it supplies, the products you offer consumers, and the skilled people in your employ, there is nothing particularly unique, special, or outstanding about your dealership that other dealer principals could not also claim for their organizations. Actually, this can be said for almost every other dealership – a significant testament to the superior standards of quality the automotive industry has developed over the years. This is no secret. The general public is also well aware of this rather pleasant, but ultra-competitive situation.

2/ We appreciate, understand, and agree with your intention in advertising on our station: Sell more vehicles and services.

3/ We also appreciate that your insistence – when you do advertise with us – is on featuring as many products, benefits, features, and “special deals” as can be fit into a 30- or 60-second commercial. Historically, we have been doing everything we can to accommodate those requirements.

4/ We are painfully aware that our medium – radio – is near the bottom of a list that features television, print, and online advertising at the top. Because the priority of pushing massive amounts of content is not a challenge whatsoever when considering print or online, then it is print or online that more often gets the business, with print getting the first nod. The downsides of using print are well known and need not be considered at this time. Besides, these “downsides” are hardly considered as most dealerships still accept the necessity-of-sorts to use the print medium.

5/ Radio, meanwhile, screws itself into the ground or attempts to perform high dives – in the pike position – into thimblefuls of water in order to garner your affection and your business by following your explicit instructions on what, when, and how you want to use radio. We have, indeed, become your bitches. (Some folks thrive on such a relationship, but that’s a matter for another Ph.D. dissertation.)

6/ Before this seems like we are heaping blame on you by setting fire to bags of doggie-poopie, knocking on your doors, and running away, we have a confession: We are just now figuring out how to effectively apply our own medium! In other words, it has been, for the most part, our fault. Only recently have we become aware that radio is more a “process” medium and less of a “content” medium. Another way of putting that might be: Radio, when used appropriately, excites people far better than it informs them.

7/ Our first task, then, is to generate commercial programs that stimulate the emotions of our/your audience. Our next, and equally important, challenge is to convince dealer principals that radio is better used when we are generating commercials that influence audience members to consider your dealership and feel good! This cannot be over-stressed. If potential automotive customers are responding to a dealership’s radio advertising negatively in terms of its credibility, an indifference for any provided special sales or, at worst, a sense of being violated or insulted by obnoxious sales claims and presentation techniques, reasons and motivation are also being provided for both of us – radio and the dealers – to begin a reconsideration of our approaches.

8/ Every provider of advertising and every dealership is well aware of the impressive number of television spots that have featured a dealer happily perched in the front seat of one of their vehicles with their ol’ dog, “Tray," plopped on their lap – sometimes slobbering all over the DP. “Awwww,” says the audience. Well, that “awww” is golden. That’s an indication of a viewer being emotionally charged – positively – by the dealership’s advertising and it is all to the benefit of the dealership! Radio doesn’t sell cars. Radio’s job is to generate emotional awareness and traffic – happy feet through your doors. You and your skilled, knowledgeable sales staff sell the cars. That tons of mixed-media advertising is also being presented by the parent company doesn’t hurt your cause either.

9/ Radio is, of course, another electronic medium. As such, the electronic signal impacts uniquely on a listener. What is key here is that print has a completely different access to and impact on a reader than electronic media have on a viewer or a listener. Print is a great medium for passing along truckloads of information. Radio is a powerful medium for generating emotions and motivation. With radio, “reason” goes right out of those (standard equipment) electric windows. The impact of radio can be compared to what it takes to keep a fan of the sad-sack Jacksonville Jaguars. “Reason” has no place in the mix or influence on the existence of a fan’s support. “Emotion” is everything.

10/ Having offered our “mea culpa,” we are now requesting that we work together – again – to create advertising programs that take these major factors into account. If you insist, however, that we continue with our traditional “yell & sell/buy or die” ranting we normally provide, we will certainly pucker up and continue to smooch your butterior maximus. If this should ever become an argument, we will back off immediately. It would be an argument we, a.) do not want to have, and b.) cannot afford to lose.

11/ Meanwhile, the (above) material is providing an already-proven, but still relatively new concept in broadcasting. Unfortunately, this is also material that will likely be ignored or discounted by the majority of both radio and automotive leadership. Still, some of us appreciate the upside of this phenomenon is in that a situation now exists which hollers, “opportunity”!
Respectfully, WXXX

More detailed strategies are available. More advertising products are available, and more detailed discussions can be held. My email is supplied.

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

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