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Radio's Elite Lack Of Vision


We werent allowed to choose our classes in school when we were young. The school chose the curriculum for us. In later years we were allowed to choose a few electives, and then finally, in college, we were allowed to select the subjects we wanted to study. But that established system of education, once tried and true, has stumbled in recent years.

Old Guard educators are trying to turn back time, blaming todays parents, criticizing students, whining about China, and being generally disgruntled. God help you if you suggest to an educator that their system might need a major overhaul, a rethink, a new incarnation. They shout, We just need more money. Weve got plenty of good ideas. Were experts. Just give us more money and let us do our jobs.

Society has changed. Shouldnt our methods of education change with it?

Stanford University professor Philip Zimbardo said recently, There is a disaster recipe developing among boys in America dropping out of high school and college. And its not simply poor performance. One of the problems is, a recent study shows, that by the time a boy is 21, he has spent at least 10,000 hours playing video games by himself, alone ... They live in a world they create. Theyre playing [World of] Warcraft and these other games ... Their brains are being digitally rewired, which means they will never fit in a traditional classroom, which is analog; somebody talks at you without even nice pictures. Meaning its boring. You control nothing ... Disaster. These kids will never fit into that. They have to be in a situation where they are controlling something. And school is set up where you control nothing.

And therein lies the true threat of Pandora: Pandora is willing to empower the listener. Old Guard radio is not. Radio is not limited by its technology. It is limited by a lack of vision and courage.

Can you think of ways your station might put elements of the listening experience into the hands of the listeners? If you cant think of ways to do it, Pandora will likely eat your lunch, kick your Cocker Spaniel, and take away your birthday. Not this year. Not next year. But someday.

Listeners have always been able to punch a button and select a different station. But todays listeners expect more influence, more involvement, more control. Will your station give it to them?

I hear your thoughts. Youre saying, Give me an example of what youre talking about.

Now hear my thoughts. Im saying, No, Im not walking that road today. Ive already been down it. If I suggest 10 different ways you might give more control to your audience, youll merely curl your lip 10 different ways and say, That would never work.

I have a client in a major market. Weve worked together for about six years. Our relationship began with my evaluating his media plan and his ad copy. I was shocked by what I saw. John, your in-house media buyer is doing a remarkable job, I said. Youre spending your entire budget on radio, and the schedules are a work of art. Youve got 52 percent market reach 18+ with a weekly frequency of 3.9, and your cost per person/per year is below what I would have expected. I cant improve your media buying. But your copy is atrocious, clich-ridden, and predictable. Let me change your message, and well double the size of your company within three years.

John had hired three different award-winning ad agencies during the previous three years, and none of them could improve his annual sales volume. Johns company was flat, flat, flat. But it didnt have to be.

The company is now three times as big as it was the day John and I met. And John recently said to me, Roy, how is it that no one in radio seems to understand how to use their tool?

What do you mean, John?

Well, when I go to the station to record the scripts you send me, they always read the scripts and tell me Im making a horrible mistake. They offer to rewrite the scripts for me at no charge. They plead with me not to run the ads. They say the ads are hurting my image and that everyone is making fun of me.

And that doesnt bother you?

John shook his head sadly. Ive noticed over the years that the ads that alarmed them most were also the ads that produced the best results for me. John wasnt laughing. He was seriously troubled. How can these people know so little about the thing theyre selling?

So no. Im not going to suggest different ways you might put some control into the hands of your listeners. Im bringing the problem to your attention simply because I dont want to see your lunch get eaten, your Cocker Spaniel kicked, or your birthday taken away.

I like you. I want you to win. Im your biggest fan. Does it surprise you that Im teaching radically different principles of ad writing today than I was teaching in 2003?

Im listening to the sound of changing times.

Are you?

Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc., E-mail:

(10/26/2013 5:46:03 AM)
sTBC7v A round of applause for your blog. Really Cool.

- NY
(9/13/2013 12:55:09 AM)
cfVBO2 Say, you got a nice blog.Much thanks again. Want more.

- NY
(9/12/2013 1:59:11 PM)
z2h0fZ Very good blog post.Really looking forward to read more.

- NY
(9/6/2013 1:37:35 AM)
Gd0gxR Major thanks for the blog article. Great.

- NY
(4/18/2013 7:06:45 AM)
While Ted's admonition (below) could be stated as "Up the quality of our broadcasts." it would be a disaster to ask any audience what they want.
This was the very strategy that helped to wreck radio many years ago - even before the consolidators nailed the coffin lid. Anybody remember "More Rock - Less Jocks"...? That came from "research" of audiences.

It is, rather, incumbent on management to find out: To what audiences will respond favorably. And that won't fall out of some GM's butt.

- Ronald T. Robinson

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