November 30, 2015

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11/21/05 'Radio Guru Says Radio Does Not Work'

A chill went up my spine when I was told this headline hit a major newspaper in Stockholm just hours after my speech to advertisers there. I relaxed when my host told me that the rest of the story was pro-radio and that the reporter's attention-getting headline would draw people to read the story, only to find out the headline is not true.

A few hundred of Sweden's top advertisers had gathered to hear me speak about radio. I'm sure they expected me to be a shill. To get their attention and gain their trust, I had to take a risk and tell them something that would build trust without being tainted as pro-radio. My opening line was this: “At the risk of offending my hosts, MTG-Radio, who asked me here to speak about radio, I have to tell you that Radio Does Not Work.” I grabbed the desired attention.

I went on to tell these advertisers that I was on a quest. I frequently encounter advertisers who “tried radio, and it does not work,” yet having spent my career in radio, I had seen many small businesses become big businesses by using radio. So, my lifelong quest has been to find out why radio works for some and not for others.

It would be difficult to reveal in this single page the depth of the one-and-a-half-hour seminar about the answers to my quest. The bottom line was that most advertisers who understand how to use other media think they also know how to use radio, but they don't. Showing the attendees how Radio works differently, I told them my formulas for making radio (and all other media) work, revealing specific secrets to placing radio properly and creating radio that does work. I shared details of mistakes typically made in placement and in creative. With RAEL data, I showed them how they could increase their ROI by 40 percent, using radio in conjunction with other media. Since that presentation, MTG radio and I have been inundated with requests to help advertisers learn how to do radio properly.

Why am I telling you about this experience? As an industry, we must stop telling advertisers that other media are bad in order to make radio look good. TV, Print and Direct Mail have great success, and no one will believe you if you say they don't work. You'll get more dollars by showing advertisers how they will increase ROI by adding radio. We as an industry must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and build trust by saying that - like all media - radio does not always work. We become more believable. Advertisers need to hear the truth, and we need to stop selling what we know won't produce results.

Why are we afraid to tell an advertiser they need a lot of frequency over a long period of time? Why do we take their trial schedules when we know they will fail? Why do we set unrealistic expectations with advertisers?

Perhaps some of us that sell radio only think we know how and why radio works. If we're not selling enough radio, it may start with our own misperceptions or lack of understanding. Wouldn't it be nice to know how to replicate success most of the time? If everyone selling radio knew how and why radio works - how and why advertising works - and had the guts to tell advertisers not to waste their money on a campaign that is destined to fail, radio advertising would soar.

For decades, we have been telling advertisers they are fools for using newspaper, cable and television. Are we more successful because of it?

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