A Modest Proposal for Radio

  •  Do Most Radio Ads Suck?

    Jeff Sexton is an ad writer, and a damn good one.

    He occasionally teaches ad writing at Wizard Academy and is himself one of the Wizard of Ads® Partners. I subscribe to Jeff’s blog and heartily encourage you to do so, too, in the interest of challenging you to stretch and sharpen your communication skills.

    In my email today was Jeff’s latest post, “Why Most Radio Ads Suck?”  In it he compares and contrasts national-quality radio and tv spots with locally-produced radio and tv spots and argues that it’s easier and more affordable for a local advertiser to obtain high-quality radio commercials and campaigns than it is to get the same quality in a tv spot or campaign. He asks, What’s holding local radio back? and cites three reasons:

    1.) Radio stations have largely abandoned theater of the mind.

    2.) Most stations no longer have dedicated copywriters.

    3.) Most stations give away free production

    And that third observation resonated deeply with me, as I have long believed that if we, as an industry, embraced this model (as television has done from the beginning), the largest cause of our self-inflicted injuries would cease to exist.

    Sexton writes:

    If you view production as a cost center rather than a profit center, you try to squeeze as much productivity out of the production team as possible.

    And that means giving away free production as a deal sweetener to boost sales.

    Which results in an overworked production team that has little time to do anything but produce crappy ads as fast as possible.

    But what if you valued production enough to charge for it?  What if you felt that the quality of ads you ran reflected the quality of your radio station itself, and you’d be ashamed to run an insipid, badly produced ad?

    You can laugh, but such an approach has been done before and it worked like gangbusters.

    But here’s the rub? You can’t tack on production costs at the end of a sales pitch.

    You have to bake the value of production into the sales pitch from the get-go.

    Unfortunately, no stations seem willing to do that.

    Some years back, we had a vigorous discussion on this subject in one of our Friday Polls here at RSC. I’d be curious to know what folks think about that idea today. Should we, as Jeff Sexton suggests, “bake the value of production into the sales pitch from the get-go?”

    When I approached the station owner many years ago about adding a production fee to our rate card, to cover the costs of creating commercials that involved more than 30 minutes of writing and production time, he was reluctant to make that a policy. But he did say that I was free to negotiate my own arrangements with clients for whom I was going to do this kind of work – so I did. Still do. And when the spot or campaign calls for a true, non-announcery voice actor, I make the case for it. I have yet to have a client refuse to do this, once he understands the value proposition.

    You get what you pay for. Or, as Jim Williams-trained salespeople will remember him preaching: “A thing is worth what you pay for it.”

    Our national radio leaders, trainers, and industry observers have been telling us for decades that we need to provide our advertisers with better commercials. And we always agree with them. But we don’t always follow-through. Advertisers themselves make it easy, when they’re so willing to accept those chest-thumping platitudes that make them feel good about themselves, but do nothing to inspire their customers.

    So, it was good to read Jeff’s take on all of this – and I happen to agree heartily with his conclusion:

    So, yes, most radio ads do suck.

    But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

    Radio just needs to get its mojo back, if only its leaders would find the courage to make it happen.

    998 posts

About Rod Schwartz

Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He joined the Pullman (Wash.) Radio Group in 1979, where he worked until his retirement at the end of 2022. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales (GraceBroadcast.com), providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. Rod also operates an independent advertising, marketing, and communications consultancy for small business owners and professionals, FirstStrikeAdvertising.com. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at PalousePics.com and on his Viewbug gallery.
This entry was posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Casting Talent, Client-voiced commercials, Communication, Consistency, Copy, Copywriting, Problem-solving, Professional Services Advertising, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Radio Sales Cafe, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Storytelling, Uncategorized, Voice Acting, Voiceover and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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