November 25, 2015

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First Mediaworks

07/21/03 Radio Needs A New Face

I’ve come up with a great new Radio format:

Target: 20-something males
Music: the hits from their fathers’ generation
DJs: males at least 30 years older than the listener

Do you think it’ll work? Not!

The Radio-Mercury Awards, recently held in New York, continue to be the largest cash award in the advertising industry. Offering a grand prize of $100,000 to creative directors in love with producing sexy television commercials was originally a Very Good Idea.

Q: How can we draw attention to Radio?
A: Dangle a big check.

On the surface, it seems to be working, but I fear we’re blowing a great opportunity. In the eyes of today’s young creatives, the Mercury Award is like having a rich old uncle. They’re telling the old fool whatever he wants to hear in the hope of gaining his inheritance, all the while laughing behind his back. Yes, these creative directors occasionally create a great Radio ad so that they can enter our contest, but are we changing how they feel about Radio?

Agency creative types tend to be young, “with it” 20-somethings. As they were accepting their Mercury Award checks last month from Radio’s various group heads, it struck me that all the winners were dressed in the hippest threads while the majority of the group heads were dressed in the best fashions of 1954. We looked exactly like a group of aging, white males approaching retirement. (Uh-oh, now you’re hitting below the belt, Rhoads!) Everything about the event was “old school,” including its location: the Waldorf, the ultimate WASP hotel. Is this the image Radio needs in the eyes of creative directors?

Radio needs a new face at the Mercury Awards.

So do we shave Gary Fries’ head, put him in Vans shoes, a goatee, and a skin-tight lime-green double-knit shirt? Of course not. Pretending to be like the young creatives would be no different from the 40-year-old mom who dresses like her teen-age daughter.

The face of Radio should be young, hip and relatable. The “suits” can sit in the audience, but the faces onstage should be the young people from our industry. The event should be held at the Paramount Hotel, and it should be produced by someone who IS young and hip.

Radio is crawling with creative young people. Why aren’t we showing them off? Why aren’t we using our own announcers as our presenters? Who presents the Oscars during the Academy Awards — the heads of the movie studios or their most accomplished actors and actresses?

Agency people live in a world that revolves around image. If we really want creative people to feel differently about Radio, it will require more than a big check. Agency people should see a Radio face that reflects their own self-image. This is a standard practice when marketing Radio stations, so why aren’t we using it at the Mercury Awards?

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