February 9, 2009

Homemade is not always the best.



What do people hate most about radio? The commercials! The steady growth of listenership to commercial-free satellite radio music formats offers compelling proof. A growing number of listeners are more than willing to pony up $12.95 a month to be spared the relentless onslaught of irritating, irrelevant radio spots.

Now, think of some recent memorable (and successful) radio campaigns. The Motel 6 chain built an empire on the voice of folksy humorist Tom Bodett. For more than a decade, Bodett’s quirky, whimsical radio spots helped put millions of heads in Motel 6 beds. And Anheuser-Busch tapped the humor vein for all it was worth with their award-winning “Real Men of Genius” radio campaign for Bud Light beer. Instead of reaching to change the station, listeners sat intently while they drank in the hilarity of hundreds of these inventive commercials. So the truth is, if you reward a radio listener in some way, be it with humor or just a simple homespun story, you’ve made a positive impression and, quite possibly, a sale. It’s building a brand, one chuckle — or memorable moment — at a time.

For some reason, many advertisers are willing to spend a fortune on media, yet they invest next to nothing on creating the message. Since the invention of the medium, radio stations have offered free spot production as part of their “value-added services.” And inevitably, many local advertisers take the bait. More often than not, they get exactly what they pay for. Often it’s a poorly written (and acted) script performed by radio station personnel that does next to nothing to make a brand stand out. And sometimes the client takes a crack at it.

Local advertisers tend to make this mistake over and over again. Their thinking must be, “This message is so important, we’re asking our boss to tell you about it!” The talent selection process probably goes something like this:
“Do you have an acting background?”
“Do you possess a compelling on-air personality?”
“Have you ever done anything like this before?”
“Well, then, you’re the perfect spokesperson to represent our precious product!”

And the biggest problem with having some sales manager — or worse yet, the owner’s wife — reading the script is that no one is there to tell them this strategy is a lousy idea! Radio salespeople want their client’s media dollars, so why would they offer any criticism? And that sales manager’s staff wouldn’t think of putting down the boss, no matter how mediocre the performance might be. So you’re left with an amateur spokesperson droning on for 60 insufferable seconds.

So is it any wonder the tune-out factor is so high when it comes to radio spots? Local advertisers would be far better served to consult the experts. Seek out a firm that has experience in creating memorable audio messages. Ask to hear a firm’s radio reel. Then compare it to what you may have planned. A little front-end investment in crafting breakthrough creative has a much better chance of paying major long-term dividends.