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Radio Creative -- An Oxymoron



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(10/22/2012 8:40:40 AM)   Flag as inappropriate content
An interesting take on an old problem.

I don't manage radio stations anymore, but when I did, Back in the day when we actually had staffs, I tried to help fix this problem in four ways. First, when looking for talent, I was always on the lookout for people with multiple creative skill sets including writing. Second, my production directors were always encouraged and expected to take the raw sales copy points and craft something more interesting and effective. I liked to play examples of great radio advertising for the staff at meetings from time to time so they would know what I was talking about. Third, as part of an ongoing effort to build teamwork across silos, I paired sales reps and programming people in new business development teams, charged with developing effective solutions for new clients' marketing problems. If the client approved the campaign and signed on, the station would pay a higher commission rate, with the talent receiving most of the extra commission. This provided incentive to everyone in the building to improve the commercial product. Fourth, I used to enter the local advertising awards and paid bonuses to production/writer teams whose commercials won.

None of these completely eliminated the suckiness, so to speak, of the commercial matter on the station. Some last minute bad spots filled with cliches ("Our friendly knowledgeable staff and acres of free parking...") managed to get on the air, but not as often. Plus we still had bad client read and agency spots to deal with. My policy was to bury them in the middle of long stopsets, But, a management focus on better advertising can, over time, improve the effectiveness and creativity of all the station's local direct business advertising, giving the station/cluster a competitive advantage.

Unfortunately today's radio economics make such efforts nearly impossible. With a skeleton staff of operations personnel, management has very little operational capacity to do much more than make sure the stations are on the air. My ideas require building both a talent repository and an experienced sales corps. With the big guys cutting their costs to the bone, even the independents have to follow suit to avoid being under-priced. However, I believe that if an ownership were willing to accept a slightly smaller cash flow in the short term, invest in good production people, and build a professional, innovative selling culture, that cluster could, in the long term, earn a local reputation as a truly successful advertising medium, and consistently out perform its ratings position.

- Bill Clary


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