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Ron Robinson

The Radio Brain -- Part II

12-13-2013

The significance of the information provided in my blog last week, “The Radio Brain – Part I,” cannot be overemphasized. Unless radio starts educating itself and exploiting the innate elements of electronic media, we are surely doomed to providing the same less-than-appealing programming and the same less-than-effective advertising messages.

Whether they know it or not (and most do not), providers of radio programming and advertising still inherit, and suffer from, the curse of a number of staggeringly strange phenomena that are exclusive to electronic media. Although broadcasters have yet to educate these elements into their awareness and daily practices, the processes are still influencing audiences in unknown, unplanned, and unsatisfactory ways.

Rare are the circumstances where an advertiser’s product or service can be effectively marketed based exclusively on unique qualities or a spectacular price advantage. As I write this, America and Canada are recklessly careening through another “Black Friday” experience – shoppers white-knuckling their way through retail stores – putting their lives, limbs, and sanity in peril. Still, the point is obvious: Drastic price reductions alone are more than enough to trigger vivid fantasies of ownership and unstoppable desires to buy. Next week? Not so much. And the need for more appealing, more influential advertising jumps to the foreground. Gifted and/or smart are the retailers who can continuously advertise effectively to influence their potential customers – and maintain margins.

Meanwhile, there are other elements in play when considering “The Radio Brain” than just the hemispherical accessing behaviors of radio listeners, even as that distinction alone is cause for concern and reason enough for drastic changes in the ways in which we present programming and advertising.

But first, The Quickie Refresher on the radio listener’s brain: 

Listeners are accessing the radio through the “right” brain (sub-dominant hemisphere) and are responding to emotional and sensory elements almost exclusively – often failing to process those parts of a radio communication that would, in a different context, be useful and important. Those being: pure information and appeals to rationality and reason. One of my own trainers, very early on, called this “really spooky stuff!”

And yes, there’s more. If we are to be better, more efficient and influential broadcast communicators, there are other elements to be considered, namely: the relative impact of a communication that is processed in consciousness/awareness and that which is processed outside of awareness. That is, unconsciously.

An astute and concerned radio colleague who asked if I agreed with the following proposition challenged me recently. The quote in question: "Advertising is a relatively simple matter made confusing by complicated people." My response of “I absolutely, unequivocally, and categorically disagree” is based on my working with this information in radio and other environments for the last 30 years – environments where precise communications are extremely critical. Indeed, “spooky” hardly begins to cover it.

Meanwhile, back to unconscious processing. Only in our fantasies can we expect that radio listeners are continuously tuned-in and paying rapt, undisturbed attention to all the programming and all the details of never-ending, often questionable content we are in the habit of injecting into our spots. We are better off and more accurate in presuming that much of the aired material is being processed unconsciously. The exceptions, again, being: 10-dollar bills selling for the low, low, never-to-be-repeated price of just five dollars apiece, and a warning that a Category XVI storm will be arriving later tonight. In other words, the jolting, emotion-generating material.

Fortunately for us, there is an “out” in all of this and it has to do with memory/recall. I have no idea why radio-types – explicitly or implicitly – suggest to anyone within earshot that the content of a commercial will be remembered. The content of most commercials is forgotten well before the phustercluck of multiple spots in a set has wrapped up. So, here is the Get Out Of Jail Free card. It reads: "Recall is not a necessary component for already-suggested behaviors to occur!” Hallelujah!!

One can appreciate how this information can put the boots to the old, radio adage about producing commercials that point out the (alleged) benefits and value-added material for potential customers – trusting them to make (our) desired buying decisions.

Unlike the manufacturing of products by manipulating molecules, ours is the task of massaging minds – getting those synapses to fire off in predetermined order, predetermined directions, predetermined intensity and thus, generating predetermined behaviors.

That’s right, we (radio) are in the influence-peddling and manipulation business. As such, we are obliged – to be successful for our clients – to behave differently than the individual standing in front of a sophisticated four-star restaurant while wearing a sandwich board that reads: “Best, Cheapest Eats at Joe’s Diner.” At first blush, a provider of broadcast advertising might retort with, “Well, what’s wrong with that?!” That exact situation, where people are reading “hard copy,” has, attached to it, a completely different set of neurological processes than does the process of accessing radio.

Now, I trust most readers are sitting down. This article is being presented inappropriately because it is being read. Historically, reading has been a “hard copy” activity. A radio-person is reading this material through an electronic medium and while attempting to make some sense of it, they are also unconsciously experiencing an incongruent clashing of the natural capacities of both of their hemispheres. Although just slightly overstated, the mental activity of processing this presented material through an online, electronic medium could motivate a radio-person to flee the building – and be sick to their very pants.

Meanwhile, should anyone experience any discomfort in assimilating this material, let me suggest an experiment. Printing this article and reading it again as “hard copy” might be quite an interesting exercise.

Sometimes, I do miss the days of: “Come in today for your best deal! Plenty of FREE parking! Don’t miss it!” But then, these days are exactly like those days, anyway. Drat!

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 www.voicetalentguy.com




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