November 25, 2015

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First Mediaworks

05/19/08 Radio’s Weakest Link

During a recent speaking engagement, I was asked by a manager: “If you could only make one change in radio, what would it be?” Lots of ideas flashed through my brain. I responded: “A deep focus on effective advertiser creative.”

Think about this: We have program directors to ensure that people listen to our stations. We have sales managers to ensure that people buy ads. We have traffic managers to ensure the ads are placed. Yet everything in the radio station is predicated on the ability of the advertisements to be effective.

If no one ensures that the ads elicit a response, then advertisers don’t return to your station. You delivered the ears, but they did not respond because the creative was awful. We took the advertiser’s money knowing their ad sucked, but figured it’s their problem. Had we spoken up and refused the ads, or at least told the client we did not believe the ads would work, we would be a lot better off. But we chose the easy route: short-term gain — with long-term repercussions.

This is a classic chicken-or-egg argument, but I believe creative is more important than placement of ads. Proper frequency is critical to success, but all the frequency in the world won’t make people respond to a bad message. However, a onetime play of an ultra-powerful creative message can be very effective.

Years ago, a radio company in England realized this problem could be solved by hiring creative specialists to work in tandem with the sales organization. They hired a team of 16 creative writers and producers, and brought the team along on sales calls with clients. Spec spots were made and clients were sold by the quality of the creative, and the clients got results. But when new owners thought they could save money by eliminating the creative department, sales plummeted.

At most radio stations in America, the spots are written by salespeople or provided by an outside service that uses pre-written commercials. Very few radio stations have an actual creative department (those that do should consider themselves privileged).

Radio stations will see giant financial increases with a simple change of strategy. Put creative services at the top of the food chain. A great spot will motivate a buyer to buy. A great spot will motivate listeners to buy your client's product or service — and it will work faster. A great spot will also motivate your client to increase frequency, because success removes the barriers of price and rate.

Heeding this advice will revolutionize your stations and the industry as a whole: Hire a well-trained storyteller who knows how to write powerful, compelling radio copy. (I wish radio had certification for copy writers; there are more bad ones than good ones who know how to craft stories and motivate buyers — and most broadcasters cannot tell the difference.) Welcome that person into the sales process and follow a creative-lead-sell strategy. The right creative director will become as important to the success of the station as the program director and director of sales.

Aside from non-spot revenues, every dollar in your radio station is contingent on the success or failure of the commercials running on your station If you can improve the success of your spots, you’ll improve the success of your radio station. It sounds easy because it is easy, and it will make a tremendous difference in radio’s overall success.

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